A Willy Wonka musical, a Scandinavian festival and nine other things to see, hear and do in Toronto this week
A Willy Wonka sing-along
1Toronto is getting a golden ticket to Roald Dahl’s kids’ classic. This splashy musical version of the beloved novel, in which poor boy Charlie Bucket takes a spellbinding tour of mysterious candy man Willy Wonka’s magical factory, had its stage debut on Broadway last year. Now, the Oompa Loompas are making their way to Canada for a show that mixes new music by Hairspray songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman with memorable tunes from the beloved 1971 movie. Opens Tuesday, November 20. $69–$175. Princess of Wales Theatre.
A striking portrait series
2Best known for his stark, large-scale portraits of youth and marginalized people, renowned American photographer Dawoud Bey captures the faces that define communities across the U.S. His upcoming solo exhibition, Places in History, is a career-spanning retrospective that showcases his early days documenting the streets of Harlem in the mid-’70s, where his parents met, and his return to the neighbourhood some 40 years later to capture the radical changes to the cityscape. His most recent work reimagines the movement of slaves through the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada and highlights his surreal ability to make any subject deeply personal. Saturday, November 24 to Saturday, December 22. Free. Stephen Bulger Gallery.
A spirited pop-up
3Staffed by some of the city’s top bartenders (all in ugly sweaters), the Miracle on Queen Street pop-up, hosted by Civil Liberties, will be serving up festive cocktails in kitschy glassware (think those reindeer mugs from Christmas Vacation) for the next few weeks. The drinks menu features concoctions like the Bad Santa, a hot milk punch; Jingle Bells Nog, a take on the most divisive of festive drinks; and, in honour of everyone’s favourite Christmas classic, a rum-filled Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r. There’s also a “nice” shot (rum, peppermint tea, bourbon) and a “naughty” one (straight up bourbon with a dash of cinnamon), depending on which list you’re on. And, because it’s better to give than to receive, $1 from each drink will go to Nellie’s Women’s Shelter. Friday, November 23 to Wednesday, December 26. 251 Queen St. W.
A sprawling John Butler acoustic set
4A man of many musical talents, John Butler has an unusual repertoire when it comes to instruments. He has been known to perform with harmonicas, banjos, ukuleles and, most famously, his custom-made 11-string acoustic guitar. It’s no surprise that his versatility as a soloist transfers over to his band, the John Butler Trio. Their unclassifiable sound—a buffet-style spread of rock, reggae, Celtic and bluegrass—is best heard live, where Butler’s truly innovative instrumentation shines brightest. With the September release of Home—the band’s first album in nearly five years—you can expect to hear new synth-infused tracks alongside Butler’s sprawling acoustic staples. Sunday, November 25. $66–$197. Danforth Music Hall.
An Anthropocene artists’ talk
5As one of the most talked about exhibits of the year, the AGO is bringing in the artists behind Athropocene for a discussion about this unprecedented moment in environmental history. Filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier will join renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky on stage to share stories about their journeys to some of the most remote places on the planet. Wednesday, November 21. $17. Art Gallery of Ontario.
A dystopian drama
6In a post-apocalyptic world torn apart by racial warfare, a man and woman struggle to gain entry to a gated Chinese utopia, Rich-Man Hill. As they perform a series of increasingly disturbing tests to prove their worthiness, they start to question the consequences of conforming to the community’s unifying ideal. A provocative new play by emerging Chinese-Canadian troupe Silk Bath Collective, Yellow Rabbit pays homage to the dystopias of The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale, asking what humans are willing to sacrifice to belong. Performances are in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, with surtitles. Opens Friday, November 23. $25. Young Centre for the Performing Arts.
Opera’s essential artist
7Critics aren’t stingy with superlatives when it comes to Sondra Radvanovsky. The soprano’s heroic, tender take on the druid high priestess Norma was the type of performance that will be talked about for generations, and her heart-rending portrayal of Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s Tudor drama earned her the label “essential artist” from the New York Times. For her upcoming recital, Radvanovsky puts stage regality aside, interspersing a sumptuous and challenging vocal program with personal anecdotes. Joined by pianist Anthony Manoli, she’ll reprise some of the most iconic roles from her decades-long career, showcasing her magical ability to bring the cardboard characters of 19th-century melodrama to life. Saturday, November 24. $55–$125. Koerner Hall.
The return of Toronto’s annual holiday party
8Toronto’s biggest holiday party returns to light up Nathan Phillips Square with an evening of live music, skating and fireworks. This year’s Cavalcade of Lights features performances by a handful of Canadian artists, including Polaris Prize nominee Tanika Charles, country and soul singer Tami Nelson and circus troupe Illuminair. Saturday, November 24. Free. Nathan Phillips Square.
A career-spanning concert
9Rufus Wainwright’s eponymous debut album, released in 1998, garnered critical praise and a Juno award, launching him into a multi-faceted career. Over the past two decades, much has happened to the Montreal-bred warbler: his Judy Garland tribute at Carnegie Hall, an experimental Shakespeare album and, most recently, the world premiere of his second opera, Hadrian. For his All These Poses Tour, Wainwright celebrates a 20-year career by going back to his roots, drawing heavily from his ’98 debut and its 2001 follow-up, Poses. In true experimental Wainwright fashion, he’ll also take a brief detour to perform a Donald Trump rap. Thursday, November 22. $58–$91. Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
A festival of Nordic culture
10Sweden gifted us with Abba, Denmark gave us Lego and we can thank Finland for Angry Birds. Norden: The Festival of Cool celebrates all that Scandinavia has to offer the world. Highlights include a discussion about Nordic food by Noma co-founder Claus Meyer, an Abba skating party, art installations by Danish artist Anders Herwald Ruhwald and a holiday pop-up market. Saturday, November 24 to Sunday, December 2. Free. Harbourfront Centre.
A boozy sock exchange
11Monday marks the beginning of Socks for Bubbly, a week-long event that lets people trade clothing for champers. Bring in a pair of brand-new warm socks to participating bars and restaurants (Bar Begonia, Bar Raval and La Banane, to name a few) and get a free glass of bubbly to help keep needy feet toasty this winter. Monday, November 19 to Sunday, November 25. Various locations.