What to see, do, hear and read in Toronto this December

What to see, do, hear and read in Toronto this December

Including a Broadway musical about Broadway musicals, an epic production by a Toronto cookie baron and a comedy duo’s playful joust

Light Up the Dark, a radiant celebration of Islamic art and culture at the Aga Khan Museum
Photo by Shafiq Shamji
A radiant celebration of Islamic art and culture

1 With its angular lines and stark white exterior, the Aga Khan Museum is an attention-grabbing structure on its own. But it’s set to become a canvas, with projections designed by OCAD University students and graduates lighting up the building’s exterior as part of the night-time art fair Light Up the Dark. Visitors can also take in pop-up performances and sample snacks from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. December 27 to 29, The Aga Khan Museum

A long-time comedy duo’s playful joust

2 Given their recent starring roles in the bingeable and beloved comedy series Only Murders in the Building, just about everyone should have an idea of what veteran comics Steve Martin and Martin Short look like today. Still, the title of the duo’s comedy tour, You Won’t Believe What They Look Like Today!, gives audiences a sense of what this self-aware buddy-roast show is all about: two dudes sitting down, live-podcast style, to poke fun at Hollywood, celebrity and, most of all, each other. Short, who was born and raised in Hamilton, may also have some choice things to say about the GTA—but there’s only one way to find out. December 1 and 2, Meridian Hall

Everyone I Know Is Sick, an AGO exhibition on illness, disability and exclusion
Kurt Weston, Losing the Light (2023), commissioned by Visual AIDS
An exhibition about illness, disability and exclusion

3 Everyone I Know Is Sick could be a fitting description of a fall Covid wave, and that’s wholly intentional. This new AGO exhibition presented by Visual AIDS, a New York–based arts organization dedicated to raising AIDS awareness, explores what it means to be sick and disabled in an age of overlapping pandemics. It features a program of six specially commissioned videos by eight artists from around the world, including Beau Gomez (Canada/Philippines), Dorothy Cheung (Hong Kong) and Kurt Weston (US), giving a voice to people who are so often pushed to the margins. December 1, AGO Jackman Hall

Haunting stories about the lives of women

4 From the grey skies of Ireland come 15 dark tales about women who are impoverished in life and spirit, fighting to make the best of their time on earth. The debut of Irish writer—and former chef—Louise Kennedy, The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac, spins gothic tales of violence, betrayal, guilt and self-destruction. Still, moments of brightness manage to shine through the gloom as the women try to eke out some good in their lives and the wider world—but memories of the Troubles and the legacy of colonialism are never far away. Out December 5

Angels in America by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Photo by Michael Cooper
An epic two-part production by a Toronto cookie baron

5 The only thing better than a Tony Award–winning play is two Tony Award–winning plays in one. Throw in a Pulitzer and you have Angels in America, the two-part masterpiece of American playwright Tony Kushner. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is staging a production of both parts of the AIDS-crisis drama, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. In a collision of worlds, it’s produced by Craig Pike of Craig’s Cookies fame. November 23 to December 17, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

A posthumous collection from a bright talent

6 Before his untimely death in 2020, Anthony Veasna So was poised to be one of the decade’s breakout authors. At just 28, he’d scored a six-figure deal for two books, the first of which, Afterparties, became a bestseller when it was released in 2021. Other pieces, which focused on the author’s Cambodian-­American identity, relationships and the art of writing, appeared in the New Yorker and n+1. Three years after his death, these essays and short stories have been collected in a new book, Songs on Endless Repeat. Out December 5

Doja Cat at Scotiabank Arena
Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images
A captivating performance from a chameleonic pop star

7 Grammy Award–winning rapper, pop-star and avant-garde fashionista Doja Cat is coming to Toronto on the only Canadian stop of her 24-show tour. Her fourth studio album, Scarlet, is a response to the attention—and criticism—she’s received for her rapping on previous albums and extreme red-­carpet aesthetics (like sporting red contact lenses), and it dials the vibe back to classic hip-hop and R&B. The star’s latest onstage persona—combined with an opening performance by breakout rapper Ice Spice—is sure to make for a memorable show. December 11, Scotiabank Arena

A holiday classic gets the concert treatment

8 Occupying a hallowed space in the film world alongside modern classics such as Die Hard and Love Actually, 1990s kid-versus-­robbers caper Home Alone is one of those Hollywood hits that doubles as a Christmas movie­—and it has the sound­track to match. Featuring canonical tunes like “Carol of the Bells” and “O Holy Night” alongside original tracks like “Somewhere in My Memory” and “Follow That Kid!,” the film’s Grammy-nominated score by John Williams is a classic in its own right. This month, the TSO performs the score to a screening of the movie at Roy Thomson Hall. It’s the perfect holiday outing for hijinks-­loving kids and nostalgic millennials alike. December 7 to 9, Roy Thomson Hall

A glitzy showbiz musical sashays into town

9 After several brutal years for live theatre, a band of performers gathers to put on a big show, celebrating the return of good times and hopes of a brighter future. It could be the story of the past three years, but it’s also the plot of the 1980s Broadway hit 42nd Street. Set at the end of the Great Depression, it follows a Broadway troupe as they return to performing after a long hiatus. The story bounces between the troupe’s onstage glories and their backstage dramas, which involve an aging star struggling to recapture the spotlight and a young ingénue who catches her big break. This new production by UK-based director Jonathan Church brings the play-within-a-play to Toronto this month. Here, Church tells us how the team mixed 1930s materials with modern tech to bring the musical’s onstage and behind-the-curtain settings to life. December 9 to January 21, 2024, Princess of Wales Theatre

42nd Street at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
An explosion of glitter and gold marks the end of Act I along with the dance sequence “We’re in the Money”—a theme that’s complemented by the coins that decorate the stage’s backdrop. In the story, the troupe is playing an out-of-town show as they prepare for their Broadway debut. The scene begins with a group of street urchins who find a coin and do a celebratory dance, which transitions into the gilded number pictured here. Photo by John Persson

1. Set designer Rob Jones studied 1930s materials to create this beautifully crafted cloth backdrop, which is front- and back-lit.

2. While it may look like part of the stage, this custom proscenium is also part of the show. Its lights turn off when the cast is rehearsing and light up during performances, with colours that change according to the mood of the song.

3. Oversized coins form platforms for the dancers to tap on. They’re carried onstage by the ensemble.

4. The play follows a young ingénue, Peggy Sawyer, who moves to New York and gets her big break when she accidentally injures diva Dorothy Brock and takes her place in the show.

5. Designer Rob Jones found the materials for these glittery costumes at British fabric markets.

6. Leading character Billy Lawlor (Sam Lips) has mics on his shoes so the ensemble can follow his footsteps.

7. The tap shoes are made from a precise mixture of metal taps and rubber, which is tweaked over the show’s previews to maximize the acoustics and shoe grip.

8. The floor is made of tough laminate, which took a lot of trial and error to perfect. One experimental material was so slippery that the dancers couldn’t stay on their feet. “It was 42nd Street on ice,” says Church.

9. Art deco coins adorn the base of the backdrop.

10. Unlike a 1930s stage, this set is packed with thousands of LED lights. Their glow provides an illusion of dimension and richness that echoes the show’s optimism.