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Weekend Planner: December 28-29, 2013

In this Weekend Planner: a festival for the kids, belly-dancing lessons, and a whole lot of holiday Whedon.

Learn to belly dance with Yasmina Ramzy. Photo by Nomad Bakr, courtesy of Arabesque Dance Company.

  • Performing Arts: Long Winter is in its second year of putting on late-night parties to help us all get through the dreary months. This time around it has shifted its focus to the younger generations with a daytime children’s festival. Both kids and their caregivers will enjoy musical performances by local artists such as Lido Pimienta, Hooded Fang, and the Woodshed Orchestra, as well as jewellery making lessons, workshops by Girls Rock Camp, storytelling, puppet shows, magicians, and much more! Proceeds from the festival will support The Campaign to End Indefinite Migrant Detention in Canada. The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), Saturday at 12 p.m., PWYC. Details
  • Dance: Do your New Year’s resolutions include getting fit or trying a new hobby? Either way, taking part in a Belly-Dance Workshop is one way to battle the January blahs. Led by Yasmina Ramzy—choreographer and founder of the Arabesque Dance Academy—the classes will focus on both traditional belly dance and folklore, and are suitable for those with two left feet or extensive training. Arabesque Dance Academy (1 Gloucester Street), Saturday at 2:30 p.m., FREE. Details
  • Comedy: The Bad Dog Theatre Company is capping off the year by assembling our country’s best improvisors for a special one-night-only performance. Its mission: to bring some Joss to the festive season with Whedonesque for the Holidays, a reimagining of Joss Whedon’s most popular shows. A musical tribute to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog starts the night off at 8p.m., an unscripted hour of Buffy the Vampire Slayer follows at 9p.m., and the characters of Firefly find themselves on a new adventure at 10 p.m. Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), Saturday at 8 p.m., $12 per show, $20 for two, or $25 for all three. Student tickets are $10 each, $15 for two shows, or $20 for all three. 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

  • 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), Friday at 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), Thursday at 7 p.m., Adult (non-member) $12. Details
  • History: Get into the spirit of the season with the help of Christmas in the Park at Colborne Lodge. The public is invited to tour the High Park founders’ home, which has been dressed up in festive Victorian decor. Era-appropriate foods and drinks will be provided to conjure the atmosphere of a 19th-century Christmas. Colborne Lodge, High Park (11 Colborne Lodge Drive), Saturday at 12 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m., $7.08 adults, $4.42 seniors/children. 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), Saturday at 12 p.m.,4 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m.,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), Saturday at 1 p.m.,5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.,5:30 p.m., $25-$244. Details
  • Film: The hills—er—theatre is alive with the Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music! The classic film returns to the big screen for a short run, just in time for the holidays. Unlike most screenings, you’re actually encouraged to make noise in this one by singing along with the characters. Start practicing those do-re-mis! TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West), Saturday at 1 p.m.,7 p.m., $22.75, $20 seniors, $17.50 children. Details
  • Theatre: Every revolution needs a leader. And though the movement to bring the classic 1980s musical Les Miserables back to Toronto is markedly different than the quest for political accountability and social equality, it has its hero just the same. After Wednesday night’s official opening performance at the Princess of Wales Theatre, the audience likely would have followed London-based, Richmond Hill-raised performer Ramin Karimloo (as the story’s golden-hearted protagonist, Jean Valjean) anywhere he would lead. Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West), Saturday at 1:30 p.m.,7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m., $35–$130. 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), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., $35–$200. Details

  • Theatre: Proving that Bible stories can be pretty entertaining, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat returns to the stage in Toronto for a short three-week run. This Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, with lyrics by Tim Rice, is based on the story of Joseph of Canaan’s “coat of many colours.” Debuted in the mid-70s, this is the first Lloyd Webber-Rice opera to ever be performed in public. Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Avenue), Saturday at 2 p.m.,7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.,6 p.m., $39-$59. 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), Saturday at 2 p.m.,7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., $34-$97. Details
  • Theatre: The musical spoof is a theatrical genre all its own, and it’s one that thrives in the indie universe of the Fringe Festival circuit. Of course, it was at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival that The Musical of Musicals, The Musical! became a runaway hit. Its hokey, jokey sense of humour, hummable tunes, and highly experienced cast stood out from the hundred-plus other low-budget productions—so much so that David Mirvish plucked it from obscurity and placed it in the Off-Mirvish lineup. But until last Thursday, we had yet to see if its success so far was a Fringe fluke or the real deal. Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.,7 p.m., $19 to $49. Details
  • Music: The Drake Hotel is all about the number five this holiday season. To fill the gap between Christmas and New Year’s, it has put together What’s in the Box, a mini music festival. For five nights in a row, you can pay just five dollars and see five great bands. Nautiluss (Dec 26), Solids (Dec 27), Doomsquad (Dec 28), Kevin McPhee (Dec 29), and Rich Aucoin (Dec 30) make up only a small chunk of this stellar bill. Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West), Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m., $5. Details
  • Comedy: You might expect a show called We Can Be Heroes to be a send-up of superhero films, but Second City’s new mainstage production is actually a celebration of minor, everyday acts of heroism ranging from giving advice to a bullied child to managing not to be a jackass at your friend’s wedding. Second City (51 Mercer Street), Saturday at 7:30 p.m.,10 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., $24–$29. Details
  • Outdoors: It’s time to lace up! Harbourfront Centre has brought back its weekly DJ Skate Nights at Natrel Rink, overlooking the lake. Make the best of winter, and get your skate on to the sounds of some of Toronto’s premiere DJs and party-makers, like Skratch Bastid (Dec 14), Cherry Bomb (Feb 1), and DJ Starting from Scratch (Feb 22).
    Natrel Rink, Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), Saturday at 8 p.m., FREE. 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), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m., $12.50–$32. Details

  • Performing Arts: The Garrison is combining tunes, laughs, and charity this holiday season with its Boxing Day Special Festival. For five straight days, it’ll be presenting music from artists like BA Johnston and Rioting Reverb, as well as comedy from Troy Stark, Chris Locke, and many more. All proceeds will support the Parkdale Food Bank.
    The Garrison (1197 Dundas Street West), Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m., $5, or 3 non-perishable food items. Details
  • Markets: Winter might make us want to hibernate and rely solely on the stock of food in the freezer, but don’t let it! Come out to Steam Whistle’s Winter Farmer’s Market to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and organic meats—all the while supporting local farmers. It’s worth venturing out into the cold, don’t you think? Steam Whistle Brewing (255 Bremner Boulevard), Sunday at 10 a.m., FREE. Details
  • Music: Toronto Operetta Theatre brings back a holiday favourite light opera, Franz Lehar’s The Land of Smiles, about romance between two couples in Austria and China. And once again this year, it’ll be mounting a special New Year’s Eve gala performance, with a pre-show dinner and post-show champagne reception, if you’re of a mind to ring in the New Year in grand style. St. Lawrence Centre For the Arts (27 Front Street East), Sunday at 2 p.m., $72–$95. Details

Happening soon:

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.