This week, showcases of the best in new comedy, theatre, and music acts, plus clowns do Spy Vs. Spy, a disco skate, and Ziggy plays guitar.
Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.
Tuesday January 3
For the first week of the year Comedy Bar devotes its stages to free “tryouts” of new and strange concept shows, for the Festival of New Formats. Each night has multiple sketch, stand-up, and improv showcases, that are, again, all free. This year’s offerings include: a “QuizBlast” with host Joel Buxton; a roast of Darth Vader; and The Sufferettes performing comedy for ghosts. January 3–6, Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), various times, FREE.
Joe Strutt’s monthly showcase of some of Toronto’s strangest music, Track Could Bend, goes deep into the city’s improvised and experimental music scenes he explores with his Mechanical Forest Sound blog to find the most interesting projects. The first edition of 2017 includes trumpet and guitar duo Melk, dark electronic outfit New Positions, and folk musician Clara Engel paired with “audio contortionist” Neil Wiernik. Dundas Video (831 Dundas Street West), doors at 8 p.m., show from 9–11 p.m., PWYC.
Wednesday January 4
The Next Stage Theatre Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary this year with 10 shows from past Fringe Festival hitmakers (as per usual), a heated beer tent (also standard), and free cake at tonight’s opening (that’s new). The slate of shows, which run daily for the next 12 days, includes remounts of Blood Ties (the musical that had a cameo on Orphan Black), and 2016 Fringe hit Silk Bath. There are also new plays by Matthew Gorman (Like a Dog) and Kawa Ada (The Wanderers); and improvised shows Songbuster and Date Me. January 4–15, Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street), various times, $10–$15.
Thursday January 5
Tarragon Theatre kicks off 2017 with a remount of Hannah Moscovitch’s Infinity, which we considered one of the best new plays of 2015. The creative team involved in the production we profiled is all back, save for one key role—Vivien Endicott-Douglas steps into the role of Sarah Jean, the troubled daughter of two high-achieving geniuses played by Amy Rutherford and Paul Braunstein. January 4–29, Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue), Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday–Sunday at 2:30 p.m., $29–$60.
Nelu Handa’s monthly Yas Kween comedy showcase proving “ethnic women funny” returns with a typically rock solid bill, including Aisha Brown, Jhanelle Dennis (who’s leaving Toronto for New York imminently), and “token males” Mark James Heath and Marito Lopez, hosts of the Runnin’ At The Mouth podcast. Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 9:30 p.m., $10.
Friday January 6
The initiative behind Body Break wants Canadians to get fit and have fun in 2017, and ties their campaign into the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Participaction 150 will host an all-day event in front of City Hall, with “brand ambassador” Sara Hennessey, speaking to Torontonians about the 150 forms of activity on their “Play List.” They’ll encourage people to try some of the options out, and there’s a rumour about an obstacle course. Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen Street West), 10 a.m.–6 p.m., FREE.
2014 Torontoist Hero Long Winter (Have you voted for your favourite 2016 Heroes & Villains yet?) returns at a new (temporary) location, the Gladstone Hotel, with a larger-than-usual slate of visual artists decorating the Gladstone’s art-friendly spaces, and music acts like The Magic. Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West), 7 p.m.–2 a.m., PWYC.
Legendary local rock promoter Dan Burke has assembled The Class of 2017, a line-up of music acts he thinks are gonna blow up this year. This year’s class includes Newfoundland’s The Lonely Parade, New Brunswick’s Partner, and Montreal’s Veins. The Silver Dollar (486 Spadina Avenue), doors at 8 p.m., show at 9:15 p.m., $10.
Sketch troupe Falcon Powder perform live at Canada’s Finest this Saturday.
Weekend January 7–8
It kicked off last month, but Harbourfront Centre’s DJ Skate Night gets busier as the weather turns colder. This month’s theme is Beam Me Up, a disco-palooza programmed and MC’d by A Digital Needle and Cyclist; come with many layers of polyester (it gets brisk, that breeze off the lake). Saturday, Harbourfront Centre Natrel Rink (235 Queens Quay West), 8 p.m.–11 p.m., FREE.
Empire Comedy producer Ian Atlas looks to put his best foot forward to kick off 2017 with a trifecta of top comedic talent for Canada’s Finest. Those three acts are: improv duo The Sufferettes, with newly minted Second City alumnus Becky Johnson; stand-up DeAnne Smith; and sketch troupe Falcon Powder, who’re responsible for CBC Comedy’s The Whole Truths. Saturday, Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 9 p.m., $15.
Long-running variety show Lunacy Cabaret starts 2017 with a cartoon bang inspired by Mad Magazine‘s Spy Vs. Spy series. The (very) adult (as in lots of blue material) show will feature clown, cabaret, burlesque, and a wide variety of other talents, some of which may be debatable, many of which will be deplorable, and most of which will be interesting. The night will turn into a (free admission) no-holds-barred dance party after 11 p.m. in the circus training facility. Saturday, Centre of Gravity (1300 Gerrard Street East), doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m., $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Over the holidays, did you run into any issues with family members who were, well, racist? How did you cope with that? You didn’t? Well, Shut It, Uncle Bob! is a workshop in how to deal with the people in your life whose racism needs addressing, because you love them (or can’t get rid of them). Sunday, Centre For Social Innovation Regent Park (585 Dundas Street East), 2 p.m. -5:30 p.m., PWYC.
It’s been a year since we suddenly lost David Bowie, and on his birthday, Royal Stompbox is presenting Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars, an HD screening of the film, with a special stage show preceding it. The 1973 concert film, the last time Bowie performed as Ziggy, has been considerably cleaned up from the poor quality it’s been usually seen in (see below), and the sound quality will be swell too. Sunday, Royal Cinema (608 College Street), live pre-show at 7 p.m., screening at 8 p.m., $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
Have a tip for Urban Planner? Let us know via email, ideally more than a week in advance.
Did you like this article? Do you love Torontoist? Support articles like this by becoming a Torontoist subscriber for only a couple dollars a month. Get great perks and fund local journalism that makes a difference—support Torontoist now.