A night with Jessie Reyez, a modern take on The Wizard of Oz and five other things to see, hear and do in Toronto this week
A night with Toronto’s next pop sensation
1The pop heiress to Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes is Jessie Reyez, a 27-year-old from Toronto. It took 10 years of backup dancing, busking and bartending before she ended up on the charts, but last year she was at the top of Rolling Stone’s list of “artists you need to know right now,” and in March, she won a Juno for Breakthrough Musician of the Year. Her voice, which sounds like a cross between Amy Winehouse and Macy Gray, is an undeniable force. As a songwriter, Reyez has never shied away from sharing intimate details from her life with fans. Her 2017 single “Gatekeeper” chronicles the sexism she’s faced working in the industry, and her new EP, Being Human in Public, is as close to a confessional booth as an album can get, making her music feel both honest and authentic. Monday, December 3 and Tuesday, December 4. $48. The Danforth.
A modern take on The Wizard of Oz
2The Elgin’s annual pantomime is putting a Toronto twist on the classic Wizard of Oz, swapping out the traditional Kansas setting for Ossington Avenue. Instead of Judy Garland songs and ruby red slippers, expect pop music and high tops in this family-friendly musical, featuring a cast of TV and Broadway thespians, impressions, jokes and plenty of audience participation. To January 5. $27–$99. Elgin Theatre.
A dystopian theatre trilogy
3The Handmaid’s Tale brought dystopian feminist fiction into the mainstream. Now, Canadian playwright Susanna Fournier brings it to the theatre. The Empire trilogy, set in an alternate universe that shares our own imperial, patriarchal history, is a gothic-tinged take on sex and power struggles. Part one, The Philosopher’s Wife, takes over the Daniels Spectrum Aki Studio this month with a darkly humorous tale of a rationalist husband who tries to curb the wild canine impulses of his spouse. The second and third parts open next year. Tuesday, December 4 to Sunday, December 16. $35. Daniels Spectrum.
A human rights film festival
4Since 2012, JAYU’s Human Rights Film Festival has given filmmakers from around the world a platform to share stories of oppression and injustice. Highlights from this year’s bill of films includes TransMilitary, a documentary about transgender people banned from serving in the U.S. military; A Year of Hope, a film by Danish director Mikala Krogh about 20 children who survived horrific abuse in Manila; Charm City, which examines the aftermath of the Freddie Gray police shooting in Baltimore; and The Rescue List, which follows the child- trafficking crisis in Ghana. Friday, December 7 to Monday, December 10. $12–$20. Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
The many sides of Peter Bjorn and John
5Swedish pop-rock group Peter Bjorn and John garnered international fame with the 2006 release of their catchy, whistle-filled hit, “Young Folks.” Ever since, they’ve taken a haphazard approach to their albums: 2009’s Living Thing fused hip-hop with African electronic funk, and 2011’s Gimme Some backtracked to melodic pop. For their new album, they’ve stripped back their sound. Contrary to the title, Darker Days is sprinkled with the type of upbeat, bright riffs that made the band famous, while the lyrics touch on the darkness of the human mind. The band’s upcoming show cycles through their many musical personas, but rest assured that the set list will still include a whistle-along. Tuesday, December 4. $23.50. Velvet Underground.
A belated Halloween party
6The Opera House is keeping the spooky spirit alive through the holiday season with Krampus Ball, an annual costume party with ghosts, ghouls, witches and a lot of dancing. The DJ lineup includes Toronto electronica artist Hot Lips, dark electro-pop spectacle Squid Lid, and the aptly-named Vicious Snowflake. The night also features prizes, a parade, a costume contest, and enough Yuletide shenanigans to make Jack Skellington proud. Friday, December 7. $29–$35. The Opera House.
A jazzy Christmas concert
7Legendary jazz artist Dianne Reeves put an R&B spin on holiday favourites in her beloved 2004 holiday album, Christmas Time is Here. For her holiday concert tour, she’ll take carolling to a whole new level with highlights from the album, plus other festive favourites. Tuesday, December 4. $67–$90. Toronto Centre for the Arts.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Human Rights Film Festival was presented by Hot Docs.