In today's Urban Planner: laugh off the holiday stress with some improv, and rock out with a bunch of noisy East Coasters.
- Comedy: Lots of people head out of Toronto during the holiday season. But there are also some who come back to visit friends and family. Dawn Whitwell’s occasional improv show Wand Portal, which replaces her usual stand-up show Dawn Patrol, benefits from this phenomenon—London-based Mae Martin and Los Angeles-based Alana Johnston will be in town to join their Short Notice Show alumnae pals Kayla Lorette and Matt Folliott (the sole man on the otherwise all-female comedy bill). Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8:30 p.m., $7. Details
- Music: Sackville, N.B. noise rockers Kappa Chow are a long way from home two days before Christmas, but they’ll bring a buzzing to the ears and hearts of Torontonians still in the city with their show at The HandleBar. Joining them on the bill are fellow East Coasters Construction and Destruction, and new local project Mean Tikes (made up of members of Ketamines and Pink Wine). The Handlebar (159 Augusta Avenue), 9 p.m., $6. Details
History: The name “Mesopotamia” derives from a Greek term meaning “land between the rivers.” The Royal Ontario Museum’s latest major exhibit, which opens on June 22, takes this literally, as visitors flow between painted representations of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers on the floor.
Presented by the British Museum and rounded out with pieces from institutions in Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, “Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World” covers 3,000 years of human development in the cradle of urban civilization. Most of the 170 artifacts on display have never been shown in Canada. Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queens Park), all day, $27 (Includes general admission). Details
- Theatre: Since its humble beginnings in the back room of Toronto’s Tranzac club back in 2003, Evil Dead The Musical has steadily risen in infamy as a ridiculously fun, tongue-in-cheek, gore-soaked musical experience. From those earliest shows, the musical has gone on to make an off-broadway debut, to win and be nominated for several Dora awards, and to play in dozens of cities around the world, from Montreal and Vancouver to Tokyo and Madrid. It was high time that the show make a triumphant homecoming to a stage in Toronto, and it finally has, at the Randolph Theatre. The Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.), all day, $19.99–$79.95. Details
- Film: It’s not every day that a media tour opens with the injunction not to photograph “the sex blob,” but so began TIFF’s preview of “David Cronenberg: Evolution,” the organization’s first large-scale touring exhibition (for now, it’s stationed at the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s HSBC Gallery). It’s an exhaustive, stunning look at some of the wildest, most perverse creations of a pioneer of the body-horror genre—who also happens to be Canada’s most internationally renowned filmmaker. TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West), 2:40 a.m., $15, $12 students, $5 Tuesdays. Details
- Art: Virginia Woolf once remarked that, “On or about December 1910, human character changed.” Whether it actually did is debatable, but the curators of “The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection 1910–1918” use that year to start their exhibition of works from a tumultuous decade of innovation in European fine art. Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West), all day, $16.50–$25 (includes general admission). Details
- Film: The rare retrospective to get a victory lap soon after its first run, TIFF’s recent spotlight on the eighteen acclaimed films from Japan’s much-admired animation studio gets a second lease on life with Spirited Away: The Films of Studio Ghibli. A major hit with families when it showed at TIFF Bell Lightbox last spring, the retrospective returns with some key modifications, including a couple of prized screenings of 1988’s Grave of the Fireflies, which was unavailable for the last round. TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West), 7 p.m., Adult (non-member) $12. Details
- Performing Arts: So the kids are out of school—now what? Escape holiday cabin fever by taking the family to see Disney On Ice: Princesses & Heroes. Watch good prevail over evil as Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Rapunzel, Jasmine, and Aurora fall in love, get their wishes, and defeat their tormentors with the help of some studly princes. Rogers Centre (1 Blue Jays Way), 12 p.m. and 4 p.m., $36.75-$102.65. Details
- Dance: Ensure that visions of sugarplum fairies will be dancing in your head this holiday season by grabbing tickets to the National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker. Choreographed by James Kudelka, this dreamy story set in Imperial Russia has everything from snow queens to fight scenes, with rich costuming, a live orchestra, and compelling performances from some of the best in ballet. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West), 1 p.m., $25-$244. Details
- Theatre: You know what they say—things are better, down where it’s wetter. Keeping that in mind, why not escape the cold, and enter the underwater world of The Little Mermaid. Straying from the sugar-coated Disney version, Ross Petty’s production draws on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, tying in humour to make this family program both relevant and entertaining. Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street), 2 p.m., $34-$97. Details
Theatre: There’s always a slight buzz in a theatre lobby minutes before a performance is to begin. But the atmosphere at Theatre Columbus’s annual outdoor play is like no other: there’s the anticipation of a new production, of course, but that’s heightened by the slightly intimidating, slightly insane prospect of watching that new production entirely outside.
For the last two years, Theatre Columbus has performed Martha Ross’s delightful comedic adaptation of the nativity story, The Story, throughout the grounds of the Evergreen Brick Works. This year, director Jennifer Brewin (who first got her feet freezing with Theatre Caravan’s beloved sleigh-drawn show in Vancouver) commissioned a script from up-and-comer Haley McGee, who played the part of Mary in The Story. Weather the Weather is her take on a Swedish folk tale that follows Daga (Amy Lee) and her brother Diwrnod (Kawa Ada) as they try to find their way back home after being uprooted by a wicked winter storm created by the sinister Igora (Lisa Karen Cox), a troll who controls the weather from atop a mountain. Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview Avenue), 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., $12.50–$32. Details
Theatre: Once upon a time, there was a film called Once. It was made for dirt cheap in 2006 by writer and director John Carney, shot in 17 days, and starred two unprofessional actors. Fast-forward seven years, and those stars—Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová—are Oscar winners, the movie has grossed almost US$9.5 million, and a Broadway musical based on the story walked away from the 2012 Tonys with eight awards, including Best Musical.
Now Toronto gets to take part in Once‘s Cinderella story, as the touring production continues its run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until early 2014, rounding out Mirvish’s holiday offerings: Aladdin for the kids, Les Misérables for an outing with your parents, and for a romantic night at the theatre with your folk-music-loving significant other, this simple story of two broken-hearted Dubliners who find a connection through music. Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King Street West), 8 p.m., $35–$200. Details
Urban Planner is Torontoist‘s guide to what’s on in Toronto, published every weekday morning, and in a weekend edition Friday afternoons. If you have an event you’d like considered, email us with all the details (including images, if you’ve got any), ideally at least a week in advance.