Seasonal shows from Second City, Soulpepper, and White Cowbell Oklahoma; album shows by Jordan Foisy, Tom Henry, and DIANA; festival offerings from Storefront Theatre and City of Craft.
Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.
Monday, December 5
It’s time for many people’s favourite Christmas movie! Now magazine’s Free Flicks Mondays pick for December, hosted by resident critic Norm Wilner, is a complimentary screening of Die Hard, with complimentary popcorn for the first 100 guests. Yipee-Ki-Yay… Royal Cinema (608 College Street), doors at 6:30 p.m., screening at 7:30 p.m., FREE.
Storefront Theatre’s new monthly play reading series, Sing For Your Supper, is losing a host (founder Scott Garland) and gaining one (Cameron Wyllie) in January, but for tonight’s edition, co-host Kat Letwin will have both on hand to crack wise with. In addition to the usual programming—scenes from plays in progress, read by volunteer actors (who show up for a “casting call” at 7 p.m.), plus a mentalist segment from Leigh Brandon—there’ll be a special screening of the winner of “Scott’s Demo Reel” contest. Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West), doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m., FREE.
Second City always has some holiday programming; it’s a venue of choice for many office and group parties looking to laugh off stress and blow off steam. They have a massive archive of past holiday material, so we were surprised to learn that current offering Eat, Buy, Repeat, directed by Leslie Seiler and featuring the ensemble of their touring company, features all new, topical, and clever material. It’s sort of a side B to their current, excellent mainstage revue, with a distinct holiday flavour. Highlights include Allana Reoch’s Mrs. Claus opening a Twitter account, Greg Cochrane’s absurd take on a classic Christmas song, and Nadine Djoury’s preternaturally peppy mother prepping for the holidays. There’s also quite a few improvised audience interactions, and this cast is especially quick on the uptake. (For those looking for holiday comedy for the whole family, which this show definitely isn’t, Second City also has an all ages show, What The Elf?.) To January 6, Second City (51 Mercer Street), Mondays 8 p.m./weekday matinees 2 p.m./Thursdays 10 p.m., more dates here, $25–$40.
Tuesday, December 6
A comedy album taping is a significant milestone in a stand-up’s career; unlike a music act, once material has been recorded for an album, that material is considered “burned,” and the comic needs to replace it in their routine. Last week, Sandra Battaglini took the plunge; the week before that, it was Pat Thornton. This week, two local comics are taping their best 45 minutes, twice. Jordan Foisy, whose socially conscious thoughts have been featured regularly by Vice, has openers Aisha Brown and Sara Hennessey on December 6 and 9, at Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10; Tom Henry, a member of the Laugh Sabbath collective whose deadpan delivery has garnered comparisons to Steven Wright, has a two-night stand (December 6 & 7) with guests that include Chris Locke and Evany Rosen, at The Ossington (61 Ossington Avenue), 9 p.m., PWYC.
The Secret Shakespeare series is doing a poor job of staying secret but is doing a great job of serving up The Bard with multiple twists, including cutting whichever show they’re performing down to approximately an hour, just one rehearsal day-of (though the cast has had a month to memorize their roles), and “cast across gender and age lines,” which resulted in Christine Horne playing King Lear in the last edition. The cast for this third edition has been revealed, but the audience won’t know what show they’re seeing until the lights come up; enough people are interested that advance tickets are sold out, though there’ll be limited at the door and stand room tickets. The Attic (1402 Queen Street East, 3rd floor), 7:30 p.m., PWYC.
Wednesday, December 7
This month’s edition of Confabulation(TO) is entitled Family Stories: Legend and Lore from the Ones we Love. Some stories may be about the holiday season, when families gather; some may not. Guests for the night include Thea Fitz-James (recently interviewed on CBC’s As It Happens after her show Naked Ladies was banned in Singapore), Marilla Wex (Comedy Network’s The Beaverton), and Graham Isador, host of Presgang Storytelling. The Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m., $10.
Star Trek aficionados The Dandies are celebrating four years of their Holodeck Follies improv and variety show (after a year whose highlights included performing with William Shatner) with their Holiday Follies show. Guests for the night include Ilana Lucas (rapping as MC Beverley Crusher), comedy from sketch troupe Fratwurst, and, of course, the holodeck improv set, with special guests. The Social Capital (154 Danforth Avenue, 2nd floor), 8 p.m., $10.
Thursday, December 8
The Urban Alliance on Race Relations is hosting a panel discussion on a topic that isn’t going away any time soon—carding and racial profiling in Toronto. Entitled “Gender, Carding, and Racial Profiling” (and occurring on Human Rights Day), the panel, which includes human rights lawyers and a representative from the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto, will discuss how police practices impact racialized women and those who identify as non-binary. Registration is encouraged, and donations welcome, though neither are compulsory. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (252 Bloor Street West, room 2212), 6 p.m., FREE.
Storefront Theatre’s new Solo Sessions festival features a variety of one-person shows in the intimate theatre space in December. Remounts include Katie Sly’s revealing Charisma Furs, Gavin Crawford’s social media skewering “Friend” “Like” #Me, and a reworked version of Vanessa Smythe’s storytelling show, now named In Case We Stay; new offerings include Debashis Sinha’s electonica project Harmonium and Shaw and Stratford veteran Shawn Wright’s autobiographical Ghost Light, which has already had a performance added due to demand. To December 18, Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West), Thursday–Saturday, shows at 7 p.m. & 9 p.m., Sundays, shows at 2 p.m. & 5 p.m., $15 single show, $25 double bill, $40 for four shows.
Toronto pop band DIANA and their new album Familiar Touch are well profiled in Now magazine this week, ahead of tonight’s release show. Joining them on the bill is Montreal-based looping songstress Mozart’s Sister. The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), 8 p.m., $12.50.
Friday, December 9
Death, especially by suicide, is a topic that weighs heavily on some people this season. Daniel MacIvor’s latest show, Who Killed Spalding Grey?, which we previewed when it debuted at the Luminato Festival, looks at a famous one—the Swimming From Cambodia monologist and The Killing Fields star, who leapt off the Staten Island Ferry–though a personal prism of MacIvor’s own life crisis at the time, a similarity between their body of work, and MacIvor’s history of personal loss. MacIvor varies his storytelling style between his own (there’s a dramatized allegory of a man who hires a hitman to kill him when he’s not expecting it) and Grey’s techniques, such as telling “the truth” in direct address at a table with brutally candid details about his difficulties with drug addiction at the time and looking for help from psychics. It’s a fascinating and idiosyncratic work (Helena Bonham Carter and National Post critic Robert Cushman both have cameos), and another in a long string of fruitful collaborations between MacIvor and director Daniel Brooks. To December 11, Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street), Tuesday–Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m., $39–$69.
We’ve been lucky to have A Tribe Called Red play Toronto at least a half dozen times this year, as the Ottawa-based trio continue to raise awareness for both their Halluci Nation album and project and Native activism and culture. This show is all ages and in their biggest venue yet, Rebel, the completely renovated space down by the Docks. Rebel (11 Polson Street), doors at 8 p.m., all ages, $25.50.
All signs point to tonight’s edition being The Songbook Series‘ biggest show yet, befitting this edition’s over the top subject of tribute, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Guest performers include Gabi Epstein, Beau Dixon, Asian Riffing Trio, and many, many more; it’ll be a late night, but, hey, it’s “The Music Of The Night,” right? Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue), 10:30 p.m., $10.
Weekend December 10–11
It’s the 10th anniversary this year of City of Craft, the DIY collective of indie makers—more than 60 this year—whose wares are being showcased over three days, just in time for some unique seasonal gifts for family, friends, or yourself. Friday night includes music and partying; Saturday and Sunday have craft making labs and workshops. December 9–11, The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), Friday 6 p.m.–10 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., $3 (kids 12 and under FREE).
It’s been more than 20 years since Michael Shamata’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol debuted in New Brunswick, and it’s the eighth year that the show has been remounted in Toronto by Soulpepper, with Joseph Ziegler as Ebenezer Scrooge. We’ve reviewed it several times (all positively), and it’s the anchor of Soulpepper’s currently running Family Festival, which also includes concerts, magic show Hocus Pocus, and a theatrical adaptation of It’s A Wonderful Life. To December 24, Young Centre (55 Mill Street), Monday to Saturday, various times, $32–$96, $5–25 rush tickets.
It’s a drunk and debauched tradition that somehow manages to lurch back on stage every year, 13 years running; the White Cowbell Oklahoma X-Mess Show, featuring the Southern-fried rock stylings of some chainsaw-wielding maniacs and their burlesque friends, marks the season with firecrackers, duelling guitar solos, hard rockin’ comedy, special guests (this year’s includes Hamilton’s Frankie and Jimmy and London’s Doghouse Rose), and, usually, a cameo by a slumming and slurring Mr. Claus. Saturday, Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor Street West), doors at 8:30 p.m., $18.50.
A newer holiday tradition (this year’s the second), We Sing for Their Supper, is an all-star concert and fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank. This year’s guests include Mary Margaret O’Hara, Kevin Hearn, Elise LeGrow, and many more. Sunday, Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas Street West), 7 p.m., $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Lush indie pop purveyors Teen Ravine are debuting some new music in the warm environs of the Burdock on Sunday, with special guest opener, comedic musician and ne’er do well Marty Topps. Sunday, The Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), doors at 8:30 p.m., show at 9 p.m., $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
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