Soulpepper and Canadian Stage, Toronto’s two biggest not-for-profit theatre companies, dominated the Toronto Theatre Critics’ Awards this year, walking away with five and four awards, respectively.
Three awards were given to Soulpepper artistic director Albert Schultz’s revival of Angels in America. Damien Atkins won for best supporting actor in a play and Nancy Palk for best supporting actress for their work in multiple roles in Tony Kushner’s two-part AIDS epic.
Angels was also named the best production of a play in the 2013-2014 Toronto season – though it did have to share that title with Tarragon Theatre’s pint-sized but perfect production of Lungs, Duncan Macmillan’s two-hander about a couple wondering whether to have a baby.
Schultz also lost out on the award for best director of a play for his work on Angels – instead, winning that same award for his even-more-inspired direction of Vern Thiessen’s adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel Of Human Bondage. The designers on that production – Lorenzo Savoini (sets and lighting), Erika Connor (costumes) and Mike Ross (sound) – were also given a gong for best design.
Canadian Stage, meanwhile, impressed the critics with Jackie Maxwell’s production of the British verbatim musical, London Road. Reviewers representing five of the city’s print publications selected that show as best production of a musical – and named Maxwell, whose day job is artistic director of the Shaw Festival, best director of a musical.
The other two awards for Canadian Stage shows went to Carly Street, for her role as an actress with supernatural abilities in David Ives’s Venus in Fur, and to Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium, which in its revised version was deemed the best new or newly new Canadian play to be staged in Toronto this season. (American playwright Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, which was memorably mounted by three indie theatre companies last summer, was named the best new international script of the season.)
On the musical front, Mirvish Productions received a couple of honours: Ramin Karimloo was named best actor in a musical for his tear-jerking performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, while James Monroe Iglehart was named best supporting actor in a musical for his show-stopping performance as the Genie in Aladdin. These two men are both currently nominated for Tony Awards for the same performances, which have since transferred to Broadway.
The rest of the musical honours went to Ross Petty Productions’s very un-Disney production of The Little Mermaid. Chilina Kennedy was named best actress for her portrayal for the titular fish-lady, while Lana Carillo won supporting actress for her work as Shelley the Shrimp.
Rounding out the awards, Ian D. Clark was named best supporting actor in a play for his role as a fearsome father in Studio 180’s production of Cock – and a special citation was given to VideoCabaret, the long-time producers of Michael Hollingsworth’s cycle of Canadian-history plays, The History of the Village of the Small Huts.
Unusually, Toronto theatregoers have an opportunity to see most of the TTCA award-winners – even without taking a trip to New York. Of Human Bondage closes this weekend at Soulpepper, but both winners of best production of a play are taking victory laps in the near future: Angels in America re-opens at Soulpepper on June 12, while Lungs returns to Tarragon Theatre on Dec. 31. Canadian Stage has not announced plans to bring back London Road, but Venus in Fur and Needles and Opium will be back next season in December and May, respectively.
The Toronto Theatre Critics’ Awards were established in 2011 – and are voted upon by critics representing The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the National Post and weeklies Now and The Grid. Winners will be honoured at a ceremony at Toronto’s Spoke Club on June 2.