A School of Rock musical, a massive winter festival and seven other things to see, hear and do in Toronto this week
A back-to-school rockathon
1A decade after the release of The School of Rock, Jack Black’s prep-school rock opera, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber acquired stage rights to give it the full-on musical-theatre treatment. He teamed up with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes to rewrite the script and craft a new score, and the show premiered on Broadway in 2015 before transferring to London. Webber’s version, featuring a cast of super-talented kids under the age of 14, zooms in on the personal stories of the children as they go amp-to-amp in a live Battle of the Bands, with a mix of original-film favourite songs and fresh tunes to sing along to. Wednesday, November 28 to Sunday, January 6. $25–$170. Ed Mirvish Theatre.
A winter wonderland
2Ontario Place transforms into a North Pole–inspired village for the holidays, with colourful lights, a skating pond, a whimsical winter garden and no shortage of Christmas magic. It’s worth braving the frigid temperatures: attractions include a 15-metre LED light dome, a 55-metre snow-tube slide and an interactive tour inside Santa’s workshop to see the master craftsman at work. Plus, it’s a pretty big upgrade from stopping to see old Saint Nick at your local mall. Thursday, November 29 to Sunday, December 30. $19.99. Ontario Place.
A burst of light at MOCA
3The northern parts of Sweden only get a few hours of sunlight during winter days, so the country has introduced light therapy initiatives at clinics, in classrooms and even at bus stops to combat seasonal depression. At the newly revamped MOCA, Swedish artist Apolonija Šušteršič has transformed the fourth floor into a massive light therapy room. The installation is meant to be a social space where people can come to talk while they pretend to sit in the sun. Wednesday, November 28 to Sunday, February 10. Free with museum admission. Museum of Contemporary Art.
A bittersweet ode to the little things
4When a woman slips into a suicidal depression and ends up in the hospital, her seven-year-old son compiles a list of things that make life worth living. You’d expect Every Brilliant Thing to be heart-wrenching and tear-inducing, but it’s also one of the funniest plays ever written. Originally a one-man show starring British comedian Jonny Donahoe, the Toronto production will feature Canadian favourite Kristen Thomson. Tuesday, November 27 to Sunday, December 16. $49–$79. Berkeley Street Theatre.
A Kathak dance tribute
5Jahanara Akhlaq’s talent for twirling made her a force in Kathak, the classical Indian dance. She had ambitions to build a career in Canada, but in 1999, at the age of 24, Akhlaq and her father, the renowned Pakistani painter, Zahoor ul Akhlaq, were shot dead inside their Lahore home. Almost two decades later, she’s still celebrated as a timeless influence of Hindi dance. In The World of Jahanara, ward-winning Indo-Canadian choreographer Bageshree Vaze revisits Akhlaq’s legacy, combining dance, theatre and photography to reimagine the morning of her death. The performance is a bittersweet valedictory that mourns unfulfilled creative potential while celebrating the beauty of Akhlaq’s life. Saturday, December 1. $22.50–$30. Aga Khan Museum.
Deck the halls with Second City
6Second City is spoofing the holiday season’s tropes and traditions with It’s a Wild, Rowdy, Wonderful Life. The show promises a night of Yuletide-themed sketches and songs from Toronto’s most dependable comedy troupe, and should spark a “ho ho ho” from even the bitterest Scrooge. Monday, November 26 to Wednesday, January 2. $22–$42. The Second City.
A female-focused portrait series
7Best known as the artist who painted the first official portrait of Michelle Obama, Mickalene Thomas challenges how black women have been depicted throughout history. Her subjects range from celebrities to family members, and the materials she uses are just as diverse: a mix of rhinestones, acrylic and enamel fusing into richly textured, vibrant collages that explore femininity, beauty and sexuality. A collaboration with the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, the AGO’s Femmes Noires is Thomas’s first large-scale solo exhibition in Canada. The multimedia retrospective highlights her signature collage work and the movements that inspired it, including Impressionism, Dada and the Harlem Renaissance. Thursday, November 29 to Sunday, March 24. $19.50. AGO.
A Koerner birthday concert
8The Royal Conservatory named its jewel of a concert hall after Michael Koerner, a committed philanthropist and arts patron who, in 2015, received a Governor General’s Award for his contribution to Canadian culture. This year, Koerner turned 90, and New Music Concerts is celebrating by inviting him to pick the program. His choices include songs by American composer Charles Ives (performed by celebrated tenor Ben Heppner) and a selection of crowd-pleasing modernist pieces by Elliott Carter, Igor Stravinsky and Darius Milhaud, and one of R. Murray Schafer’s extraordinary string quartets. Sunday, December 2. $35. Betty Oliphant Theatre.
An intimate Drake concert
9The one-and-only 6 God is gracing the stage at Après Noir, Vaughan’s super-swanky monthly supper club, where he’ll perform for an audience of 1,000, along with Mia Martina and Jessie Reyez. Before the concert, there’s an open bar and a four-course dinner. Tickets start at $550, but if you’re willing to go all out and pay five times more, you get Dom Pérignon, caviar and a personal butler. Thursday, November 29. Chateau le Jardin.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that The World of Jahanara was a Hindi dance tribute.