The current Mirvish production of Dear Evan Hansen at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre has struggled somewhat at the box office, but if the ultimately uplifting musical about a tragically misdelivered letter has been a disappointment, the voters for this year’s Dora Mavor Moore Awards didn’t get the message. The Broadway show, scheduled to close earlier than planned in July, picked up nine nominations in the musical theatre division of the annual performing arts awards.
The surprise nomination king was the new Soulpepper musical Rose, which earned 11 nods for its premiere run at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts earlier this year. Unlike the Tony-winning Dear Evan Hansen, the plucky Rose, which is based on the Gertrude Stein children’s book The World is Round, did not completely wow Toronto critics.
The selections, announced at a news conference held in the lobby of Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre on Wednesday, cover the 2018-19 season. The Doras recognize excellence in professional theatre, dance and opera in Toronto.
In the general theatre division, Soulpper lead the nominations list with 14 acknowledgements over five productions. The company’s knockout presentation of Marco Ramirez’s boxing drama The Royale earned seven nominations on the judges’ scoring cards, including nods for best production and direction, and outstanding performance in a featured role for both Christef Desir and Sabryn Rock.
This year marks the first season that all the Dora performance categories are gender neutral. All former binary male and female titles have been replaced by a single inclusive “outstanding performance” designation. Notably, the Doras are the first professional theatre, dance and opera awards show in Canada to adopt a fully gender-inclusive policy.
The heavy tally of Soulpepper nominations, in both the general theatre and musical theatre categories, should be seen as a testament to former interim artistic director Alan Dilworth’s success in keeping the company productive between the exit of founder Albert Schultz (who resigned early last year over allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, which were later settled out of court) and the appointment of current artistic director Weyni Mengesha. On Monday, Dilworth was appointed artistic director of Toronto’s Necessary Angel Theatre Company.
Other big winners include the Musical Stage Company, whose artistic and managing director, Mitchell Marcus, needed all his fingers to count the 10 nominations for Next to Normal, which addresses the complexity of mental illness in families. The show, which closed its warmly-received run nine days ago, scored nominations in production, stage direction and musical direction, as well as performance in a leading role for both Ma-Anne Dionisio and Stephanie Sy.
One more production concerning mental illness, Coal Mine Theatre’s The Father, earned veteran actor Eric Peterson a chance for an outstanding-performance trophy in the independent theatre division. Peterson, subbing in at short notice for Nicholas Campbell, played an elderly character with severe memory lapses. Coal Mine Theatre was the front runner in the independent theatre division with 10 nominations.
In all, 282 nominations were announced by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts. The major trophies among them will be awarded on June 25 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. At last year’s Dora’s, the big award hauler was Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, an immersive trailer-park production starring the Saskatoon-born Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.
In the general theatre division this year, the plays vying for the outstanding production prize include Middletown (Crow’s Theatre, in partnership with the Shaw Festival), Secret Life of a Mother (co-produced by the SLOM Collective and the Theatre Centre), bug (Manidoons Collective, presented by Luminato), School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Obsidian Theatre in association with Nightwood Theatre) and Soulpepper’s The Royale.
Making the outstanding-production short list in the musical theatre division are the aforementioned Rose, Next to Normal and Dear Evan Hansen, as well as Kiss of the Spider Woman (Eclipse Theatre Company) and Mary Poppins (Young People’s Theatre). The popular Mary Poppins earned nine nominations altogether.
Canadian Opera Company dominated its division with 33 nominations, which made the COC the leader in overall nominations as well. Its production of Otello scored eight nods, the most in opera.
On the dance side of things, DanceWorks earned 13 taps, best in the division.
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