What to Do in Toronto December 12–18: Twist Your Dickens, Jess Grant Extravaganza, and Holy Fuck

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What to Do in Toronto December 12–18: Twist Your Dickens, Jess Grant Extravaganza, and Holy Fuck

This week includes charity fundraiser shows by The Queer Songbook Orchestra, The Wooden Sky, the Second City Training Centre, and more.

Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.

Rosamund Small's "micro-plays" will be read at tonight's Canadian Theatre Review launch party. Photo by Sebastien Heins.

Rosamund Small’s “micro-plays” will be read at tonight’s Canadian Theatre Review launch party. Photo by Sebastien Heins.


Monday, December 12

The latest edition of The Canadian Theatre Review looks at the relationship between theatre and theatre critics, and the state of critical reporting about theatre. Many of the magazine’s contributors will be present at tonight’s launch party, hosted by co-editors Karen Fricker (Toronto Star) and Michelle MacArthur (University of Windsor), and in-person discounts will available for those subscribing, electronically or in print. The evening will also feature a reading of several “micro-plays” by contributor Rosamund Small (#TomorrowLove), and the presentation of the bi-annual Nathan Cohen Awards for Excellence in Theatre Criticism to the Globe and Mail‘s J. Kelly Nestruck and this writer. The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), 7 p.m., FREE.

It’s known primarily for its storied music history, but the Cameron House also plays host to comedy sometimes too. The Cameron House Comedy showcase is celebrating its two-year anniversary tonight, with co-hosts Dena Jackson and Jen Sakato being joined by Aisha Brown, Garrett Jamison, Jackie Pirico, and more. (There will be cake.) The Cameron House back room (408 Queen Street West), 8 p.m., PWYC.


Sean Cullen and Jason DeRosse in Twist Your Dickens. Photo by Paul Aihoshi.

Sean Cullen and Jason DeRosse in Twist Your Dickens. Photo by Paul Aihoshi.


Tuesday. December 13

If you’re looking for a classic take on A Christmas Carol, Soulpepper‘s production is what you want. If you’d like your holiday tale skewed (think Scrooged), Twist Your Dickens is the likely ticket. A cast of Second City Toronto alumni (who the Star thinks were the best part of the show) spruce up this Second City Chicago-created irreverent take on Ebenezer and his ghostly visits, starring Sean Cullen as Scrooge and Patrick McKenna as Marley (and more), with supporting turns by Allie Price, Sarah Hillier, Jason DeRosse, Karen Parker, and Nigel Downer. To December 30 (no show December 19 & 25), Toronto Centre For The Arts (5040 Yonge Street), Tuesday–Saturday 8 p.m., selected 3 p.m. matinees, $25–$90.

Missed this past weekend’s City of Craft? No time during daylight hours to get some one of a kind holiday shopping done? Well, beleaguered workaholic, tonight’s Local Night Market (Holiday Edition) is just the thing for you; an afternoon-until-late fair featuring over 30 local vendors—and when you’ve finished shopping, the bar’s right there too. The Den (423 College Street), 5 p.m.–11 p.m., FREE.

Toronto’s queer and allied pop orchestra returns with their second annual holiday fundraiser The Queer Songbook Orchestra presents Roasted Chestnuts (a reference to the classic holiday song, of course). Produced in partnership with the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, all proceeds for the show will go to the Rainbow Railroad. The Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m., $15.


Toronto's improv community is rallying to help Jess Grant with her medical expenses. Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis.

Toronto’s improv community is rallying to help Jess Grant with her medical expenses. Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis.


Wednesday, December 14

They’re finally home from another long tour (as detailed by the Star‘s Ben Rayner), but PUP isn’t home for a rest—at least, not yet. First, there’s a three-night hometown stand at the Danforth Music Hall (as of press time, Thursday night is sold out) backed up by Hotelier and Chris Cresswell. December 14–16, Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth Avenue), doors at 7 pm., all ages, $13.50-$17.50.

It’s a two-night stand for the seventh edition of The Wooden Sky’s Annual Holiday Show. This year, all funds raised will go to Romero House, which supports recently arrived refugees to Canada. Wednesday’s show features Obijou alumni Casey Mecija as the band’s special guest; Thursday, it’s The Highest Order’s Simone Schimdt. December 14 & 15, 918 Bathurst Centre (918 Bathurst), doors at 7:30 pm., show at 8:30 p.m., $25.

The Jess Grant Extravaganza is a fundraising show for the Second City instructor, whom the local improv community has rallied around as she undergoes treatment for a mass discovered on her lymphnoid. On the bill for the night are Standards and Practices, Paloma Nunez, Shanda Bezic, host Jackie Pirico, and many more. John Candy Box Theatre (99 Blue Jays Way, 3rd floor), 9 p.m., $20.

Jo-Anna Downey, despite being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2012, came so very close to marking the Spirits Comedy 20th Anniversary. She passed away Thursday, December 1, the night before a fundraiser; last Wednesday, the stand-up community held a wake for her at Spirits. Tonight, the show she started, which has been run by Cal Post and others since she lost the ability to perform, marks 20 years of weekly stand-up, and the bill is a who’s who of comics with a connection to the show, including Ryan Belleville, Sandra Battaglini, Arthur Simeon, and a half dozen more. Spirits Bar & Grill (642 Church Street), 9 p.m., FREE.


Thursday, December 15

Another holiday fundraiser show! This one—Merry Sexmas—is raising funds for the Parkdale Community Food Bank and features guests Standards and Practices and The Templeton Philharmonic, and headliners Sex T-Rex. (Bring food donations, as well as improv suggestions.) Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10.

Oh, what a night when there’s big ticket shows from Jazz Cartier and Headstones, perennial favourites like Dwayne Gretzky‘s Christmas Show and Jason Collett’s Basement Revue, and even PUP’s third show, the scrappy local underdogs are actually birds—the Birds of Bellwoods, that is. The folk-rockers, recently returned from a West Coast tour, play the ‘Shoe tonight, with openers JJ and The Pillars and Olivia and the Creepy Crawlies. Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West), 8:30 p.m., $13.50.


Michael Ruderman plays a cop with substance abuse issues in Better Than This. Photo by Jeremy Powell.

Michael Ruderman plays a cop with substance abuse issues in Better Than This. Photo by Jeremy Powell.

Friday, December 16

Nearly every show opening on Toronto stages this time of year is holiday-themed. Better Than This is one exception. Punk rock like The Stooges and The Stiff Little Fingers score this playwrighting debut by Isaac Robinson. Like a good punk song, it’s short (the run) and confrontational (the subject matter), with Michael Ruderman, Myrthin Stagg, William Greenblatt, and Thea Fitz-James playing characters whose lives intersect at a nexus of music and drug addiction. To December 18, Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue), Wednesday–Saturday 7:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday PWYC matinee, $17–$25.

Comic Matt O’Brien has been interviewing fellow comics on the TTC for a few years now, but he’s going to have to shelve the project for a while due to an upcoming move to Los Angeles. He’ll screen the final three episodes of the truly odd series live at the Subway Talk Show Finale, plus feature past hot (transit) seat guests like Julia Hladkowicz, Todd Graham, and Jackie Pirico. (Oh, the show’s a fundraiser too; all proceeds will go to the ACLU.) Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $5.

The people behind Red Bull Sound Select have asked dominant Toronto music label Arts & Crafts to curate their final showcase of the year, the Toronto Holiday Forecast. The selected acts: KILMANJARO, Bernice, Jaunt, and Young Clancy. As with all the Sound Select series, if you RSVP to the guest list in advance, it’s $3 to get in; it’ll be $10 at the door. 165 Geary Avenue, Unit #2, doors at 9 p.m., $3 with advance RSVP, $10 without.



Weekend, December 17–18

It’s a “speculative comedic intergalactic holiday cabaret.” We’re not quite sure what to make of Future Tense, either, but we can endorse most of the line-up, which includes theatre makers Rick Miller and Anna Chatterton; comedians Rob Baker, Jan Caruana, Lisa Merchant, and Marty Adams; band Ronley Teper’s Lipliners, and more. Lee’s Palace Upstairs (529 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $15–$20 in advance, $20–$25 at the door.

Downstairs from the Future Tense, on the Lee’s Palace main floor, Holy Fuck will be holding court. The seminal Toronto-based electronic act have two excellent local openers: New Fries and Absolutely Free. Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor Street West), doors at 8:30 p.m., $15.

It’s become a Campbell House holiday tradition. Elzabeth-Darcy, the clever adaptation of Pride and Prejudice performed by just two actors, returns for this week only, with co-creator Kathleen Werneberg and new performer Peyton LeBarr stepping in for co-creator Hallie Burt. (We’ve profiled the show, which ranges around the historic mansion, several times previously in our holiday round-ups.) To December 18, Campbell House Museum (160 Queen Street West), Tuesday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 2 p.m. matinee, $15.

Also a holiday perennial (since 1938!), The Christmas Story has returned to the Church of the Holy Trinity, surrounded on all sides by the Eaton Centre and other modern buildings that now loom over it. A dedicated cadre of volunteers stage the annual performance, including a rotating cast of actual babies. To December 24, Church of the Holy Trinity (19 Trinity Square), Thursday–Saturday 7:30 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 4:30 p.m. matinee, Christmas Eve 1:30 p.m., matinee, $5–$20 donation suggested.

The final fundraiser show of this week that we’ve selected is the Burdock Holiday Show, a music fundraiser for Girls Rock Camp Toronto. More than a dozen local musicians are participating, including Lido Pimienta, Taylor Knox, and Charlotte Cornfield. The Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m., $10 in advance, $15/PWYC at the door.


Have a tip for Urban Planner? Let us know via email, ideally more than a week in advance.


Lido Pimienta headlines Sunday’s Girls Rock Camp fundraiser.


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