This week features classic holiday events like Handel's Messiah, the Winter Solstice Parade, and Toronto Christmas Market.
Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.
Monday, December 19
For five years now, singers Sharron Matthews and George Masswohl have hosted their Superfun Christmas Singalong at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and they’ve sold out every year. This year, it’s a one night only event. Seats are long gone—but there ARE day-of standing room rush tickets available. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street), 7 p.m., $25.
A collaboration between the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Handel’s Messiah, is an evergreen holiday tradition. Conducted by Nicholas McGegan, the shows closer to the holiday weekend are sold out, but as of press time, there are still a few tickets left for earlier in the week. To December 23 (no show December 22), Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe Street), Monday–Friday, 8 p.m., $38.75–$111.25.
Comedy couple Matt O’Brien (host of last week’s retired Subway Talk Show) and Julia Hladkowicz (a finalist this year in the SiriusXM Top Comic contest) are heading south for the foreseeable future. Before they make the move to Los Angeles, the two are taking over the weekly Alt.Dot.Comedy stand-up showcase (and renaming it the Matt and Julia Going Away Show). Comic pals of theirs on the bill include Alex Pavone, Ashley Moffat, and Eddie Della Sieppe. The Rivoli (332 Queen Street West), 8:30 p.m., $10.
Tuesday, December 20
Mack The Knife and the other cutthroat denizens of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s make for odd holiday figures, but the Fun Palace 3Penny Holiday Variety Show has become an annual tradition, eight years running, for the Small Wooden Shoe theatre company. The ThreePenny Opera songs and story are broken up with variety segments from guest performers, plus segments called Questions in the Dark and Is That Legal?, an off-kilter Q&A with a lawyer. There’s four shows before the end of the year in total; December 20 & 21, and December 28 & 29. Tuesday & Wednesday, The Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m., $15.
It’s been four years since the involved theatrical experience Heligoland Follies wrapped (we interviewed designer Juliann Wilding at the time about her giant wren, hermaphrodite codpiece, and other show creations), but after several years of holiday shows set at the Boyce Naval Academy, Henri Fabergé and his collective are returning to the mysterious and benighted island for Heligoland: Sol Sacrifice. More than 30 local actors, comics, musicians, and artists are contributing to the Community Conversation and Ritual Sacrifice; participants will be “indoctrinated” into the community/cult beforehand, and a dance will follow, featuring the Heligoland Fam Jam Band. Owls Club (847 Dovercourt Road), 8 p.m., $15 in advance, $20 at the door ($10–$100 sliding scale).
Wednesday, December 21
You can bring your own lantern or show up early to purchase some at St. Stephen’s (260 Augusta); then, join the procession for the 27th annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade, a festive community gathering to celebrate the longest night of the year (and the fact that every night thereafter will be increasingly shorter). There are other solstice events across the GTA this evening, of course, but this is the big one in the core. Oxford Street & Augusta Avenue, parade begins at 6:30 p.m., FREE (lanterns $12).
The Unit 102 theatre company, currently nomadic, is embracing their situation by performing their holiday sketch show on both sides of the Don Valley divide. Wednesday night, their Sketchy as Fuck show has a Westside edition at the Rhino, around the corner from their former space; Thursday night, they’ll be on the Danforth for an Eastside edition. The variety portion of their shows includes stand-up from Daniel Woodrow, music from Cat and the Queen, and (more) sketch from O Dat Dum. Wednesday, The Rhino (1249 Queen Street West)/Thursday, The Social Capital (154 Danforth avenue, 2nd floor), 9 p.m., PWYC.
The first night of the Stars with Queer Songbook Orchestra show here in Toronto sold out so a second show was added, and (as of press time) there’s a few tickets left for the second and final date. Curious about who else may appear? The band made a video broadcasting at least one special guest. Tuesday and Wednesday, Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth Avenue), doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m., $26–$70.
Thursday, December 22
It’s been on since mid-November, and now’s your last chance to visit the Toronto Christmas Market. Scheduled for this final day before the vendors close up shop include regular performances throughout the day by the resident Candy Cane Carolers and two evening sets by tenor Michael Ciufo. Distillery District (55 Mill Street), noon–9 p.m., FREE.
There’s two charities benefiting from tonight’s Cover Me Impressed concert series. The cash from the donations at the door will go to SKETCH Working Arts, and the food donations (the organizers have asked for one method of donation, or both) will go to the Daily Bread Food Bank. Bands contributing players for the event, hosted by Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs, include Diemonds, Highest Order, Stella Ella Ola, and a dozen more. Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor Street West), doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m., PWYC (bring Food Bank donation).
Every year, the folks behind the Silent Shout indie electronica music blog put together a top 20 of the year of synthy, sexy songs, from artists (we presume, based on their coverage) like Austra, Sean Nicholas Savage, Odonis Odonis, and many more. They’ll be playing their year-end list live at the Silent Shout LIVE Countdown party, then following the playlist up with other (predominantly Canadian) choice cuts for a late night dance party. Milk Glass (1247 Dundas Street West), doors at 10 p.m., countdown begins 10:30 p.m., FREE.
Friday, December 23
Council has adjourned until the new year, so while there’s plenty of City staff working over the holidays, there won’t be official business disturbed by today’s City Hall Christmas Concert. It’s a midday festive event featuring the Toronto Mass Choir, The Tower Brass, host Adam Wylde, and at least one red-suited surprise guest… City Hall (100 Queen Street West), 11:30 a.m., FREE.
Local troubadours The Strumbellas hit single “Spirits” has racked up over 33 million views on YouTube, so their last two shows of the year until NYE, here in their hometown (with openers The Zolas), will be particularly triumphant. In addition to the two evening shows, there’s an all-ages family friendly show this afternoon. Thursday and Friday, Danforth Music Hall, Doors at 7 p.m., $19.50–$34.50, All Ages show Friday, doors at 2 p.m., $15–$20.
As you can see from Monday’s listing, Toronto sends quite a lot of our comedy talent to LA. Occasionally, we get them back, even if it’s only briefly. Inessa Frantowski joins Sarah Hillier again, reviving their once-regular (and always popular) Dancing with the Comedians show, in which comics strut their stuff to music (usually with a clever gimmick). Contestants on this special holiday edition of the show include Natalie Metcalfe, Alex Tindal, and Liz Johnston; the judging panel includes Andy Hull, Paloma Nuñez, and Pat Thornton. Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 10:30 p.m., $7.
Weekend December 24-26
It may not be part of their culture, but many Torontonians have embraced this holiday tradition that happens every December 25. We’re referring, of course, to Chinese food and a movie. Now magazine has a special feature on films opening (or recently opened) this holiday season; as for dining recommendations, there’s lots of great picks in our old Spice City column.
Like the winter solstice parade, Puppetmongers have been doing their annual winter holiday show for 27 years. This year, it’s a remount of their Tea at the Palace, their adaption of a Russian folk tale, last performed in Toronto in 2012. December 26-31, Wychwood Theatre (601 Christie Street), 1 p.m. (December 28 7 p.m. evening show), $15.
It’s become a holiday tradition at the Drake; from Boxing Day onwards, you can pay $5 per night to catch some fun emerging artists and programming, on a week when very little is usually on, until New Year’s Eve. This year, the first night of What’s In The Box will be a comedy showcase; subsequent nights include a R&B theme and international DJs. December 26–30, Drake Hotel Underground (1150 Queen Street West), 8 p.m., $5.
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