The top Toronto theatre productions & news from 2012
It's been an eventful year in Toronto theatre, one that was marked not just by the most memorable productions, but also by the dramatic activities off-stage. Here are some of the highlights from 2012:
2012 was the year that Summerworks solidified its profile as one of the country's best performance arts festivals. The addition of live art offerings, the performance bar, and the strength of the National Series plays, all helped elevate Summerworks to the next level. This year's highlights were Mitchell Cushman's direction of Terminus, picked up for a run as part of the Off-Mirvish series, and Nicolas Billon's Iceland, which will appear at Factory Theatre in 2013.
Quality productions at Tarragon Theatre
Tarragon Theatre may well have produced the strongest collection of shows this year. Time and time again, stellar productions engaged audiences throughout 2012. Among the highlights were strongly written gems The Golden Dragon by Roland Schimmelpfennig and The Little Years by John Mighton; Ravi Jain's A Brimful of Asha featuring his delightful mother; and new Canadian plays Miss Caledonia and the English premiere of Carole Fréchette's The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs.
War Horse a winner
If there's one production on top of the Toronto scene this year, both in terms of quality and duration, it's Mirvish's War Horse. After opening in February to widespread acclaim, the production has been on offer for the majority of 2012. In addition to the strong Canadian cast, the Handspring Puppet Company deserves accolades after crafting living, breathing horses that strike at the emotional core of the drama. The play will take its final gallop the first week of January.
Dancap dims the lights
When Aubrey Dan founded Dancap, it's almost certain he had no idea how hard it was going to be to produce highly successful musical theatre productions. When the company folded in April, leaving Mirvish the sole big kid on the playground, few were surprised that money only goes so far. Jersey Boys will stand as the jewel in Dan's fedora, but other productions (The Addams Family, 9 to 5, Memphis), as well as the awkward singing of the national anthem will not be missed.
Tear the Curtain thought-provoking theatre
While not a perfect show, the Electric Theatre Company's Tear the Curtain was one of the most thought-provoking plays of the year. A hybrid of theatre and film, this metatheatrical feast considered the nature of representation and the ritual of sitting in a dark theatre. Jonathon Young and Kevin Kerr wrapped a lot of philosophical questions into the plot and Kim Collier brought her signature aesthetic. It's a shame that it will likely never again appear on Canadian stages — to maintain continuity, all actors from the film would have to align onstage.
Give thanks for remounts
If a show strikes magic the first time around, there's little doubt that it will reappear the following season. While capitalizing on critical success and sold out houses is a no brainer for theatre companies, remounts also offer audiences another opportunity to catch the most talked about shows. We're thankful for the following remounts: Nightwood's The Penelopiad, Soulpepper's Kim's Convenience, Pamela Mala Sinha's Crash at Theatre Passe Muraille, Studio 180's The Normal Heart, and the National Ballet's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Ken Gass exits Factory Theatre
In June, the Board of Directors at Factory Theatre unexpectedly fired the theatre's founder and Artistic Director Ken Gass. The fallout included an online petition of community members who rallied around the A.D., the withdrawal of plays from Michel-Marc Bouchard, Judith Thomson, and George F. Walker, and an eventual boycott of the theatre from notable Canadian artists. Gass has seemingly moved on, having announced plans for the launch of a new venture, the Canadian Rep Theatre.
David Mirvish's grand announcement this year was an ambitious new development with architect Frank Gehry set to transform the entertainment district. They'll say goodbye to the Princess of Wales, but the initial designs make way for bigger and better. The development wasn't their only big change in 2012. To complement their musical theatre monopoly, the new Off-Mirvish series presents a collection of smaller, yet formidable, productions.
Honourable Mentions: Proud, Everything Under the Moon, Home, Obaaberima, The Double, The Crucible, The Arsonists