A live production of Cats, a Jonas Brothers reunion, and nine other things to do in Toronto this week
A feline frenzy
1Almost four decades since it first conquered the stage, Cats has finally clawed its way to the big screen this holiday season, in an all-star film version with the bewhiskered likes of Idris Elba, Dame Judi Dench and cat lover Taylor Swift. Meanwhile, the legendary musical’s new North American touring production is slinking into the Princess of Wales Theatre for a six-week run. This refurbished revival, which opened on Broadway in 2016, features new feline choreography by Hamilton’s Andy Blankenbuehler alongside the beloved score by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot’s junkyard Jellicles. November 27 to January 5, Princess of Wales Theatre.
A Jonas Brothers reunion
2A year ago, the Jonas Brothers hadn’t released new music in a decade. Last week, they received a Grammy nomination for their 2019 hit “Sucker”—perfect timing for a Toronto stop on their reunion tour. For those who plastered posters of the former Disney stars over their walls in high school, the reunion tour show—where they’ll rock out to old favourites and new chart-toppers—is the place to be Tuesday evening. November 26, Scotiabank Arena.
A double dose of comedy
3Chelsea Handler all but abandoned comedy after a political epiphany that coincided with the beginning of the Trump presidency. She went serious in her recent memoir Life Will Be The Death of Me, where she opens up about the pain of losing her brother, for the first time, but her self-deprecating humour is still alive and well. Expect a night of laughs and sincere honesty, as Handler takes over the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday with two back-to-back performances. November 29, Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
A time-travelling outlaw
4Audiences fell in love with him as the awkward teen hero of Dear Evan Hansen. Now, Robert Markus is fronting the latest zany Ross Petty holiday panto, Lil’ Red Robin Hood. Markus stars as Lil’ Red, a kid from the 6 who is catapulted back in time to a medieval forest where he has to take on the super-nasty Sheriff of Naughtyham (cue the booing). A. J. Bridel of Kinky Boots and wisecracking Petty stalwart Eddie Glen join him in the merry musical mayhem. Expect plenty of pop-song spoofs, oodles of topical jokes and some seriously silly swashbuckling. November 29 to January 4, Winter Garden Theatre.
A renter’s nightmare
5In 2014, the Coal Mine Theatre exploded onto the scene with a smash production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherfucker With the Hat. Five seasons later, the company returns to Guirgis, this time with the American playwright’s 2015 Pulitzer winner, Between Riverside and Crazy, set on New York’s Riverside Drive. Through ex-cop Walter Washington’s (Alexander Thomas) struggle to retain one of the city’s last rent-controlled apartments, Guirgis tackles everything from skyrocketing real estate to racial profiling to witchcraft in this timely dark comedy. November 24 to December 22, Coal Mine Theatre.
A ballet study
6First performed on stage by Karen Kain as a soloist in 1980, Harald Lander’s Etudes, a head nod to ballet training classes, is a study of dancers’ infallible discipline and arduous technique set to compositions by Austrian pianist Carl Czerny. A well-known symbol of learning ballet, the barre, takes centre stage as 36 dancers perform around it. November 27 to December 1, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
An all-Bach affair
7A period instrument chamber orchestra, Akamus (as Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is also known) has been winning top-level music prizes since its founding in 1982, with a stylistic musical take on the Baroque period that is far from reverential—a publicity photo shows them gleefully tossing their instruments into the air. For their Koerner Hall debut, they’ve chosen an all-Bach program, including five of the six Brandenburg Concertos—well-known works that highlight individual soloists. Pay special attention to No. 5, in which the harpsichord takes a stellar role of almost Classical-era proportions. November 27, the Royal Conservatory of Music.
A brainy drag draw
8In their latest show, “If I had the words to tell you, we wouldn’t be here now,” the London-based drag artist Victoria Sin combines drag, storytelling and theatre. Each site-specific performance is designed around its location: in Toronto, Sin will perform with a percussionist, played by Toronto-based Nikki Joshi. November 28, MOCA.
A seriously scary commute
9A frantic mother on a TTC subway platform thrusts her infant daughter into the arms of a stranger. Only, somehow, she knows the stranger’s name. And then, as the train barrels into the station, she jumps. The woman left behind with the baby—a young widow desperate for her own child—works to uncover her connection to the jumper, while becoming increasingly certain that her life is in danger, too. Woman on the Edge, the debut novel from Toronto writer Samantha M. Bailey, mines maternal anxiety, marital secrets, female friendship and C-suite power grabs—not to mention public transit horror—for a satisfyingly twisty psychological thriller. November 26, Simon and Schuster Canada.
A Francophile festival
10Film lovers with a penchant for French cinema can rejoice as Cinefranco, a French-language film festival, returns to Hot Docs, over 20 years after its debut. This year’s theme is all about family and the trials that come with it. Anitgone, an adaptation of the Greek myth that premiered at TIFF, focuses on four siblings surviving in a tiny Montreal apartment in the aftermath of their parents’ murder. Le Mystère Henri Pick is an edge-of-your-seat mystery about a Breton library that collects never-been-published rejected manuscripts. When an editor discovers a what he believes is a masterpiece, the focus turns to the deceased writer whose widow has no recollection of her husband putting pen to paper. November 22 to 30, Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
A holiday skate
11Toronto has plenty of ice rinks, but none can compete with the view at Sir John A. McDonald Plaza, sandwiched between the Beaux-Arts facades of Union Station and the Fairmont Royal York. Opening for the first time ever this weekend, the plaza offers free helmet and skate rentals and live holiday music for the rom-com-approved moment. November 29 to January 4, Sir John A. McDonald Plaza.