Shows about troubled triplets, rebellious robots, a suicidal mime and a bloodthirsty barber are among the big winners of Toronto’s 42nd annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards.
Talk is Free Theatre’s immersive staging of the late Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd swept the musical theatre category with five Doras at the awards’ first in-person ceremony since 2019. Tapestry Opera’s world premiere of the sci-fi drama R.U.R. A Torrent of Light, meanwhile, grabbed six awards in the opera category, the most of any production.
The Doras, handed out Monday night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, also saw Factory Theatre’s Wildfire top the General Theatre Division. Quebec playwright David Paquet’s darkly funny triptych – which includes three disturbed siblings and a woman erotically obsessed with serial killers – took the Outstanding Production and Outstanding New Play prizes, as well as Outstanding Direction for Soheil Parsa. Paquet shared the new-play award with Wildfire’s English translator, Leanna Brodie.
In an upset almost as startling as the play itself, Is God Is, which had garnered 10 nominations – the most in the general division – came away with only two awards. The bloody urban-revenge tragedy, an Obsidian Theatre-Necessary Angel-Canadian Stage co-pro, won for best costume design (Ming Wong) and sound design/composition (Thomas Ryder Payne).
Italian Mime Suicide, by physical-theatre company Bad New Days, led the Independent Theatre Division with awards for best production, best new play (the company), direction (Adam Paolozza and Kari Pederson), costume design (Allie Marshall and Evgenia Mikhaylova) and lighting (André du Toit).
Street dancer-choreographer Crazy Smooth’s In My Body, a co-presentation of dance Immersion, Canadian Stage and TO Live, took four Doras in the Dance Division, including Outstanding Production. MOBY: A Whale of a Tale by shipboard theatre Art & Water was hailed the best Theatre for Young Audiences show – one of its four awards. Sky Dancers, performed by Montreal-based A’nó:wara Dance Theatre at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, was acclaimed Outstanding Touring Production.
Two actors who gave compelling performances as traumatized characters won the acting prizes in the main theatre category. Alexis Gordon was awarded Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role for her portrayal of a resilient young mother in the stage adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s Room, presented in Toronto by Mirvish Productions. Sheldon Elter, as an Indigenous man scarred by the residential-school experience in the Soulpepper-Native Earth revival of Where the Blood Mixes, won the best-featured-role trophy.
Veteran actor Layne Coleman took the individual acting award in the indie division for his performance as a King Lear-like father battling dementia in Project Undertow’s remount of Rosa Labordé's True. The cast of Theatre Gargantua’s collectively created A Tonic for Desperate Times – Heather Marie Annis, Sierra Haynes, Alexandra Lainfiesta, Michael Gordon Spence and Nabil Traboulsi – were deemed best ensemble.
In musical theatre and opera, smaller companies trumped the major players. Barrie, Ont.-based Talk is Free scored big with its promenade treatment of Sondheim’s demon-barber musical, presented in an east-end Toronto church: Sweeney Todd walked off with the best production, leading actor (Glynis Ranney), featured actor (Cyrus Lane), direction (Mitchell Cushman) and choreography (Cameron Carver) awards. The Outstanding New Musical citation went to Fatuma Adar for Dixon Road, the moving story of a Somali refugee family resettling in Canada, which was co-produced by the Musical Stage Company and Obsidian and presented by Canadian Stage in High Park in Toronto.
Mirvish Productions, Toronto’s leading musical producer, picked up a pair of Doras for the Broadway-bound romcom & Juliet – Dominic Fallacaro won for musical direction and Soutra Gilmour for her scenic design. That other Mirvish blockbuster, the non-musical Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, got the Dora for Outstanding Lighting Design (Neil Austin) in the general division.
The Canadian Opera Company, meanwhile, received its sole Dora for Egyptian soprano Amina Edris’s performance as Violetta in La Traviata. Tapestry’s android opera, R.U.R. A Torrent of Light, presented at OCAD University, snapped up every other award in the division, including Outstanding New Opera for composer Nicole Lizée and librettist Nicolas Billon.
The Doras, presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), also included the Silver Ticket and Jon Kaplan Audience Choice awards. Arts administrator and advocate Pat Bradley was given the Silver Ticket – lifetime admission to any shows by TAPA member companies. The Kaplan, named after the late Toronto theatre critic and chosen by the public, went to the Guild Festival Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland.
This year’s Doras reflected the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally held in June, they were moved to September to accommodate the many shows that were postponed in the 2021-22 season. There were 235 nominations and 100 eligible productions this year.
The complete list of Dora Award winners can be found on the TAPA website.
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