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R&B and soul singer Jully Black received outstanding performance in a lead role award for her show-stopping work in the civil rights era-set musical Caroline, or Change.

It was a big night on the small screen for The Brothers Size at the 2020 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a virtual edition of Toronto’s theatre, dance and opera awards ceremony that was broadcast on YouTube and honoured the best of a pandemic-interrupted stage season.

Soulpepper Theatre Company’s production of Moonlight screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Yoruba mythology-inspired drama about two Black brothers in the Louisiana bayou logged on Monday night leading the Dora nominations – and it logged off with five Doras, including outstanding production in the general theatre division.

View the full list of 2020 Dora Mavor Moore Awards winners here

Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, who is taking over as artistic director of Obsidian Theatre Company this summer, won the outstanding direction award for her work on The Brothers Size – and Daren A. Herbert earned the outstanding performance in a featured role award for his riveting work as the older brother in the play, Ogun Size. Costume designer Rachel Forbes and the sound design and composition team of Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison, Waleed Abdulhamid, Jasmyn Fyffe and Thomas Ryder Payne were also honoured with Doras.

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Unlike the Moonlight/La La Land fiasco of the Oscars in 2017, there was no chance of anyone stealing The Brothers Size’s thunder: This virtual edition of the Doras was prerecorded – and winners were invited to share their acceptance speeches on social media with the hashtag #Doras2020speeches.

Buffoon, Anosh Irani’s tragicomic one-man show about a circus clown, was named the best new play of the season in the general division – and Anand Rajaram received the award for outstanding performance in a leading role for his tour-de-force turn in it at Tarragon Theatre.

2020 is the second year since the Doras eliminated gender-based acting categories – and while men swept the general division’s performance awards, women ruled the roost in the musical theatre division.

Jully Black, the R&B and soul singer, and Vanessa Sears, whose second season at the Stratford Festival was cut short by COVID-19, received outstanding performance in a lead and supporting role awards, respectively, for their show-stopping work as mother and daughter in the civil rights era-set musical Caroline, or Change (which was co-produced by Musical Stage Company and Obsidian).

Piaf/Dietrich, a musical biography of Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich that Mirvish Productions put on at the CAA Theatre last fall, was named outstanding production of a musical – and Landon Doak and Matthew Finlan’s Life in a Box was named outstanding new musical. (Mirvish also received the award for outstanding touring production for its presentation of the terrorism drama from a child’s-eye view, Us/Them.)

The musical theatre division jurors spread the wealth around. Eclipse Theatre Company, an upstart not-for-profit led by musical theatre star Chilina Kennedy and director Evan Tsitsias, was actually the most awarded company in these categories: Its production of Dave Malloy’s mysterious musical Ghost Quartet (with Crow’s Theatre) picked up awards for its direction (Marie Farsi) and lighting design (Patrick Lavender) – and the company’s short run of Sunday in the Park with George picked up another for musical direction (Adam Sakiyama).

Astrid van Wieren, top left, Jani Lauzon, bottom left, Thom Allison, centre, Sabryn Rock, top right, and Sharron Matthews, bottom right.

In the independent theatre division, the Coal Mine Theatre had a strong year. Director Stewart Arnott’s production of Marjorie Prime, a sci-fi drama about dementia, was named outstanding production – and Arnott won outstanding direction. But its lead, Stratford Festival legend Martha Henry, was beaten out in the outstanding performance category by Alexander Thomas, who starred in another Coal Mine show, Between Riverside and Crazy.

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Keith Barker’s moving drama This is How We Got Here, which premiered at Native Earth Performing Arts this winter, was named outstanding new indie play – and The Howland Company’s production of Casimir and Caroline garnered an award for its ensemble and for Ken MacKenzie’s costumes.

In the dance division, B.C.-based Betroffenheit co-creator Crystal Pite picked up another award for her mantelpiece: outstanding original choreography for the unearthly Angels’ Atlas at the National Ballet.

Rock Bottom Movement’s hollow mountain was named outstanding production in the dance division.

Another dance piece was the most lauded of the year in the theatre for young audiences division. The Mush Hole, a Kaha:wi Dance Theatre show about the intergenerational impact of Canada’s residential school system presented by Young People’s Theatre, was named outstanding production – and its creator Santee Smith, recently appointed Chancellor of McMaster University, won awards for outstanding new play and outstanding direction in TYA.

Last, but not least, the Canadian Opera Company nearly swept the opera division with its production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka. Its four awards included outstanding production, outstanding direction (David McVicar) and outstanding musical direction (Johannes Debus).

While the Tony Awards have been indefinitely postponed in New York, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts decided to go ahead with the 2020 edition of its juried Dora Mavor Moore Awards as 85 per cent of the 2019-20 shows registered for consideration went on before the city’s stages were shut down in March. Here’s the full list of all 46 of this year’s winners.

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