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Theatre & Performance Movie-turned-musical Once a surprise winner at Toronto’s Dora Awards

Actors Ian Lake, left, and Trish Lindstrom both received Dora Award nominations for Once, but only Lindstrom walked away a winner.

Cylla von Tiedemann

Lightning has struck Once – for a second time.

The Tony-winning show about an Irish busker and Czech single mother making sweet music together now has several Dora Mavor Moore Awards to add to its mantelpiece. Producer David Mirvish's Canadian production of the movie-turned-musical was named outstanding production of a musical at the Doras on Monday night – beating out tough competition from Soulpepper's Spoon River and Acting Up Stage Company's The Wild Party.

Despite being the biggest of the nominated shows, Once was considered a bit of an underdog because it had already passed through Toronto on tour.

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But the Dora jury was clearly won over by Once's Canadian cast: Trish Lindstrom, who is still giving a plaintive, funny performance as Girl in the show (currently in its final extension until June 28), picked up the award for best actress in a musical – while the rest of the actors shared in an award for outstanding ensemble.

Daren A. Herbert, who gave a hair-raising performance as a troubled vaudeville artist in The Wild Party, beat out Once's Ian Lake for the best actor in a musical award, however.

And Albert Schultz and Mike Ross's Spoon River, which will return to Soulpepper in November, did not leave empty handed. It was named best new musical or opera, while Ross was honoured for his musical direction.

In total, 48 Dora Awards were handed out Monday – split into divisions such as "general" (budget over $100,000), indie (budget under $100,000), opera, dance and theatre for young audiences.

Soulpepper's updated version of the 1970 Dario Fo farce Accidental Death of an Anarchist – reworked into a scathing satire of the Toronto police – was named best production in the "general" division – and star Kawa Ada was given the gong for "outstanding performance – male," or, as the laypeople, call it "best actor."

The general division was a bit of a gong show itself this year – as three nominees declined their nods for Tarragon Theatre's production of An Enemy of the People, which was closely based on one from Berlin's Schaubuhne theatre.

The rest of main "general" awards were split by three women from three different shows.

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Nicky Guadagni was named best actress for her one-woman, seven-character show Hooked, based on a book of poetry by Carolyn Smart; Eda Holmes was named best director for her work on the Michel Marc Bouchard play Tom at the Farm; and Hannah Moscovitch won best new play for the physics-inspired Infinity.

In the indie division, there was a clear winner: Blood Wedding, a classic by the Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca co-produced by Modern Times Stage Company and Aluna Theatre, won six Doras, including outstanding production. Soheil Parsa was named best director and Beatriz Pizano best actress, honours they also received at the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards earlier this month.

Suburban Beast's Concord Floral had six nominations – but only Jordan Tannahill's script was honoured as best new indie play.

The Canadian Opera Company, unsurprisingly, dominated the opera division – with director Robert Carsen's production of Verdi's Falstaff named the best of the season. But filmmaker Atom Egoyan beat out Carsen for the outstanding direction award for his work on the COC's Die Walkure.

The opera performance awards were also split between these two productions: Falstaff's Gerald Finley gave the best male performance of the season, while Die Walkure's Christine Goerke gave the best female performance of the year according to the Dora jurors.

For a full list of winners, including those in the dance and theatre for young audiences divisions, visit globeandmail.com/arts.

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