Toronto theatre critics vote on best of 2017-18 season

Fun Home, Mr. Shi And His Lover, The Humans and Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools get some love in end-of-season awards

Two inventive musicals – one about a lesbian cartoonist’s ambivalent relationship with her closeted dad, the other a meditative opera performed in Mandarin about gender and political intrigue – are among the big winners at the Toronto Theatre Critics Association Awards. The two shows swept the musical categories.

Fun Home, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, won best production of a musical, best director of a musical (Robert McQueen), best actress in a musical (shared by all three females who played the central character Alison: Laura Condlln, Sara Farb and Hannah Levinson) and best supporting actress in a musical (Cynthia Dale). 

Meanwhile, Mr. Shi And His Lover, Njo Kong Kie and Wong Teng Chi’s show inspired by the real-life story of a French diplomat’s 20-year relationship with a woman who was in fact a man, won awards for best new musical, best actor in a musical (Jordan Cheng) and best supporting actor in a musical (Derek Kwan). 

The play categories represented a huge range of shows.

Best production of a play went to Stephen Karam’s The Humans, which also was acknowledged as best international play.

BEARS by Matthew MacKenzie featuring Sheldon Elter. Chorus l-r Lara Ebata, Gianna Vacirca, Skye Demas, Alida Kendell, Zoe Glassman, Kendra Shorter, Rebecca Sadowski. Photo by Alexis McKeown.jpg

Matthew MacKenzie’s Bears, featuring Sheldon Elter (centre), tied for best new Canadian play.

Two works tied for best new Canadian play: Matthew MacKenzie’s Bears and Hannah Moscovitch’s Bunny

And best director of a play also resulted in a tie between Jani Lauzon (for The Monument) and Erin Brubacher (for Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools).

Kiinalik’s Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory won best actress in a play, while Lovell Adams-Gray won best actor honours for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


Carolyn Fe (right), here with Meghan Swaby, was a critical fave for her fine supporting performance in Calpurnia.

Newcomer Maxwell Haynes won best supporting actor for The Aliens, while Carolyn Fe won best supporting actress for Calpurnia

The best design award went to Nick Blais (sets), Lindsay Dagger Junkin (costumes), Andre du Toit (lighting) and Richard Feren (music and sound) for Jerusalem

In addition, the TTCA voted to give actor Bob Nasmith, who starred in a riveting production of Krapp’s Last Tape, a special citation “for his untraditional, decades-long theatre career and his spirit of adventure and enquiry, which he brings to his unforgettable stage work.”

Of the celebrated shows, only Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is still running (at the Young Centre to June 9). 

The TTCA, of which I am a member, consists of full-time and freelance critics from various print and online outlets. 

(Full disclosure: I recused myself from participating in voting for the categories in which Mr. Shi And His Lover were up, since I am a good friend of one of the creators.) 

The TTCA Awards officially kick off awards season and will be presented at a ceremony at the Robert Gill Theatre on June 18. 

Next Thursday (May 31), the Dora Mavor Moore Awards nominations will be announced (the actual event takes place June 25 at the Elgin). | @glennsumi

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