The Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations are announced next Tuesday (June 7), so to get y'all in the mood for the year-end celebration of Toronto's best theatre, dance and opera, here are a few observations.
Note: I'm not on the jury or anything. But if any Dora voters are reading this and are on the fence, you're welcome.
1. Toughest category: Outstanding Performance By A Female In A Lead Role (General Theatre Division)
I can't remember a year with so many fantastic roles for - and performances by - women. Shoo-ins for nominations include NOW cover girl Michelle Monteith, as an emotionally fragile but resourceful young woman in Blasted; Jane Spidell as the lonely, alcoholic wife of the title character in Doc; and Yanna McIntosh as the tough but sympathetic Congolese brothel owner in Ruined.
You can likely also look for Seana McKenna's name being announced as a nominee for her performance in The Year Of Magical Thinking. She added lots of nuance that wasn't there in Joan Didion's autobiographical script.
Alas, that leaves one more spot. I think it's between Allegra Fulton in The List; Maja Ardal in The Cure For Everything; Maggie Huculak in Divisadero; and Fiona Byrne in A Month In The Country. Any other year and those completely different performances would all be guaranteed a nomination.
2. Will Rufus Wainwright get a Dora nomination?
Maybe. The singer/songwriter made his North American opera debut a year ago at Luminato with his work Prima Donna, and now that the Doras have added a "New Musical/Opera" category (not that there are a lot), he could be returning to town (or politely sending his regrets). As far as the Dora for best opera production goes, although I was more generous to the production than other critics, Prima Donna doesn't stand much of a chance in a category sure to include acclaimed stagings of Orfeo Ed Euridice, La Clemenza Di Tito and Death In Venice.
3. Will the Dora go to David Ferry or Joseph Ziegler?
It seems pretty unlikely that either will be ignored in the Lead Actor (General Theatre Division) category, Ferry for his physically demanding, emotionally raw performance in Blasted, Ziegler for his layered and vulnerable take on one of the great parts in modern theatre, Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman (look for this Soulpepper production to score big in nominations, including a nod for supporting actor Ari Cohen). Which actor deserves it? I'd say Ziegler has the slight edge.
Then again, don't be surprised if Captain Von Trapp himself, Christopher Plummer, gets a nomination in this category for his hammy turn in Barrymore. (Hey - the guy's already got a Tony Award for the role.) And I hope jurors keep an open mind and nominate Ronnie Burkett for his play with puppets, Billy Twinkle: Requiem For A Golden Boy; it's Burkett's most serious display of acting to date.
4. Will improv artists like National Theatre of the World ever get some Dora respect?
In last year's NOW cover story on the improv geniuses, NTOW's Matt Baram talked about wanting to be acknowledged by the Dora jury, mentioning Rebecca Northan's multiple Dora Award-nomination for her improvised show Blind Date as a breakthrough. Now that NTOW has just completed a run of The Script-Tease Project, maybe they'll finally get their wish. Or force the organization to add a new category/rethink their voting policies.
5. Can anything stand in the way of Billy Elliot?
Not likely. Look to the Elton John/Lee Hall musical to sweep the musical category. Kate Hennig's pretty much a shoo-in for a Dora nomination (if not win), and following the musical's Tony Award sweep a few years ago, the kids playing Billy (Cesar Corrales, Myles Erlick, Marcus Pei and J.P. Viernes and Ty Forhan, who replaced Corrales earlier this month) could share a nomination.
6. Other artists/shows to keep in mind...
Soulpepper's evocative A Midsummer Night's Dream - for production and director (Rick Roberts); Studio 180's powerful Our Class - for production, director Joel Greenberg and featured actor Michael Rubenfeld; director Richard Rose (for the otherwise flawed Forests); Canadian Stage's brilliant Studies In Motion - for production, new play and director Kim Collier. In the dance categories, choreographer/performer Sasha Ivanochko should score two Dora nods for her funny and moving The Future Memory Heartbreak Junction, Diptych; Look for Marie-Josée Chartier's Red Brick to get an Outstanding Production nod; and hope Dave St.-Pierre's controversial A Little Tenderness For Crying Out Loud!, a highlight of the World Stage season, didn't scare voters away with its full-frontal nudity and naked truths.
Umm... did I miss anything?