Youth-Oriented Shows Make a Strong Showing at the 2013 Dora Awards
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Youth-Oriented Shows Make a Strong Showing at the 2013 Dora Awards

The 2013 Dora Awards, for Toronto theatre, honoured all sorts of productions—but the night's big winner was Cinderella .

Cinderella: A Ratical Retelling stars Matthew G  Brown and Steffi DiDomenicantonio accept the show's Outstanding Ensemble award

Cinderella: A RATical Retelling stars Matthew G. Brown and Steffi DiDomenicantonio accept the show’s Outstanding Ensemble award.

Monday night’s 34th-annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Toronto theatre were, as Toronto Alliance for Performing Arts Executive Director Jacoba Knaapen said towards the end, “the fastest ceremony in the last eighteen years.” It may have been that the organizers wanted to keep things succinct, or it may just have been that the ceremony was focused on a younger audience than in years past, with a shorter attention span.

The biggest winner of the night was Young People’s Theatre, whose production Cinderella: a RATical Retelling won seven awards, beating out “adult” shows like Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare and Mirvish’s Wizard of Oz (which still picked up the Audience Choice award, and an Outstanding Female Performance nod for the Wicked Witch, Lisa Horner). Cinderella‘s awards in the Musical Theatre/Opera divisions were Best Production, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Scenic Design, Outstanding Lighting Design, and Outstanding Costume Design.

In the Young Audiences division, the hardware was more evenly distributed. Young People’s Theatre picked up the Outstanding Production award for the experimental music-and-puppetry show La Fugue. But Roseneath Theatre took Outstanding Female Performance for Oyin Oladejo in In This World. Rosenath also won Outstanding Direction for Wrecked‘s Richard Greenblatt, who told the audience, “If you want to change the world, make theatre for young audiences—our only truly political theatre, for people whose minds are not yet made up.” Playwright Jordan Tannahill seemed to have already taken this to heart in a novel way: his Outstanding New Play winner, rhiannaboi95 could only be streamed live online.

Director Evalyn Parry, sound designer Kobena Aquaa Harrison, and actor writer Tawiah Ben Eben M'carthy watch Buddies in Bad Times artistic director Brendan Healy accept the Outstanding Production award for Obaaberima

Director Evalyn Parry, sound designer Kobena Aquaa-Harrison, and actor-writer Tawiah Ben-Eben M’carthy watch Buddies in Bad Times artistic director Brendan Healy accept the Outstanding Production award for Obaaberima.

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre was the next most dominant theatre producer, with solo show Obaaberima taking Outstanding Production in the general theatre division, perhaps one of the stiffest categories of the night. The show also won awards for lighting and sound design. Buddies also had a hand in Outstanding Male Performance awards in both the independent theatre and musical theatre divisions, respectively for Gavin Crawford’s turn in The Cabaret Company’s A Few Brittle Leaves, and for Bruce Dow’s fearless performance as Leigh Bowery in Ecce Homo’s Of a Monstrous Child: A GaGa Musical. Dow’s award, as well as Michelle Monteith’s Outstanding Female Performance award in the same division for Modern Times’ The Lesson, mirrored those actors’ recent best-actor wins at the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards.

More highlights in the general-theatre category included Outstanding Male Performance for Tom Rooney in Kristen Thomson’s Someone Else, which also won Best New Play (Thomson’s “duet” with musical director Waylen Miki as she tried to finish all her thank yous over his playing was a highlight of the evening), while Someone Else‘s director, Chris Abraham, ended up with a Dora for another show he directed: John Mighton’s The Little Years (which also won Outstanding Female Performance for Irene Poole).

In the independent theatre category, Outside the March took the Outstanding Production statuette, for their site-specific play Mr. Marmalade (their current show, The Passion Play, continues to the end of this week). But the biggest winners in the division were co-producers Videocabaret and Soulpepper, who earned Best Ensemble and Best Costumes for The War of 1812, as well as Best Direction for Videocabaret founder Michael Hollingsworth. Soulpepper also took the Outstanding Ensemble award in the Young Audiences division for its new show, Alligator Pie, and the Outstanding Ensemble and Costumes awards in the general theatre division for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Dora hosts Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram.

In the dance division, the winners were diverse, but Harbourfront Centre picked up co-producing awards for Santee Smith’s choreography in Susuriwka – willow bridge, and for Aakash Odedra’s Outstanding Male Performance in Alchemy. Danceworks nabbed awards for Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Female Performance for Road Trip and Molly Johnson in Lab Rats, respectively.

In the opera division, Canadian Opera Company dominated, with Outstanding Production, Outstanding Musical Direction, and Outstanding Ensemble awards for Dialogues des Carmélites. Also, COC’s Il Trovatore won performance awards for Russell Braun and Elena Manistina, respectively. The most conspicuous aspect of the division, however, was the string of no-shows by winners (a notable exception was Marjorie Chan, who was emotional after winning Outstanding New Musical/Opera for Toronto Masque Theatre’s The Lesson of Da Ji). Whether that’s because the opera community is disenchanted with the Dora Awards, or whether the winners were all out of town on the international opera circuit, the absences were off-putting and noticeable.

The awards show itself, kept at a brisk pace by director Ed Roy, was near flawless in execution. Clocking in at a brisk 2 1/2 hours, the only criticism we’d note was the lack of a request for the audience to stay silent until the end of the “in memoriam” slideshow, which was made uncomfortable by cheering for some names and none for others. (That said, the loudest ruckus was for musically gifted performers Scott Freethy and Greg Kramer, who both passed away after battles with cancer.)

A large part of the success of the show was due to hosts, comedians Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram of The National Theatre of the World, who we’ve previously called the best hosts in the city. Along with an ensemble nomination in the general theatre division for Second City Toronto’s The Meme-ing Of Life and a presenter appearance by popular clown duo Morro and Jasp, the Doras showed indications that they’re moving towards being more inclusive of Toronto’s substantial comedy community. The separation of theatre and comedy in Toronto has always seemed ridiculous to us, and it’s an excellent area of future expansion for the awards.

(The full list of 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award winners is available on The Toronto Alliance for the Peroforming Arts’ website.)

All photos by Dahlia Katz.

CORRECTION: June 27, 2013, 4:00 PM This post originally misidentified Bruce Dow’s Dora Award. He won an Outstanding Male Performance award in the musical theatre division, not the independent theatre division. Also, two awards were omitted: Gavin Crawford’s Outstanding Male Performance award in the independent theatre division, and Soulpepper’s Outstanding Ensemble award for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.