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Vanessa Sears and Oyin Oladejo in Is God Is.Elijah Nichols/Handout

Theatre, dance and opera came back with a vengeance in Toronto this season as provincial pandemic restrictions on live performances were finally lifted.

So it is perhaps fitting that a pair of shows about revenge are leading the nominations for the first in-person Dora Mavor Moore Awards since COVID-19 brought the performing arts industry they honour to a standstill in 2020.

Is God Is, a Canadian Stage, Obsidian Theatre and Necessary Angel co-production of U.S. playwright Aleshea Harris’s bloody and darkly comic drama about a pair of Black twins literally hunting down their father, tops the general theatre division with 10 nods, including one for outstanding production.

Meanwhile, Sweeney Todd, a Talk is Free Theatre production of the well-known Stephen Sondheim musical about a barber who is aided by a baker in serving up cold slices of retribution to his enemies, leads the musical theatre division with 13 nominations.

The Dora Awards, which went on hiatus last year because of the pandemic, celebrate the best in Toronto theatre, dance and opera – and the 235 individuals and teams up for awards in 45 categories this time around can genuinely say it is an honour just to be nominated.

Eligibility for this 42nd edition technically began in May, 2021 – but, at that moment, live productions were still effectively illegal in Ontario due to provincial restrictions on in-person gatherings.

Full-capacity, indoor public performances were only permitted in Toronto starting in the fall of 2021 (with vaccine passports and mask mandates). Then, the whole scene was completely shuttered again by the provincial government at short notice in January, 2022, as the Omicron variant landed in Canada. (That was not the case in many other parts of Canada – or many other major theatre cities around the world.)

Due to that most recent shutdown in particular, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, the industry advocacy group that organizes the Doras, decided to delay this season’s awards ceremony to the fall and extend the timeline for eligibility, which usually ends in May, to Aug. 15.

In the general theatre division, which recognizes work produced by the city’s larger theatre companies, Is God Is’s many nominations include ones for outstanding direction (for Obsidian artistic director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu) and outstanding performance in a leading role (for both of its stars, Oyin Oladejo and Vanessa Sears).

The Toronto production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the sold-out stage sequel to J.K. Rowling’s books and the biggest commercial show of the season, was far from snubbed, however, landing eight nominations, including recognition in the direction (John Tiffany), scenic design (Canadian expat Christine Jones) and featured performance (Gregory Prest and Sarah Afful) categories.

Those two shows will compete for the title of outstanding production against three Canadian-penned shows: Wildfire, a twisted family mystery by David Paquet translated into English by Leanna Brodie and produced at Factory Theatre (five nominations); The Land Acknowledgement, a solo show about residential schools and reconciliation by Cliff Cardinal that was initially produced, in a ruse, under the title As You Like It at Crow’s Theatre (three nominations); and Orphans for the Czar, a cracking new George F. Walker play based on a Russian novel that also premiered at Crow’s (and received, unusually, only the one nomination).

In the musical theatre division, Talk is Free Theatre (TIFT) – a company actually based in nearby Barrie, Ont. – dominates with productions of two musicals by the late composer/lyricist Sondheim that it brought to Toronto.

Sweeney Todd, which director Mitchell Cushman staged in an immersive, promenade production in a church in Toronto’s east end, has the aforementioned baker’s dozen of nominations, while Into the Woods, which was directed by Michael Torontow at the Winter Garden, earned seven of its own.

Both are up for the outstanding production of a musical award against a pair of shows produced as part of the Mirvish season: & Juliet, the Max Martin/Shakespeare mash-up now headed to Broadway (eight nominations); and A Boy Falls From the Sky, actor Jake Epstein’s solo show about his time working on Broadway (six nominations).

Dixon Road, Fatuma Adar’s ambitious new musical about a family of Somali refugees who end up living in Toronto’s Little Mogadishu, which was co-produced by the Musical Stage Company and Obsidian Theatre, is the final nominee in that category.

Somali Canadian playwright Fatuma Adar’s Dixon Road is a musical journey of family, diaspora and searching for a new sense of home.Elijah Nichols

In the independent theatre division, two collective creations lead the nominations: Italian Mime Suicide from Bad New Days (eight nods); and A Tonic for Desperate Times from Theatre Gargantua (seven nominations).

Their competition for outstanding indie production is An IMM-Permanent Resident (Nautanki Bazaar), The Home Project (the Howland Company) and Three Ordinary Men (Cahoots Theatre).

In the opera division, R.U.R. A Torrent of Light, a new work composed by Nicole Lizée with a libretto by Nicolas Billon and produced by Tapestry Opera, has a leading nine nominations. In the dance division, Canadian Stage and TO Live’s presentation of In My Body has the most nods with seven. In the theatre for young audiences division, the Guild Festival Theatre production of Alice in Wonderland also leads with seven nominations.

The 42nd annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards will take place at a ceremony to be held on Sept. 19 at the Elgin Theatre.

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