In this Weekend Planner: the magic of reading (and actual magic), one last party at Neutral, and a mellower Big Rude Jake.
- Books: Celebrate Family Literacy Day in the most natural place—the public library. Children aged 3-12 and their parents are invited to join Ian Crawford for his Magic of Reading show, which features puppets, storytelling, and, of course, magic. With the aim of encouraging reading amongst youngsters, Crawford’s performances involve a whole lot of audience participation. New Toronto Public Library (110 Eleventh Street), Saturday at 2 p.m., FREE. Details
- Parties: After nearly ten years of providing a haven for Toronto’s dark subcultures, Neutral is closing its doors. Friends and patrons past and present are invited to come out for one last party, the Closing Ceremonies, to bid adieu. DJs Lazarus, Shannon, and Hangedman are only some of the entertainers who will keep things raging until sunrise. Neutral (282 Augusta Avenue), Saturday at 9 p.m., $10. Details
- Music: Big Rude Jake is known for his energetic rockabilly and swing-punk sounds, but he also has a softer side. Slowing things down a little with The Killer 3, he’ll showcase the mellower, more jazz-infused songs in his repertoire. Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West), Saturday at 9 p.m., FREE. Details
- Film: Modern Superior returns for its second-ever Video Vengeance event, with yet another movie that never made a year-end “best of” list. This time around, it’ll be screening a VHS copy of 1986’s Eliminators. Don’t miss out on one of the best stories ever told about a river boat guide, martial arts expert, partial android, mini robot, and scientist. Show up early for fun previews, and maybe even win some raffle prizes! KITCH (229 Geary Avenue), Sunday at 7:30 p.m., FREE. 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
- Festivals Film: Not content to keep it tucked away in the fall, last night the Toronto International Film Festival revealed its slate for Canada’s Top 10, the upcoming ten-day mini-festival devoted to the year’s best in Canadian filmmaking. Artistic Director Cameron Bailey joined Canadian programmer Steve Gravestock and comedian Steve Patterson to unveil the feature and short lineups, in addition to announcing a number of related talks. TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West), Friday at 6 p.m., $10-$20. Details
- Wheels: The largest retail showcase for motorcycle enthusiasts, the North American International Motorcycle Supershow features over 500 exhibitors and over 1,000 bikes on display, plus live entertainment, the unveiling of new bikes, and a marketplace. Children under the age of six get in free, and youth six to 12 get in for just $5 (regular admission is $20). The International Centre (6900 Airport Road), Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m., $5-$20. 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
- Photography: Ali Eisner is already known for being a puppeteer, composer, and performer. Now she adds another line to her resumé with her debut photography exhibit, “Favourite Things.” As one might expect, each photo in the show depicts a cherished moment, person, or item in her life—you’ll find shots of everything from travelling and architecture, to puppets and musicians such as Kathleen Edwards, Ron Sexsmith, and Serena Ryder. Join her for the opening reception on January 9. Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West), Saturday at 12 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m., FREE. 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., $25-$244. 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: What happens when your common household plant develops a taste for blood? Well, naturally it turns into a feisty, R&B-singing beast vying for global domination. Or at least that’s what happens in the cult classic sci-fi spoof, Little Shop of Horrors. Check out this off-Broadway hit at the Lower Ossington Theatre during its three week run.
Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m., $59. 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.,8 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., $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
- Theatre: Let’s face it: being a twenty-something can kinda suck. Pumped full of confidence and aspirations, we flee the family nest…and fall flat on our faces. Avenue Q uses songs (written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx) and puppetry both to lament and poke fun at this difficult time. Much like Sesame Street‘s, its cast is made up of human actors who interact with a variety of furry creatures, who themselves have hands up their butts. Think that description is tasteless? This might not be the show for you—these puppets are crude and lewd, and have a taste for alcohol and porn. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m., $49-$59. 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
- 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
- Comedy: In 2004. Gary Rideout Jr., Pat Thornton, and Tal Zimmerman formed the Sketchersons, and set out to establish an outlet for local comedic talent—the result was Sunday Night Live. Now, with over 200 shows, awards, and tours of North America under their belts, they present The Sketchersons 10-Year Anniversary Celebration. Join them for four nights of comedy, which will include year-specific “best of” shows featuring alumni casts and new content mashups. The weekend wraps up with a Best of 2013 spectacular. Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), Saturday at 8 p.m.,9:15 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m., $2 in advance, or $10 at the door each night. 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
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.