Sixteen things to see, do, read and hear in Toronto this September

Sixteen things to see, do, read and hear in Toronto this September

Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images

A week-long dose of movie glitz and glam

1 The Toronto International Film Festival’s 47th go-round marks its triumphant return to full-scale in-person festivities. The online-only screenings of the past two pandemic-pummelled years will be replaced by the razzle dazzle movie lovers have come to expect. One of the must-see premieres is Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion, starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton and Janelle Monáe. September 8 to 18, TIFF Bell Lightbox

An international hip-hop takeover

2 Renowned hip-hop festival Rolling Loud has already laid roots stateside, but this year, the event extends its inter­national reach to Portugal and, luckily for us, Toronto. The inaugural Canadian edition, which will blast Ontario Place with sick beats for three days this month, has booked heavy hitters like Lil Uzi Vert, Skepta, Wizkid and Migos, Haviah Mighty, Pressa, and Baka Not Nice. September 9 to 11, Ontario Place

Photo by Manuel Harlan

A Tinseltown classic hits the stage

3 The much-loved movie musical Singin’ in the Rain splashes onto the stage in this acclaimed theatrical version from the UK. Set in 1920s Hollywood at the dawn of the sound era, the story follows the fortunes of a silent-film star who makes the transition to talkies with the help of his chorus-girl sweetheart and comedian buddy. The songs are, of course, a string of classics, including “Make ’Em Laugh,” “Good Morning” and the title number, sung and danced in a downpour that requires more than 14,000 litres of water at every performance. Be sure to bring an umbrella. September 23 to October 23, Princess of Wales Theatre

A beloved emo-rock band’s reunion tour

4 For the generation of misfit kids who came of age post-Y2K, Gerard Way will forever be the red-haired, eyeliner-smeared frontman of My Chemical Romance. In the mid-2000s, alongside Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco, the Newark quartet helped catapult emo from an underground subculture to a pop phenomenon. Their epochal 2006 release, The Black Parade, set them apart with glam grandeur—and the goth marching-­band outfits to match—until a 2013 breakup ended their reign. But, with their first new single in nearly a decade (“The Foundations of Decay”), MCR have re-entered a musical landscape where their influence has reached as far as UK punk pin-up Yungblud and pop shapeshifter Halsey. This is the perfect time for their parade to carry on. September 4 to 5, Scotiabank Arena

Photo by Getty Images

A stylish provocateur’s pop concert

5 Montero Lamar Hill—a.k.a. Lil Nas X—first galloped into the mainstream with his ultra-viral 2019 hick-hop hybrid, “Old Town Road.” And, while the track was luring everyone onto dance floors, he used his moment in the spotlight to reveal his true self—a stylistically fluid, flamboyantly attired pop provocateur who’s putting queer sexuality front and centre on awards-show stages. His 2021 debut album, Montero, has already done the impossible: it’s made the runaway success of “Old Town Road” seem like a mere blip in his chameleonic career. September 15 to 16, History (1663 Queen Street East)

A coming of age tale about cultural roots

6 Journalist Harrison Mooney was born to a Ghanaian teen mother in the BC foster system and adopted at a young age by a white fundamentalist Christian family whose vehement anti-Blackness stripped him of his culture. In Invisible Boy: A Memoir of Self-Discovery—a tale of religion, race and the search for identity—he describes his journey to understand the trauma experienced by Black communities and reconnect with his birth mother. Seeing her face and acknowledging her beauty allows him to come to terms with his life, moving from oppression to personal liberation. Out September 20

Photo by Getty Images

A riotous stand-up affair

7 Just for Laughs, which has been on hiatus for the past couple of years, is back with a stacked roster: John Mulaney, Amy Schumer, Trevor Noah, Marc Maron, Amanda Seales, Issa Rae and everybody’s favourite boyfriend, Pete Davidson, are all scheduled to make appearances. On top of the late-night laugh attacks, Comedy­Con, the festival’s daytime program, offers live podcasts, panels and Q&A sessions. With more than 15 participating venues and plenty of up-and-coming local talent set to flex their stand-up skills, JFL’s return will be a laugh a minute. September 22 to October 1, various locations

Photo from Fade Resistance Collection, © Art Gallery of Ontario

A sprawling show about Black identity

8 Take a walk through history with the AGO’s latest exhibition, What Matters Most: Photographs of Black Life. This collection of over 500 Polaroid instant prints—assembled by Toronto artist, physician, educator and photographer Zun Lee—tells the story of African American family life from the 1960s to the early 2000s. An uncommon meditation on how the art of photography helps retain and celebrate Black history, roots, and culture. Opens August 27, Art Gallery of Ontario

An Instapoet’s secret sauce

9 Ever since Rupi Kaur’s meteoric rise to fame in 2015, the Instagram photographer and poet has won the hearts of her massive international following. Now, fans have the opportunity to learn how Kaur does what she does with Healing Through Words, a series of guided writing exercises. The collection features curated interactive lessons designed by Kaur to help writers of all stages access their most vulnerable selves and translate those insights onto the page. Out September 27

Photo courtesy of Soulpepper

A comedic take on the littlest monsters

10 It’s been over a decade since playwright Ins Choi premiered his hit comedy Kim’s Convenience, which went on to become a CBC/Netflix series. Now he’s returned to Soulpepper Theatre with a new play focusing on a much younger family. Bad Parent zeroes in on Charles and Norah, a couple struggling to raise a toddler. According to Choi, the play is based on rants he wrote to blow off steam when he and his wife were coping with their first newborn. September 15 to October 9, Young Centre for the Performing Arts

A candid Québécois play about societal dysfunction

11 Canadian stage is opening its new season with the belated English-­language premiere of Public Enemy, Québécois playwright Olivier Choinière’s controversial 2015 hit. In this fresh take on a familiar trope—the family dinner party—he reveals how increasing political polarization has begun to poison personal relationships. September 20 to October 2, Berkeley Street Theatre

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

An unfettered dance-a-thon

12 It’s one thing to dance around your living room solo and another thing entirely to unabashedly bust a move in public. Dreamed up by award-winning choreographer Nova Bhattacharya, Svāhā! pairs the euphoria of movement with the renewed thrill of social gathering in a performance by 22 uber-talented dancers. Bhattacharya and co. will let loose to music composed by tabla player Ed Hanley and DJ Gurtej Hunjan while wearing costumes by Indigenous designer Sage Paul. In a welcome question, Svāhā! asks: “How can we be better together?” September 16 to 18, Bluma Appel Theatre

Photo by Photagonist

A networker’s dream

13 For those who enjoy stimulating speakers and the odd fireside chat, there’s really no better event than Elevate. The country’s largest arts-and-tech festival is known for its high-profile talent—hello, Michelle Obama—and this year is no different: Venus Williams, tennis champ and entrepreneur, is September’s designated keynote. (Also on the docket are Mars House creator Krista Kim, astronaut Chris Hadfield and Canadian Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse.) Star power aside, the festival also promises a multi-night outdoor block party, live music and an IRL NFT art gallery. September 20 to 22, various locations

A show for art-starved shoppers

14 Art Walk in the Square, a juried fine art show coming to the Shops at Don Mills, is heaven for art collectors. It features paintings, photography, prints, glasswork and sculptures by roughly 100 artists. Guests can make their mark by voting in the People’s Choice Award for best local artist. September 16 to 18, CF Shops at Don Mills

Photo by Getty Images

The Rocket Man’s final farewell

15 More than a half-century since his debut album, Elton John is everywhere: he’s splashed across the home pages of our streaming services thanks to his biopic, Rocketman; he’s back at the top of the charts with his ubiquitous Dua Lipa collab, “Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)”; and he’s even been slumming it in indie circles, recording with UK post-punk buzz band Yard Act. With his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, Sir Elton puts a diamond-crusted cap on his performing career via an epic two-act set featuring nothing but hits. This is your last chance to happily belt out “Tiny Dancer” with 50,000 others. September 7 to 8, Rogers Centre

A three-part serenade

16 Good things come to those who wait—in this case, fans of popera group Il Volo. This month, the Italian trio (two tenors, one baritone), who were originally scheduled to kick off their first North American sojourn in March to support their recent album Il Volo Sings Morricone, start their 17-date tour at Meridian Hall, with tear-jerking tunes and VIP opportunities for long-overdue meet-and-greets. September 7, Meridian Hall


Recommended reading, watching and listening

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Recommended by Dominic Mancuso, musician

“This charming memoir, written with intense honesty and incredible wit, reads like an adventure story. McConaughey translated years of his daily journalling into lifelong lessons and a spiritual approach to living.”

Ologies with Alie Ward

Recommended by Madhur Anand, author

“I recently listened to this quirky comedic science podcast by journalist Alie Ward and have fallen in love with it and her. Each episode is framed around an area of study—mixology, cycadolgy, screamology, to name a few—with insight from an expert in the field.”

Life Below Zero (Disney Plus)

Recommended by Tom Hearn, comedian

“This docuseries follows individuals and families living off-grid in the Alaskan wilderness. I especially love Sue Aikens, who lives alone 317 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Her motto is ‘If it hurts, don’t think about it.’ The show is equal parts educational and entertaining.”