The biggest 2019 Dora Awards snubs and surprises

From a best new play shortlist that consists of all women to a case where a multi-nominated show directed itself, here are some things the Dora jurors got right... and wrong


The 40th Dora Mavor Moore Awards nominations were announced this morning (May 28), with dozens of excellent shows recognized in Toronto theatre, dance and opera. You can find the full list at tapa.ca.

Some of the multi-nominated shows include: Rose (11 nominations – just in time for the original cast recording’s digital release on May 31), Next To Normal (10), Dear Evan Hansen (9), Otello (8), The Royale (7), Hadrian (7), Kopernikus (7), Middletown (6), Blood Tides (5) and The Nether (5).

This was the first year that the acting awards went gender-neutral, with fascinating results, especially in the general theatre outstanding performance in a leading role category. Out of eight slots, six women and two men were nominated. 

The absence of an ensemble nomination in the general theatre category – new this year – is deeply felt, especially for such excellent plays like The Wolves and School Girls Or, The African Mean Girls Play, although Dora jurors managed to single out some actors from the ensemble for attention. 

If you’re keeping track at home, I wasn’t too far off in my recent “Dora predictions” article, accurately guessing more nominees than I usually do. So: yay me.

Here’s my annual list of things the jurors got surprisingly right… or bizarrely wrong.


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The collectively written Now You See Her joins an all-female best new play lineup.

SURPRISE: Outstanding new play category is all women

For the first time in recent memory, all the nominees in the best new play category are women! While I would love to have seen middle-aged white guy Daniel MacIvor’s New Magic Valley Fun Town nominated (at least the show’s Stephanie MacDonald was recognized for performance in a featured role), it’s thrilling to see shows like Yolanda Bonnell’s bug and the collectively written Now You See Her join terrific plays like Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman’s Guarded Girls, Hannah Moscovitch’s Secret Life Of A Mother and Kate Hennig’s The Virgin Trial.

SNUB: Gregory Prest, actor

While Prest got acknowledged for directing the Soulpepper musical Rose, his name was absent from the outstanding performance in a leading role list, although he delivered two of the most memorable performances of the year: in La Bête and Bed And Breakfast. Perhaps there’s a prejudice against comic performances. All eight nominees are for dramatic turns.


Kawa Ada and Jonathan Winsby, Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Photo by John Gundy

Kiss Of The Spider Woman’s concert production got lots of Dora love.

SURPRISE: Eclipse Theatre’s Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Eclipse Theatre Company’s inaugural production of the Kander and Ebb musical was billed as “a staged concert production,” and it completely worked for me as a show. Director Evan Tsitsias’s use of the Don Jail was nothing less than brilliant, and stars Kawa Ada and Tracy Michailidis were exceptionally good. All three got Dora Award nominations, along with production, musical direction, by Chris Barillaro, and choreography, by Sara-Jeanne Hosie.  Everyone is deserving I’m just surprised they called themself a “concert” production when it was so much more.

SURPRISE: Steve Lucas’s scenic design for Next To Normal

Lucas has done some excellent work in his long career – his set and lighting for Groundling Theatre’s Measure To Measure stand out – and his lighting for Next To Normal, for which he also received a Dora nod, was effective. But his minimal set for this musical was terrible. The two tier set, with a circular staircase connecting the two levels and wooden outlines of a house at the side (through which you could see the occasional stage hand), felt incomplete, making the production scream “community theatre.”

SNUB: Peter Pasyk, not nominated for outstanding direction, The Nether 

File this one under: “Gee, did the play direct itself?” The Nether received nominations for outstanding production, performance of an ensemble, scenic/projection design, lighting design and sound design/composition. But somehow director Pasyk was ignored for overseeing all of this excellent work. An appalling omission.


Dion Johnstone and Sabryn Rock, The Royale, Soulpepper 2019

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Sabryn Rock (right) got nominated for two Doras, including one for outstanding performance in a featured role (general theatre division) for The Royale.

SURPRISE: Sabryn Rock, nominated for outstanding performance in a featured role in both general theatre (The Royale) and musical theatre division (Rose)

Rock is such a consistently fine and versatile performer – equally good in straight drama and musicals – that her work often gets overlooked come awards time. This season, it was impossible to ignore her as the passionate sister of a boxer and a highly imaginative teacher to the eponymous Rose.

SNUB: Jessica Sherman, not nominated for outstanding performance in a featured role, Dear Evan Hansen 

While her DEH co-stars Alessandro Costantini and Sean Patrick Dolan received nominations in this category, and of course Robert Markus got nominated as lead (which he’s likely to win), Sherman deserved to be on this list for her fully inhabited, deeply moving portrait of a single mom struggling to raise her overly sensitive son.


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The Wonder Pageant’s ensemble nomination proves improvised acting is being taken seriously.

SURPRISE: The Wonder Pageant, outstanding performance of an ensemble

Improv artists are often at a disadvantage come Dora Awards time how do you acknowledge a performance that’s different every time? But the excellent improvisers of Coal Mine Theatre’s holiday-themed showRon Pederson, Kayla Lorette, Matt Baram, Jan Caruana, Paloma Nunez, Kris Siddiqi and musician Waylen Miki – won over the Dora jurors. Let’s hope this is the start of more improv love. 

And don’t forget…

… to cast your vote for the Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award. In honour of NOW’s beloved, long-time senior theatre writer, the public gets to vote for their favourite show from among the nominees for outstanding productions – or anything else during the season. Cast your vote at nowtoronto.com/jonkaplan-audience-choice-award from May 31 at noon through June 19 at midnight.

@glennsumi

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