Come from Away has picked up three accolades from the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards as it heads toward its New York showdown at the Tony Awards next month.
The musical set in Newfoundland after 9/11, written and composed by Torontonians Irene Sankoff and David Hein, was named the best new Canadian musical of the 2016-17 season – and also the best overall production of a musical in Toronto in that period.
This is the first time the same show has won both awards since the TTCAs were inaugurated in 2011.
Christopher Ashley, the American director of this cross-border collaboration, was named best director of a musical for his fast-paced production – which was produced at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto by David Mirvish before moving down to Broadway.
The Musical Stage Company (recently renamed from Acting Up Stage Company) picked up two awards in the musical-theatre categories for a show that made the reverse journey, from New York to Toronto: Passing Strange.
Beau Dixon was named best actor in a musical for his moving performance as the narrator in this autobiographical rock musical by the American musician known as Stew, while Vanessa Sears was named best supporting actress, impressing the critics in a variety of secondary roles.
Patricia Cano won best actress in a musical for her performance in Cree, English and French in Tomson Highway's show The (Post) Mistress – which was presented by Pleiades Theatre and Théâtre français de Toronto.
Dan Chameroy, meanwhile, gets the gong for best supporting actor in a musical for his comic yet chilling performance as the authoritarian Miss Trunchbull in the Mirvish production of Matilda: The Musical.
In the play categories, three shows received the lion's share of the awards: John by Annie Baker (produced by the Company Theatre); 887 by Robert Lepage (produced by Ex Machina at Canadian Stage); and "Master Harold" … and the Boys from Obsidian Theatre (in co-production with the Shaw Festival).
The Toronto critics who vote on the awards each year (including this one) couldn't decide on what to name the best production of a play in the 2016-17 season – and split the award between director Jonathan Goad's production of John and Lepage's of his own 887.
Baker's comedy about a young couple and the eccentric operator of a bed-and-breakfast was named the best international play to premiere in Toronto this year, while Nora McLellan won best supporting actor for her scene-stealing performance as a blind woman named Genevieve.
Lepage's moving, autobiographical play about growing up in Quebec City also won best design for its stunning, morphing visuals – which the director, playwright and performer created with Jean-Sébastien Côté, Laurent Routhier and Félix Fradet-Faguy.
"Master Harold" … and the Boys, Athol Fugard's play set in the early days of apartheid South Africa, picked up three awards: best director for Philip Akin, best actor for André Sills and best supporting actor for James Daly.
Dawn Jani Birley was named best actress in a play for her stunning performance as Horatio in Why Not Theatre's Prince Hamlet; the role was significantly expanded in director Ravi Jain's revisioning of Shakespeare's play – with Birley, a deaf artist, onstage signing for almost the entire show.
Best new Canadian play went to Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken for their critically acclaimed two-hander, Mouthpiece – which will have its European debut in Edinburgh this August.
Last but not least, the Toronto critics decided to give a special citation to Jon Kaplan – the long-time NOW magazine theatre writer and reviewer who died last month at 69. He will be honoured at the TTCA ceremony – which will take place at The Globe and Mail Centre on June 19.
The Toronto Theatre Critics Awards are given out on an annual basis by a group of print, online and radio critics including those of The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, NOW and the National Post. This year, the awards changed format and expanded – allowing a now nine-person membership to vote individually rather than on behalf of the publications they write for or operate.