Crow’s Theatre is coming to the end of a full 2022-23 season that was highly acclaimed by critics – and now the Dora Mavor Moore Awards are crowing about its work as well.
The east-end Toronto theatre company helmed by artistic director Chris Abraham leads the way in the general division of the 43rd edition of the professional theatre, dance and opera awards run by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts – receiving 18 nominations in total, for five different shows it produced or co-produced.
Director Cherissa Richards’s production of Red Velvet (Lolita Chakrabarti’s historical drama about the 19th-century actor Ira Aldridge) and Abraham’s production of Uncle Vanya, the classic Anton Chekhov tragicomedy, are both up for outstanding production and are together responsible for 11 of Crow’s nods.
New plays Maanomaa, My Brother, Tawiah M’Carthy and Brad Cook’s two-hander about a pair of friends reuniting in Ghana for a funeral co-produced by Blue Bird Theatre Collective and Canadian Stage, and our place, Kanika Ambrose’s drama about two undocumented workers at a Caribbean restaurant in Scarborough co-produced by Cahoots Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille, are also up for outstanding production.
The final show competing for that major award in the Dora general division (recognizing plays staged in bigger theatres or with bigger budgets) is director Weyni Mengesha’s 20th-anniversary take on Trey Anthony’s salon-set sensation ‘da Kink in My Hair, which was co-produced by TO Live and Soulpepper Theatre Company.
In the outstanding new play category, our place and Maanomaa, My Brother are joined by Behind the Moon, a play about an exploited restaurant worker by Anosh Irani staged at Tarragon Theatre; Queen Goneril, a prequel to King Lear penned by Erin Shields that premiered at Soulpepper; and Prodigal, a dark comedy about a rich Rosedale family by Paolo Santalucia that was produced by the Howland Company in association with Crow’s.
Fifteen Dogs, the Crow’s hit based on André Alexis’s novel of the same name that sold out its entire run, received three nominations – including one for adapter Marie Farsi for outstanding director. Farsi is competing in that category against directors Richards (for Red Velvet), Mengesha (for Queen Goneril), Philip Akin (for Maanomaa, My Brother) and Alisa Palmer (for Fall On Your Knees Part Two: The Diary seen at Canadian Stage, and based on the Ann-Marie MacDonald bestseller of the same name).
In the Dora Awards musical theatre division, Bad Hats Theatre’s original musical based on Alice in Wonderland, which was presented by Soulpepper Theatre, leads the field with 13 nominations including one for outstanding production and acting nominations for both Tess Benger, who played Alice, and Vanessa Sears, who played the Red Queen.
The Shape of Home: Songs in Search of Al Purdy, a song cycle dedicated to the late Canadian poet that originated with Festival Players of Prince Edward County and was presented in Toronto by Crow’s, and Rock of Ages, a 1980s-themed jukebox musical and the first outing by new commercial producers More Entertainment, received nine and eight nominations respectively.
Those three productions are the only ones up for outstanding musical this season that, for Dora consideration anyway, started only in August. Last year, Dora eligibility was extended into the summer owing to the impact of the Omicron wave of COVID-19 in the early months of 2022.
Indeed, the 2023 Dora Awards are the first to celebrate the passage of an uninterrupted performing arts season in Toronto since the 2019 edition.
In the indie theatre division, two solo shows are tied for the lead in nominations: Amanda Lin’s Between a Wok and a Hot Pot, produced by Cahoots Theatre, and Haley McGee’s The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale, presented by Soulpepper in association with Outside the March and red light district, both received six.
Similarly, in the theatre for young audiences division, two shows are tied for the most nominations with six: Bentboy, a new play by Young People’s Theatre artistic director Herbie Barnes, and The Darkest Dark, Jim Millan and Ian MacIntyre’s adaptation of the children’s book of the same name by astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Macbeth, a production of the Verdi opera by the Canadian Opera Company and Lyric Opera of Chicago, leads the way in the opera division with eight nominations while The Magic of Assembly, a Toronto Dance Theatre production, received a leading five nods in the dance division.
In total, TAPA announced 228 nominations for 46 Dora Awards on Monday morning. The winners will be revealed at a ceremony hosted by actor Craig Lauzon on June 27 at Koerner Hall; this ceremony, unusually, takes place on a Tuesday rather than a Monday so as not to conflict with the mayoral by-election.