The stage at the Winter Garden Theatre may have been full of sunflowers for the 29th annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards -- even the Dora Award statue held a bloom -- but there was nothing even remotely wall-flowerish about the evening's host, the effervescent Sharron Matthews.
Flirting with the audience or berating a viewer, Matthews (changing her dress some eight times) hosted a three-hour evening that moved briskly along with dozens of awards presentations.
She put her pipes to great effect over the course of the evening with the help of guest Thom Allison, sometimes thrilling us and sometimes lulling us, singing a series of tunes that included works by Canadians Joey Miller and Brad Fraser, Leslie Arden and David Warrack.
Named for theatre pioneer Dora Mavor Moore and sponsored by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), the awards honour excellence in the theatre and dance communities.
In the independent theatre division, three companies picked up six of the nine awards. Modern Times Stage Company won for the outstanding production award and director Soheil Parsa was also honoured; Aluna Theatre's Madre received Doras for set design (Trevor Schwellnus) and sound design/composition (Thomas Ryder Payne).
The newcomer to the block was Theatre Jones Roy's Pyaasa, which won writer/actor Anusree Roy prizes for new play and performer. If you missed the short run of this solo show about untouchables in India, you can catch it at Theatre Passe Muraille next season. Filled with emotion, Roy thanked the jurors and audience, saying they've "made an immigrant's dream come true."
In the general division, Canadian Stage's Fire picked up five awards, including outstanding production of a musical, musical direction (Ted Dykstra), principal male performer in a musical (Dykstra again), principal female performer in a musical (Nicole Underhay) and direction of a musical (James MacDonald).
The company also took outstanding play production (Colleen Murphy's The December Man) and outstanding new play (Judith Thompson's The Palace Of The End).
Soulpepper picked up two acting awards (Joseph Ziegler and Stuart Hughes in The Time Of Your Life) and one directing award (Alisa Palmer for Top Girls).
Outstanding new musical went to Jim LeFrancois and David Oye for devising Buddies in Bad Times's Arthouse Cabaret.
Peggy Baker took two of the four awards in the dance division for Portal, new choreography and performance.
Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young Audiences went home with both the statues in the theatre for young audiences division -- outstanding production (Love You Forever...And More Munsch) and performance (Kyle Cameron in Green Thumb Theatre's Cranked).
In the opera division, the Canadian Opera Company's From The House Of The Dead took the production award, while Measha Brueggergosman copped the performance award for her work in Opera Atelier's Idomeneo.
A quartet of other presentations were scattered through the evening. Designer Michelle Ramsay got the Pauline McGibbon Award and also picked up a Dora for her lighting of Theatre Rusticle's April 14, 1912.
The Actors' Fund of Canada, celebrating its 50th birthday, received an honorary Dora.
Director, teacher and and translator John Van Burek -- the founder of Theatre Francais de Toronto and current head of Pleiades Theatre -- received the Silver Ticket Award for his long-term work in the community.
The third annual Audience Choice Award went to Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage.
One of the night's best lines? Dykstra, accepting the Dora for his performance in Fire, said he'd received the identical honour 20 years ago, in 1988, for the same show.
"Proves that you should stick to what you know...and see you all in 2028."
For complete Dora results, see tapa.ca.