Chronicling a Love Affair with Canadian Theatre

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The 2022 OntarioStage Awards

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

I’m not a major theatre critic, but I do play one on this website.

2022 marked the first year I made a serious attempt at reviewing all the plays I see, something I had been doing in a haphazard fashion during my years as a travel writer and guidebook author.

What I envisioned as a fun avocation and a sort of aide memoire turned into something very much resembling a job. It ain’t as easy as it looks and the practice gave me an abiding respect for those who do it professionally, even those with whom I tend to viscerally disagree.

Of course, I didn’t see every play presented in Ontario in 2022. As an American, my time in Canada is limited, but I saw what I could. Looking back over the nearly 50 Canadian plays I saw, I began picking favourites. Here then are the OntarioStage Awards.

Best Musical: Chicago at the Stratford Festival
No contest here, really. Donna Feore is quite simply a genius.
Runner up: White Christmas at the Shaw Festival. A quantum leap forward for Shaw in this category.

Best Actress in a Musical: Jennifer Rider-Shaw and Chelsea Preston (Tie), Chicago at Stratford
I agonized over which one of these two protean performers should get the nod here and eventually gave up.
Runner up: Alexis Gordon, White Christmas at the Shaw Festival.

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical: Faye Tozer, Singin’ in the Rain, at Mirvish
I didn’t care all that much for the show, but Tozer’s turn as the vocally-challenged silent film star Lina Lamont was a joy.
Runner up: Sandra Caldwell, Chicago.

Best Actor in a Musical: Izad Etemadi, Elf, the Musical at the Grand Theatre
Terrific from start to finish.
Runner up: Dan Chameroy, Chicago

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical: Steve Ross, Chicago
By turns hilarious and heart-rending. Ross is one of the best.

Best Director of a Musical: Donna Feore, Chicago
Again, no contest.

Best Choreographer: Donna Feore, Chicago
Did I mention that Donna Feore is a genius?

Best Set for a Musical: Michael Gianfrancesco, Chicago

Best Lighting for a Musical: Michael Walton, Chicago

Best Costumes for a Musical: Dana Osborne, Chicago

Best Play: Uncle Vanya at Crow’s Theatre, Toronto
Since most of the plays I see are at the big “festivals” (Shaw, Stratford, Blyth, etc.), which tend to be heavy on revivals, this category is, perforce, a mix of revivals and new plays. That said, director Chris Abraham’s Vanya was, far and away, the best rendition of the play I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a bunch.
Runner up: Gem of the Ocean at Shaw.

Best New Play: 1939 at Stratford
The sample here was vanishingly small for reasons already stated, so this category is perhaps more pointless than most, but I wanted to give a nod to this inventive and touching treatment of the horrors visited on indigenous peoples by Canada’s residential school system.

Best Actress in a Play: Fiona Mongillo, Girls & Boys at Here For Now Theatre
Her quietly devastating monologue in Girls & Boys still gives me chills.
Runner up: Monica Parks in Gem of the Ocean at Shaw

Best Supporting Actress in a Play: Bahia Watson, Uncle Vanya
Watson was a smashing Sonya.
Runner up: Julia Course, The Importance of Being Earnest at Shaw

Best Actor in a Play: Tom Rooney, Uncle Vanya
Rooney ranks right up there with Plummer, Bedford, and the rest. He should be doing Richard II at Stratford next season.
Runners up: Colm Feore in Richard III at Stratford and Randy Hughson in The Drawer Boy at the Blyth Festival.

Best Supporting Actor in a Play: Rylan Wilkie, All’s Well That Ends Well at Stratford
Wilkie established himself as one of the best actors in the Stratford company with this performance.
Runners up: Mike Shara in 1939 and Steven Sutcliffe in multiple roles in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Mirvish in Toronto.

Best Ensemble: The cast of Everybody at Shaw
If only because the role assignments of six of the characters changed at each performance. I saw it three times and each rendition was compelling.

The “Chameleon” Award: Dan Chameroy, Chicago and Peter’s Final Flight
This award is intended for the performer, male or female, who effects the most startling transformation in two roles in two or more plays. I anticipated that it would go to an actor in two shows at one of the repertory companies, but Chameroy gets it with his renditions of the suave Billy Flynn in Chicago at Stratford and the over-the-top pantomime dame, Plumbum, in Ross Petty’s last panto in Toronto.

Best Director of a Play: Chris Abraham, Uncle Vanya
Runner up: Scott Wentworth, All’s Well That Ends Well at Stratford

Best Sets for a Play: Duncan Henderson and Nina Dunn, The Shark Is Broken at Mirvish
As frequently happens, I was in a minority here. I found Henderson’s cutaway set and Dunn’s video projections absolutely smashing.
Runner up: Gillian Gallow, The Importance of Being Earnest at Shaw

Best Costumes for a Play: Christina Poddubiuk, The Importance of Being Earnest

Best Lighting for a Play: Kimberly Purtell, Uncle Vanya

As always, your mileage may differ.

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