Toronto theatre critics choose the best shows of 2015-16 season

Butcher, Chasse-Galerie and Kinky Boots walk home with lots of critical love


A visceral genre piece about vengeance, a dance-theatre hybrid about grief, and artists playing roles originally written for the opposite gender are among the big winners at this year’s Toronto Theatre Critics Association Awards.

The awards, now in their sixth year, recognize the best shows that played in Toronto from roughly June 2015 to May 2016. They’re decided among a group of critics (disclosure: I’m one), from The Globe And Mail, The Toronto Star, The National Post, NOW Magazine and Torontoist.

Best production of a play went to Nicolas Billon’s Butcher, a terrifically entertaining work about righting wrongs in a chaotic and violent universe.

Jordan Tannahill’s double bill of Botticelli In The Fire/Sunday In Sodom, a contemporary reworking of stories from history and the bible, earned best new Canadian play.

Salt-Water Moon

Ravi Jain’s production of Salt-Water Moon took best director.

Ravi Jain was acknowledged as best director of a play for his imaginative work on David French’s oft-produced Salt-Water Moon.

As always, the performances this season were outstanding. In an unprecedented result, both winners of best actor in a play and best actress in a play are by artists playing roles of the opposite gender.

Kawa Ada played a delicate but smart female dancer in Anosh Irani’s Bombay Black, while Laura Condlln played the male role of Dr. Stockmann in Florian Borchmeyer’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People.

Danny Ghantous won best supporting actor in a play for his fresh and suggestive performance as an enterprising Palestinian teen in Guillermo Verdecchia and Marcus Youssef’s A Line In The Sand.

Anna Chatterton’s subtle, intentionally pinched performance as Alice B. Toklas earned her the critics’ best supporting actress award for Gertrude And Alice, which she co-wrote with Evalyn Perry and Karin Randoja.

In the musical categories, Red One Theatre’s lusty, boisterous holiday tale, The Chasse-Galerie, with music by James Smith, took home two big awards, including best new musical and best director of a musical (Tyrone Savage).

Kinky.jpg

Cylla von Tiedemann

Alan Mingo, Jr. (centre) and Kinky Boots walked tall, according to T.O. theatre critics.

Meanwhile, Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s high-stepping Kinky Boots walked off with three big awards: best production of a musical, best actor (Alan Mingo, Jr.) and best supporting actress (A.J. Bridel).

Second City veteran Carly Heffernan won best actress in a musical for the completely improvised One Night Only (another unprecedented win, since she made up different songs for each performance), while Justin Bott’s charming turn as The Wizard Of Oz’s Cowardly Lion roared loudly enough to impress us and take home the best supporting actor award.

This year’s design award is split between two terrific productions. Betroffenheit, Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young’s disturbing look at a personal tragedy, featured composition and sound by Owen Belton, Alessandro Juliani, Meg Roe a set by Jay Gower Taylor lighting by Tom Visser and costumes by Nancy Bryant. Alan Dilworth’s production of Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl, featured a stunning set by Lorenzo Savoini, lighting by Kimberly Purtell and sound Debashis Sinha.

A special citation goes to the innovative storefront theatre and producer Videofag, run by Jordan Tannahill and William Christopher Ellis.

The awards will be handed out at a ceremony at the Spoke Club on June 20. Follow #TFCA2016 for more information about tickets.

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