McIntosh always adds strength and focus to a show, whether she's tackling the great roles (Hedda Gabler, nail-bitingly watchable) or introducing us to new ones (Belle, The Syringa Tree). But who knew -- until Michael Healey's recent play Generous -- that she could also bite so lustfully into comedy? Her turn as a ball-busting, amoral corporate type was wicked fun, proof that she can do just about anything onstage.
Best alternative sketch troupe
KNOCK KNOCK. (WHO'S THERE?) COMEDY!
It's all there in the five words of their gleefully playful postmodern name. The four members of KKWTC (Adam Brodie, Katie Crown, Dave Derewlany and Aaron Eves) upend all the corny conventions of comedy and show business. Their clever satires about entertainment shows, breakups and reunions, etc -- always delivered with a straight face -- make them the true inheritors of the SCTV sensibility.
Best classical actor
A founding member of Soulpepper, Matamoros has a classical lineage that goes back to Stratford in the 1980s. Clever in handling rich text, he creates characters (Lear's Fool, Uncle Vanya, Theseus) who demonstrate an innate wisdom and a heart-rending emotional subtext. And it's not just in the world of classics that he shines. He won a Dora (and nearly stole the show) as the growling, dangerous Satan in The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot.
Best dance company
TORONTO DANCE THEATRE
While some companies are struggling to be relevant, Toronto Dance Theatre has thrived by reinventing itself and the idea of what contemporary dance can be. A recent show included a collaboration with indie rockers the Hidden Cameras, and their upcoming Timecode Break links movement with film in a way that blurs all labels. The dancers are skilled and versatile, and artistic director Christopher House gives mavericks and newcomers alike a chance to shine.
Glumbek's a favourite of most local choreographers, and dancers of both genders clamour to partner him. No wonder. Classical training gives him an elegant line and noble carriage, while he's got the brute strength and intuition to pull off any kind of contemporary movement you can throw at him. He's still performing at an age when most professional dancers are debating knee operations, and his choreography, as seen in the recent ProArteDanza show, is a revelation.
Best movement-based theatre company
Theatre Rusticle gives new meaning to body language by distilling text and physicality into a rich, tight-knit whole. Under director Allyson McMackon, the company captured the dreamlike qualities in Virginia Woolf's The Waves, upended Restoration theatre conventions in William Congreve's The Way Of The World and provided a wicked yet moving undertone to August Strindberg's The Stronger. Not limited to fiction, they also cracked open the enigmatic Pierre Trudeau into a series of Jungian figures and created -- what else? -- moving theatre.
Best musical theatre performer
Whether playing a shy hero-in-waiting (The Producers) or a conniving villain (Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings), Therriault goes to the heart of a character, unafraid to reveal the ugly as well as the good. He won Doras for both shows and might be the only Canadian in the London production of Rings. We first saw him at Stratford in another musical, Camelot, and after several seasons playing the classics there confirmed that his work rings dramatically true whether speaking text or singing and hoofing.
Best open mic
642 Church, 416-967-0001
Perennial host Jo-Anna Downey's nickname is Mama, and she's acted as the stand-up world's unofficial matriarch for years, especially in the Wednesday-night institution known as Spirits. The beer flows as readily as the laughs (and you can't miss Downey's -- it should be patented). Pros and amateurs alike step up to the mic, and you never know what's going to happen. Some of the funniest bits, though, come from the back of the room, where the comics kvetch and convene.
Best place to debut a play if you're a complete unknown
Yes, the Fringe keeps a level playing field by using a lottery system, but SummerWorks, which chooses entries by means of a selection committee, offers scripts of demonstrable quality. If you're talented, odds are good that your play will be chosen. With some luck, it could become a word-of-mouth hit and have a future life. Look at the success of playwrights Alan Dilworth, Hannah Moscovitch, Niki Landau and Mike McPhaden, who all had their first winners at the fest.
Best place to see improv comedy
BAD DOG THEATRE
138 Danforth, 416-491-3115, www.baddogtheatre.com
If your idea of improv is a couple of chairs and Drew Carey, the folks at Bad Dog will set you straight. Any day of the week and nearly 365 days a year, the theatre delivers a master class -- sometimes literally -- in how to come up funny on the fly. The theatre's in-house and guest improvisers have toyed with genres, length and even lighting (The Bat was performed in darkness!). Not the fanciest digs, but you'll be laughing so hard you won't notice.
Though his plays often blaze with theatrical vitality, MacIvor knows how to scratch away quietly at the edge of an audience's consciousness. His solo shows (three of which he's remounting at Buddies before closing down his company, da da kamera) start simply but soon draw us into nuanced worlds of fear, love and hope. Other plays, like In On It and A Beautiful View, explore the fragile, multilayered nature of relationships. He always takes our breath away.
Maybe it's her ageless, wise-alecky delivery. Or perhaps it's her perma-grin that optimistically makes light of all things painful, including her Hungarian mom's old world prejudices. Whatever it is, Kurt joyfully wields that mic to spread it around. She had a strong career even before coming out, which she did before it became fashionable. The TV shows haven't captured her onstage spirit, but there's still time. And it's gonna be cool to see how motherhood affects her act.
Best theatre designer
Makes sense that if you're going to launch a new opera house with a production of the Mount Olympus of operas, you hire one of the world's most innovative designers for the job. Levine triumphed, making thousands of lucky Ring Cyclists rethink their beloved Wagner. He fashioned a world that spanned centuries and cultures, evoking everything from Freudian psychology to Bay Street boardrooms. An original.
Best young ensemble
ONE REED THEATRE
Some companies go off the rails with the creation style, but One Reed -- who perform their own group-devised plays -- debuted memorably in last August's SummerWorks with Nor The Cavaliers Who Come With Us. Audience members sat onstage to make a wonderfully visceral connection with the cast, whose script relied on surprising visuals, music and an intriguing text that paralleled Mexican colonization in the 16th century and today.