Chronicling a Love Affair with Canadian Theatre

The 2023 OntarioStage Awards

What they lack in prestige, they more than make up for in pointlessness.™

Once more unto the breach with the annual awards compilation voted “Easiest to Ignore” by the Canadian theatre establishment.

The usual caveats apply: As an American, my time in Canada is limited thanks to Immigration Canada’s ongoing efforts to keep out the riffraff, but I see as much as I can, mostly during the summer season, mostly at the Festivals of southwestern Ontario. So these awards are perforce selective and highly subjective. If one or more of the categories you are used to seeing in the lists of winners for the Doras or Tonys is missing, sue me.

Best Musical: Gypsy at the Shaw Festival
No contest here, really. And no real runners up.

Best Actress in a Musical: Kate Hennig, Gypsy
Is there anything this woman can’t do?

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical: Jennifer Rider-Shaw, Spamalot at the Stratford Festival
I’m stretching a point here. The Lady of the Lake is properly considered a leading role, but I could not let Rider-Shaw’s splendid turn go unrecognized and relegating her to runner up status behind Hennig seemed demeaning.

Best Actor in a Musical: Tyler Check, Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story at Drayton
Check’s turn as Buddy Holly was electrifying. Excellent work is being done in Drayton’s musicals. Am I the only one who notices?

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical: Lee Seigel, Rent at Stratford

Rent was not one of my favorites, but Seigel’s contribution was indelible.

Best Director of a Musical: Jay Turvey, Gypsy

Again, no contest.

Best Choreographer: Ginny Sermonia, Gypsy

Best Set for a Musical: Cory Sincennes, Gypsy

Best Costumes for a Musical: Cory Sincennes, Gypsy
All these “Bests” in the musical category come with an asterisk. There really wasn’t a heck of a lot of competition in the musicals I saw this season.

Best Play: The Apple Cart at the Shaw Festival

I would have loved to see Tom Rooney as Richard II at Stratford; he deserved the role. But his turn as another English king, one made up by Bernard Shaw, in this surprisingly fresh political satire, was a good substitute. The Apple Cart deserves to be better known.
Runner up: Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford

Best New Play: Casey and Diana at Stratford

A beautiful and heart-breaking imagining of a real-life incident.
Runners up: The Master Plan at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto; The Gig at Theatre Aquarius, Hamilton.
I found this choice difficult. There was more than the usual quota of new plays this season.

Best Actress in a Play: Claire Coulter, Queen Maeve, Here For Now Theatre
The brave and bravura performance by this octogenarian Canadian theatre legend is the perfect example of why it is wise to seek out Here For Now’s offerings.
Runners up: Maeve Beaty, Much Ado About Nothing; Philippa Domville, The Master Plan, Crow’s Theatre.

Best Actor in a Play: Sean Arbuckle, Casey and Diana
Perhaps the best work Arbuckle has done at Stratford and he’s done a lot of great work.
Runners up: Graham Abbey in Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford; Tom Rooney, The Apple Cart.

Best Supporting Actress in a Play: Sochi Fried, The Apple Cart
Fried made an electrifying debut at Shaw as Orinthia, mistress to Tom Rooney’s King Magnus.
Runner up: Laura Condlln, Casey and Diana.

Best Supporting Actor in a Play: Neil Barclay in The Gig at Aquarius Theatre
Barclay’s performance, for those familiar only with his work at Shaw, was revelatory.

Best Ensemble: The cast of the Donnelly Trilogy at the Blyth Festival
The Blyth Festival’s mounting of James Reaney’s famed trilogy, abridged, adapted, and directed by Blyth artistic director Gil Garratt, would have been noteworthy in and of itself, but the magnificent cast Garratt assembled made it one of the highlights of 2023. The three plays were Sticks and Stones, The St. Nicholas Hotel, and Handcuffs.

The “Chameleon” Award: Aaron Krohn, Spamalot
This award is intended for the performer, male or female, who effects the most startling transformation in two roles in two or more plays. This year, Aaron Krohn manages to snag the honor by playing four (or was it five?) roles in a single show – Spamalot – and he was unrecognizable in the three (or was it four?) minor roles.

Best Director of a Play: Ravi Jain, Mahabharata at Shaw

Jain’s epic staging of the Indian classic in two parts and three main sections was nothing short of brilliant.
Runner up: Sam White, Wedding Band at Stratford.

Best Sets for a Play: Anahita Dehbonehie, The Amen Corner at Shaw

This revolving set was itself a major character in Shaw’s splendid revival of James Baldwin’s forgotten masterpiece.

Best Costumes for a Play: Judith Bowden, The Apple Cart
Bowden’s costumes were deceptively simple, but ever so witty and her beautifully tailored outfit for Orinthia, the king’s mistress, was smashing.

As always, your mileage may differ.

For the 2022 awards, CLICK HERE.

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