Don't let carollers have all the fun—go and see one of the many holiday performances on this month in Toronto.
What happens when the temperature drops below zero in Toronto? Normally, fun-loving extroverts trade their social lives for instant hot chocolate and a new series on Netflix. But don’t let the weather deter you from experiencing winter culture to the fullest—there’s a wide variety of theatre offerings (including four variations of The Nutcracker) available on Toronto’s smallest and biggest stages.
The Rivoli (334 Queen Street West)
December 10 at 8:30 p.m.
$10 (food & toy donations also encouraged)
Salacious sketch comedy duo Cheap Smokes have spent much of the past year in Los Angeles, but now that they’re back in Toronto, at least for the holidays, they want to give something back. Hence the Good Deeds show, where audience members are encouraged to pay it forward, either for their fellow audience members, or with something brought to donate to The Daily Bread Food Bank, Toy Mountain, or The Diabetes Organization. There’ll be free food (potentially augmented by the potluck-inclined), plus host Pat Thornton (24-hour stand-up hero), sketch duo Parker & Seville, and special guest Sara Hennessey (Canadian Comedy Award’s Best Female Stand-Up of 2013).
The National Ballet
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West)
December 14 to January 4
$30 to $165
James Kudelka’s sumptuous Imperial Russia-inspired production of The Nutcracker has been performed by the National Ballet every winter since 1995, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s filled with whimsical and unforgettable characters, choreography, and set pieces—and no one who sees the acclaimed production ever forgets the roller-skating bears, the uncannily real horse, or the giant Fabergé egg from which the Sugar Plum Fairy makes her big entrance. Plus, it’s always fun to see which local celeb will show up in a walk-on cameo as a Canon Doll: this year’s line-up includes Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning and astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Pia Bouman School for Ballet & Creative Movement
Lismer Hall, Humberside Collegiate Institute (280 Quebec Avenue)
December 19, 20 at 7:30 p.m.
December 21, 22 at 2 p.m.
$15 to $40
Seen Kudelka’s Nutcracker a million times? You could always try the Pia Bouman School’s version, now in its 28th year. Featuring nearly 100 dancers aged 7–18, the Bouman version is a bit more traditional than the National Ballet’s, so purists may be relieved to find themselves in the company of Clara, Fritz, and Uncle Drosselmeyer instead of Marie, Misha, and Uncle Nikolai. It’s also a great way to support the not-for-profit dance school, and the ticket price is certainly a lot easier on the wallet.
The Naughty Nutcracker
Second City Toronto
Second City Toronto (51 Mercer Street)
December 10 at 10 p.m.
$25 to $50
OK, so you’ve marathoned both the Bouman and the National’s versions, but your nuts still aren’t quite sufficiently cracked? Then maybe you’re in the market for burlesque troupe Love Letters Cabaret’s Naughty Nutcracker, which is likely a far less traditional take on Tchaikovsky. Set in a “back alley toyshop,” this revue allows audience members to find out just what kind of naughtiness unattended toys can get up to—think a sluttier Toy Story. And for a few extra bucks, you get a loot bag, egg nog, and the chance to “sit with the toys.”
British Teeth present: CHRISTMAS SLUT PARTY
Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West)
December 19 at 8 p.m.
Sometimes Christmas can get a little too…cute. You know what we mean? There comes a point when another perfectly decorated gingerbread house or ironic ugly Christmas sweater is enough to make you drown yourself in spiced eggnog. The solution? The comedy duo British Teeth, a.k.a. Allana Reoch and Filip Jeremic, who are known for their wicked and weird characters—like murderous children or highly verbose valley girls—and spot-on cockney accents. Joining them for an evening of off-colour Yuletide humour are Picnicface’s Evany Rosen, dynamic duo Ladystache, and the one and only Scott Thompson of Kids in the Hall.
Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
December 10 to 14 at 8 p.m.
December 15 matinee at 2 p.m.
On the last day of this past summer’s Toronto Fringe Festival, we were lucky enough to catch the last show of Natasha Boomer’s Supperfesta, a rowdy comedy about a disastrous family dinner that could end up derailing several relationships. The show’s back for a short week-long run at Unit 102 Theatre, with Jason Derosse (Mantown), Boomer, Allana Charlotte Reoch (British Teeth), and Scott Cavalheiro (CTV’s Satisfaction.) If you’re looking for hilarious tips on what not to do at your family dinner (or someone else’s), this is a smart bet.
Weather the Weather
Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview Avenue)
December 6 to 30, Tuesday to Sunday at 8 p.m.
Additional shows on December 21, 23 at 5 p.m.
No shows December 24 to 26
PWYC to $32
This is the third year for Theatre Columbus’s annual outdoor walking play at the Evergreen Brick Works, and it’s quickly becoming a new favourite holiday tradition. While the first two editions successfully showcased Martha Ross’s adaptation of the nativity story, The Story, this year will feature a brand new script from Haley McGee (who played Mary in The Story). McGee has also had a stellar year, touring her one-woman-show Oh My Irma to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and receiving some well-earned attention. Bundle up, and don’t miss this one.
Christmas at Choke-Poke Toys
Soulpepper/The National Theatre of The World
Young Centre For The Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane)
From December 13 at 1 p.m. to December 15 at 10 p.m.
$PWYC (all proceeds donated to Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto)
For the inaugural Impulse Festival at Soulpepper’s Young Centre, improv troupe the National Theatre of the World has invited other troupes and players from literally around the world (France, Germany, India, Australia, and more) to play showcase sets over the four days of programming. But the centrepiece of the festival—the one that dozens (if not hundreds) of local and out-of-town improvisors will take part in—is a fifty-five hour improv marathon, modelled after Edmonton’s Die-Nasty Soap-a-Thon. Set in a staggeringly incompetent toy factory, the marathon will be free to all who wander in at all hours, with a donation to the Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto. Confirmed celebrity attendees include Colin Mochrie, George Stroumboulopoulos, and Winnipeg’s CRUMBS.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane)
December 10 to 28, Monday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday matinees at 1:30 p.m.
No shows December 23 to 25
$22 to $68
With the annual winter market on now at the Distillery District, there’s hardly a better place to feel you’re one with Christmas Spirit. Make it a double bill with Soulpepper’s holiday offering, the much-adored Parfumerie by Miklós László, adapted by Adam Pettle and Brenda Robbins. Now onstage for the third time at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, this romantic comedy set in 1930s Hungary hasn’t lost its charm. Morris Panych directs a pitch-perfect cast featuring Oliver Dennis, Patricia Fagan, Joseph Ziegler and Michael Simpson. Not convinced? Read our review from 2011 here.
The Little Mermaid
Ross Petty Productions
Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street)
November 22 to January 4
$32 to $80
Word on the street is that Ross Petty’s spin on The Little Mermaid is way more fun than the Disney-sanctioned Aladdin currently attempting a Broadway warm-up just up the street. Not that that’s really any surprise; Petty’s been producing pantomime versions of fairytales every holiday season for as long as we can remember. And while the jokes are certainly guaranteed to be as corny as Kansas in August (the tagline is “Ontario’s O-FISH-AL Family Musical!”), we imagine it’ll have the necessary mix of groaners, drag queens, and re-purposed pop songs to keep audiences of all ages entertained. Bonus: the title role will be played by magnetic Stratford musical theatre star Chilina Kennedy!
November 28 to 30 at 7 p.m.
November 30 matinee at 1 p.m.
$10 to $15
For the first time ever, the Ryerson Theatre School kids will be giving Mr. Petty some competition on the panto front, as the current graduating class will be filling out the cast of Cinderella. And while it’ll be a little unusual to see the obligatory cross-dressing pantomime grand dame played by a fresh-faced twenty-something saving up for his first headshot instead of, well, Ross Petty, we think it’s neat to see a theatre school tackle something so blatantly populist and family-friendly.