The Nutcracker, a new Guillermo del Toro film and eight other things to see, do, hear and read this week
The return of The Nutcracker
1Snow angels, sugar plum fairies, mice, rat kings and all the other unusual denizens of Tchaikovsky’s winter wonderland reunite as the National Ballet of Canada revives that old holiday warhorse, The Nutcracker. This annual production, created in 1995 by former artistic director James Kudelka, features elaborate Russian sets and a subtle emphasis on the growth of the central siblings, Misha and Marie. Saturday, December 9 to Saturday, December 30. $39–$180. Four Seasons Centre.
A double dose of Toronto on the big screen
2Two acclaimed local productions hit the Carlton Cinema this week. Joyce Wong’s Scarborough-set comedy Wexford Plaza (to December 7), about the weird journey of a strip-mall security guard and her deadbeat lover. The cinema also offers up Daniel Warth’s Dim the Fluorescents (December 8 to 11), winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, which follows two struggling young creatives as they try to turn a corporate training seminar into a theatrical spectacle. $10. Carlton Cinema.
A beautifully macabre Guillermo del Toro film
3It’s been a good year for Guillermo del Toro. The director’s bizarre memorabilia collection At Home With Monsters has taken over a wing of the AGO; his team is in talks to set up a film studio in Hamilton; and his latest locally shot film, The Shape of Water, won a warm reception at TIFF and the top prize in Venice. Set during the Cold War, the wistful fairy tale is an unlikely love story between a lonely laboratory janitor (Sally Hawkins) and a mysterious amphibious creature (Doug Jones). Cinematically stunning and quietly moving, it’s a surefire awards-season contender. Friday, December 8.
A brewery-born tale of Neverland
4Bad Hats Theatre’s plucky little adaptation of Peter Pan, staged in various local breweries, took flight last December and scooped up a bunch of Dora Awards. The show finds a more felicitous roost this holiday season as part of Soulpepper’s Family Festival. Featuring a talented young cast and directed by Shaw Festival alum Severn Thompson, the charming production (for ages three and up) strips down J. M. Barrie’s Neverland classic, but adds a lively folk score and plenty of inventive touches. Bring along the kids—and your imagination. Friday, December 8 to Sunday, December 31. From $25. Young Centre for the Performing Arts.
A sombre band’s rowdy rock show
5The National’s new album, Sleep Well Beast, is indie rock’s Manchester by the Sea—if you survive the devastating sadness, you’ll discover a masterpiece. In a languid baritone, front man Matt Berninger croons about classic downer National material (e.g., the claustrophobia of middle age), but it’s presented in a looser, wilder way on the new record, with fluttering electronic beats, untamed guitars and moments when Berninger even seems to have fun. Onstage, the band unpredictably translate their gloomy tunes into a boisterous rock-and-roll performance. Saturday, December 9. $67.39–$107.39. Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
An interactive one-man show
6Partly scripted, partly improvised and fully unpredictable, Peter Michael Marino’s solo comedy show Show Up is based off the joys, tragedies and stories of its audience. Marino uses audience suggestion to craft a new play every night, before wrapping with a boisterous party. This Toronto premiere follows a successful run at New York City’s Improv Fest. Saturday, December 9 and Sunday, December 10. $20. Social Capital.
A Seussian rallying cry
7The Lorax, Dr. Seuss’s all-too-relevant fable of rampant capitalism’s toll on the environment, comes bouncing across the pond in a dazzling, much-praised production from London’s Old Vic. The new family musical brings to buoyant life the good doctor’s 1971 eco-classic about the Onceler, a greedy entrepreneur who puts profit above sustainability and fails to heed the warnings of the lovably grumpy Lorax, who “speaks for the trees.” Expect clever stagecraft, delightful puppets and witty, Seussian songs by Charlie Fink, the former front man of British indie band Noah and the Whale. Saturday, December 9 to Sunday, January 21. $69–$95. Royal Alexandra Theatre.
A rule-breaking John Waters retrospective
8Follow John Waters’ unlikely transition from Baltimore-based provocateur to Broadway-fêted American icon at the Royal Cinema’s This Filthy John Waters Retrospective. The six-film series includes titles from both Waters’ underground and mainstream eras, including Cry Baby with a live burlesque performance and Polyester with authentic “Odorama” cards. Thursday, December 7 to Sunday, December 10. $12. The Royal Cinema.
An electro Messiah
9If Handel had lived in the EDM era, he might have composed something like Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah. The hour-long show turns the masterpiece into a shoegaze spectacle, featuring four soloists, a choir, a guitar, a DJ and electronic sounds like atmospheric synths. Monday, December 4 to Wednesday, December 6. $20–$25. Drake Hotel.
A deep dive into Canada’s oceans
10Canada has pledged to permanently safeguard 10 per cent of its ocean by 2020. At Canada’s Oceans: Towards 2020, free-diver Mandy Rae Krack and filmmaker Alexandra Cousteau (yes, Jacques’ granddaughter) discuss that goal and their experiences as leaders in marine protection. Afterwards, a symposium of scientists, storytellers, government leaders and Indigenous leaders will share their perspective on sustaining the oceanic ecosystem. Monday, December 4 and Tuesday, December 5. $36. Royal Ontario Museum.