Dora Mavor Moore Awards 2019: who will be nominated?

Jurors vote on the annual list of the best in Toronto theatre, dance and opera this week. Here are some names and titles that should be top of mind.


The final votes for this year’s Dora Mavor Moore Awards will be tallied soon, so I thought I’d try, with typical theatre-critic arrogance, to see if I could predict the nominees. Bear in mind that my accuracy in these crystal ball attempts is usually around 60 per cent. 

This year’s Doras, besides being the ceremony’s 40th anniversary, are the first in which the acting awards will all be non-gendered. 

I’m only commenting on theatre, not dance, opera or theatre for young audiences. And I’ve decided against splitting these observations into “general” and “independent” theatre categories. 

The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, or TAPA, announce the actual nominees on May 28. For more info go to tapa.ca


The_Father_Coal_Mine_Eric_Peterson_Patricia_Fagan.jpg

Eric Peterson and Trish Fagan deserve Dora love for The Father.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A LEAD ROLE, PLAY 

Sure thing: Eric Peterson, The Father

Peterson was a last-minute replacement for this Coal Mine production when illness caused Nicholas Campbell to bow out. As an elderly Parisian living with dementia, Peterson had to mine all the layers of this complex man, suggesting his more vigorous past, revealing his sorrows and, most wrenchingly, capturing his current state of fear and confusion. It was a staggering performance by an actor who’s given us many.

Other likely nominees: 

Frank Cox-O’Connell, Hand To God

Gregory Prest, La Bête and Bed & Breakfast

Bahia Watson, The Virgin Trial 

Gord Rand, The Runner 

Virgilia Griffith, Harlem Duet 

Augusto Bitter, Chicho 

Maev Beaty, Secret Life Of A Mother 

Let’s hope there’s room for:

Philip Riccio, 1979 

Ryan Hollyman and/or Anne van Leeuwen, C’mon Angie! 

Chala Hunter, The Philosopher’s Wife 


New Magic Valley Fun Town, by Daniel MacIvor, at the Tarragon

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Daniel MacIvor (left) and Andrew Moodie let loose in New Magic Valley Fun Town.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY 

Sure thing: Daniel MacIvor, New Magic Valley Fun Town

MacIvor’s Tarragon Theatre drama about a reunion between two estranged friends who had experienced hell in their past marked a change in the veteran playwright’s work. It was as funny and observant as ever, but the emotional depth and sense of humanity among these perfectly ordinary people marks it as one of his strongest and most moving non-solo shows to date. 

Other likely nominees:

Hannah Moscovitch, Secret Life Of A Mother

Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Guarded Girls

Jeff Ho, Iphigenia And The Furies

Michael Healey, 1979   


School Girls Or, The African Mean Girls Play at Buddies in Bad Times

Director Nina Lee Aquino kept these School Girls in line.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING DIRECTION, PLAY

Sure thing: Nina Lee Aquino, School Girls Or, The African Mean Girls Play

About a decade and a half ago, Aquino co-wrote and starred in a hilarious play called Miss Orient(ed), about a beauty pageant in a suburban Toronto Filipino community. No doubt that gave her a starting point for her funny, expansive, moving and exuberant take on Jocelyn Bioh’s look at students in a Ghana boarding school competing against each other. Full of equal parts social commentary and self-consciously cheesy fantasy sequences, this Obsidian/Nightwood co-pro could be crowned with the top Dora awards this season.

Other likely nominees:

Peter Pasyk, The Nether 

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, The Wolves 

Mitchell Cushman, Hand To God 

Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 


The_Wolves_pic_by_Dahlia_Katz.jpg

It will be hard to beat the kick-ass ensemble for The Wolves this year.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE OF AN ENSEMBLE 

Sure thing: The Wolves

Howland Company’s production of Sarah DeLappe’s play was on virtually every critic’s year-end best theatre list – and no wonder. Under Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster’s sensitive direction, the eclectic cast playing a soccer team kicked around lots of ideas about gender, politics and class. 

Other deserving nominees (although the category is no longer present in the General Theatre division):

Girls Like That (Tarragon Theatre) 

1979 (The 1979 Group) 

Little Menace: Pinter Plays (Soulpepper Theatre)

School Girls Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Obsidian Theatre and Nightwood Theatre)

Let’s hope there’s room for:

The Cherry Orchard (Modern Times Stage Company)

Dry Powder (Evermore Theatre Company)

Now You See Her (Nightwood Theatre, Quote Unquote Collective and Why Not Theatre)


Dion Johnstone and Sabryn Rock, The Royale, Soulpepper 2019

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Sabryn Rock (right), here with Dion Johnstone, should be a Dora contender.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A FEATURED ROLE, PLAY 

Sure thing: Sabryn Rock, The Royale

Rock is one of those multitalented performers who’s so good in everything she does, she often gets overlooked come awards time. As the sister of one of the boxers in Marco Ramirez’s play for Soulpepper, Rock brought warmth, heart and passion to a work that at times seemed like one big testosterone-fest. Let’s hope she’s a contender – and winner – this time out.

Other likely nominees:

Tanja Jacobs, The Assembly: Episode 1

Stephanie MacDonald, New Magic Valley Fun Town

Trish Fagan, The Father 

Lovell Adams-Gray, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


Robert Markus in Dear Evan Hansen, 2019

Robert Markus should prepare his Dora acceptance speech now.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A LEADING ROLE, MUSICAL

Sure thing: Robert Markus, Dear Evan Hansen

The role of the socially awkward teen who becomes an online hero – all based on a lie – is fiendishly difficult to cast. But in this Mirvish production, Stratford veteran Markus more than pulled it off, making you believe his nervous tics and increasingly troubled conscience. All these contradictions come out in his singing of everything from big tuneful anthems to soul-crushing confessions. 

Other likely nominees:

Ben Caplan, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story 

Hailey Gillis, Rose

Ma-Anne Dionisio, Next To Normal 

Vanessa Sears, Mary Poppins

Let’s hope there’s room for:

Sara-Jeanne Hosie, The Wizard Of Oz: A Toto-ly Twistered Family Musical


Rose2_Soulpepper.jpg

Peter Fernandes and Hailey Gillis’s names should rise to the top of the Dora nominations list for Rose.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A FEATURED ROLE, MUSICAL 

Sure thing: Peter Fernandes, Rose

Fernandes has a playful, boyish quality that adds something to every show, and it’s almost as if the role of Willie, the distracted friend of the eponymous character in Mike Ross and Sarah Wilson’s Soulpepper kids’ musical, was written specifically for him. His patter song – sung with gusto, accuracy and a believable innocence – was one of the most unforgettable show-stoppers this year.

Other likely nominees:

Jessica Sherman, Dear Evan Hansen 

Mary Fay Coady, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story 

Louise Pitre, Next To Normal 


The Nether, 2018

Photo by Tim Leyes

Hannah Levinson and Mark McGrinder play with fantasy and reality on Patrick Lavender and Nick Bottomley’s hypnotic set for The Nether.

CATEGORY: OUTSTANDING SCENIC/PROJECTION DESIGN, PLAY

Sure thing: Patrick Lavender and Nick Bottomley, The Nether

Sometimes a set design is so powerful that it can haunt one’s dreams – or nightmares. That happened with The Nether, the Coal Mine/Studio 180 co-production. Under director Peter Pasyk, Bottomley’s projections and Lavender’s sets and lighting created a sinister jewel box of a space where fantasy and reality intersected. Prediction: this will be one of the toughest categories this year, a sure sign that our designers are among the best in the world.

Other likely nominees:

Camellia Koo, Secret Life Of A Mother 

Anahita Dehbonehie, Hand To God and The Little Prince: Reimagined

Eo Sharp, Angélique

Nick Blais, Human Animals

Sherri Hay, Gertrude And Alice

The Dora Mavor Moore Awards, hosted by Rick Miller, take place June 25 at 7:30 pm (pre-show reception at 6 pm),  at Sony Centre. Tickets go on sale May 28. tapa.ca.

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