An Alice in Wonderland ballet, a Mean Girls revamp and nine other things to see, hear and do in Toronto this week
A reimagined wonderland
1Christopher Wheeldon of the Royal Ballet has reimagined Lewis Carroll’s topsy-turvy wonderland with whimsical costumes and a shape-shifting set: animated projections re-create the tiny, tilted room that Alice can barely fit inside, while the grinning Cheshire Cat reappears as a giant, dismembered puppet. The curious tale is set to a dazzling score by British composer Joby Talbot, with works inspired by each character, like a fast-paced celesta for the energetic White Rabbit and a violin solo for the high-strung Queen of Hearts. Thursday, March 7 to Sunday, March 17. $45–$265. The National Ballet of Canada.
An adventure through space
2Fifty years ago, 530 million people tuned in to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. To celebrate one of the greatest feats in human history, the Aga Khan Museum is taking a closer look at the cultural history of the moon and its influence in art, faith and science. On display are a series of moon-inspired paintings from artists around the globe, Islamic manuscripts that detail the cultural significance of the moon and a massive, two-storey replica created using detailed imagery from NASA, created by British artist Luke Jerram. Saturday, March 9 to Sunday, August 18. $20. Aga Khan Museum.
A Mean Girls revamp
3Tina Fey’s movie-turned-musical gets a makeover in School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, a smart, sassy revamp from Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh. Set in a posh boarding school in Ghana, the reigning queen bee finds herself locked in a bitter rivalry with a new biracial American student who threatens her chance to enter the Miss Universe pageant. Like Fey, Bioh hilariously skewers the toxic behaviour of cliques and the social hierarchy of high school. But her play also introduces themes like shadeism and colonialism, which never fazed Regina George and the Plastics. Tuesday, March 5 to Sunday, March 24. $20. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
A Beyoncé-approved Broadway sensation
4Dear Evan Hansen has become a cult sensation, with a slew of high-profile fans including Hillary Clinton, RuPaul and Beyoncé. It’s an angsty tale of teen melodrama, broken families and the perils of social media, revolving around Evan Hansen, a lonely kid who pretends to have been friends with a suicidal classmate, only to have his lie blow up online. It scooped up six Tony Awards in 2017, including Best Musical (it beat Come From Away) and Best Score (the show’s earworms were composed by La La Land songwriters Benj Pasak and Justin Paul). Tuesday, March 5 to Sunday, June 30. $59–$225. Royal Alexandra Theatre.
A sweet Saturday
5La cabane à sucre, or “sugar shack,” has been a staple of French-Canadian springs since the early 19th century. It’s a place to warm up after a long day in the bush tapping maple trees, have a hot meal and, of course, a sweet treat. But you don’t need to trek to rural Quebec to experience this quintessentially Canadian tradition. This weekend, the maple-themed festivities are coming to Toronto, featuring ice-carving competitions, chainsaw battles, winter markets and no shortage of pancake syrup. Saturday, March 10 to Sunday, March 11. Free. Sherbourne Common.
A glimpse into ancient India
6According to legend, the ancient city of Jodhpur in northwestern India was once ruled by descendants of the sun god Surya. The ROM’s new exhibit, Treasures of a Desert Kingdom, showcases artifacts dating back to 1459, shedding light on the politics of conquest and kingship, the inner lives of Indian royalty and the strong influence of women in the royal court. Presented in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Mehrangarh Museum Trust of Jodhpur, the exhibit marks the first time many of these pieces—intricate painting, lavish jewellery and decorative textiles—have been seen beyond the desert kingdom’s palace walls. It tells the story of a nation that not only flourished in some of the harshest natural conditions on earth, but also kept its borders open to promote cultural exchange. Saturday, March 9 to Monday, September 2. $20. ROM.
A fleet-footed flamenco legend
7Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya, better known as Farruquito, is heir to the greatest flamenco dynasty in Spain. His grandfather, El Farruco, was a gitano with no formal education who went on to become one of the world’s most celebrated flamenco performers, and Farruquito first appeared on Broadway when he was four. Today, he, too, is ranked among the best in the world, with footwork so meticulous and quick that it can be difficult to follow. He understands the form like no one else, and all of his performances are filled with the dramatic flair, precise steps and technical mastery you’d expect from someone who grew up surrounded by dance legends. Thursday, March 7. $50– $110. Koerner Hall.
A #MeToo talk
8Long before the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations first surfaced in 2017, civil rights activist Tarana Burke coined the phrase “Me Too” as a way to shed light on the prevalence of sexual assault. Thirteen years later, more than 19 million women have used the hashtag to share their stories of harassment and assault. For International Women’s Day, Burke is coming to Toronto to speak about all things feminism and what the fight for gender equity looks like in 2019. The discussion is hosted by CBC’s Nana aba Duncan, and all proceeds from the event will support the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. Tuesday, March 5. $60. HotDocs Cinema.
A jailhouse performance
9Six years after closing its doors, the notorious Don Jail has been reborn as an immersive theatre venue. It’s an appropriately ghoulish backdrop for an in-the-round performance of Kiss of the Spider Woman, a 1993 Tony Award–winning musical set in a bleak prison at the start of Argentina’s Dirty War. In it, Molina, a gay inmate, tries to help his cellmate Valentin, a Marxist radical, forget about their grim reality by sharing colourful fantasies about the femme-fatale movie star Aurora. Before the show, audience members get a real taste of incarceration with a tour of the former jail. Wednesday, March 6 to Sunday, March 10. $48. Don Jail.
A vintage toy soldiers exhibit
10Ontario’s former lieutenant governor, the Honourable Henry N.R. Jackman, had a lesser-known pastime as an avid collector of toy soldiers. In 1991, at the beginning of his term in office, he donated his 5,000-piece collection to the ROM, and for the first time, the museum is putting it on display. Intricate, precise and colourful, the figures show the imagination of leading toy manufacturer Britains Ltd. between 1893 and 1966 and offer a glimpse through the history of Canada’s armed forces. Opens Saturday, March 9. $20. ROM.
A symphonic comedy
11The Second City’s annual Toronto Symphony Orchestra collaboration, the Second City Guide to the Symphony, is part concert, part satirical improv show. Hosted by Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway, This Hour Has 22 Minutes) and conducted by Steven Reineke (music director of the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall), it’s an incredible evening of music with all the sass and wise cracks you’d expect from some of the city’s best comedians. Tuesday, March 5 to Thursday, March 7. $49.25–$113. Roy Thomson Hall.