Toronto’s Live Theatre Performances for the Holidays
By Arienne Parzei
My favourite moment of any live theatrical performance is just before the curtain rises. As people rush to get into their seats, the orchestra comes together one instrument at a time. The lights slowly dim and a hush drifts across the audience, signaling the start of the show. Then the conductor makes his way to his podium and with a swift movement of his arms the performance begins. In that moment, I sit with excited anticipation for the visual spectacle that’s to come.
Since I was a child, attending the National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker in Toronto has been a family holiday tradition. Accompanied by the timeless sounds of Tchaikovsky’s soundtrack, it best encapsulates the feelings and spirit of the season; magical, upbeat, and dreamy.
The company has performed the current incarnation of the widely popular story since 1995, when the artistic director at the time, James Kudelka, revamped the Russian classic with a more comical and touching approach. There’s a dancing horse, mischievous little mice, and Cannon Dolls played by Canadian celebrities. Oh, and we can’t forget the tutus!
The two-hour performance is one of the best in the world. It’s a dazzling stage performance combining dancers from the company as well as The National Ballet School of Canada, where the students get to cut their performing chops for the first time in front of a large audience.
If ballet isn’t your thing, Toronto has many other performances on stage specifically for the holiday season. Farcical family-theatre producer, Ross Petty, puts on his musical versions of classic fairy tales at the Elgin Theatre. But there’s a twist. Shows are performed in the traditional English pantomime style; heavy on the comedy, audience participation, and a man dressed as a woman, a role Petty himself steps into year after year.
Keeping with the comedic theme, The Second City comedy club has a brand new show for the holidays called The Second City Holiday Spectacular (Miracles Not Included) that the adult crowd will definitely get a laugh or two out of. It’s a cheeky new collection of original sketches, songs, and improvisations that celebrate and satirize all the things that make the holiday season special — from office gift exchanges and awkward family reunions to overworked elves.
Toronto’s musical theatre scene is one of the best in the world; regularly showcasing new performances before they make their Broadway debut. This year, just in time for the holidays, The Ed Mirvish Theatre is premiering Aladdin. Based on the Disney movie, it’s produced by the team who brought us the stage musicals of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. The show promises extravagant costumes and sets, memorable characters and songs, and a timeless story for the whole family to enjoy.