01 January 2015
It’s officially 2015. Instead of panicking because that means we’re closer to 2030 than 2000 and you’re just not ready for that, let’s celebrate all the great things that made last year’s pretty tough 365 days so much better.
This is home base for our entire 2014 Awards Season.
First there were the Nominees:
This year we featured 66 exclusive interviews with our nominees across all three branches of awards (TV, Film and Theatre).
Click Here to check out this year’s Interview Series.
On March 30th we threw a big party in Toronto, because who doesn’t love a big party?
Our presenters (last year’s winners), nominees and guests got their picture taken by Nick Pigeau Photography in front of our branded media wall, ate cupcakes and sushi provided by The Cupcake Shoppe and New Generation, danced to live music from our signature band Hand-Picked Favourites and left the building with gift bags filled with goodies from Giftagram, Steamwhistle Brewery, Bite-Size Jewelry, Nikki Charles Designs and more.
Click Here to view more photos from the awards party at The Great Hall in Toronto.
And now, finally, it’s time to announce all of this year’s winners. The links to each individual set of awards are below followed by a full list of winners.
Congratulations to all our nominees & winners and thanks for an entertaining year!
THE FULL LIST:
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Ty Burrell (The Skeleton Twins)
We’ve been huge Ty Burrell fans since long before Modern Family but this is the first time we’ve seen him get to stretch his dramatic muscles. A beautiful, uncomfortable, funny and tragic performance. More please!
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Melanie Lynskey (Happy Christmas)
One of the great naturalistic actresses of her generation, in Joe Swanberg’s mumblecore triumph Happy Christmas the amazing Melanie Lynskey may have delivered her best performance yet.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
JK Simmons (Whiplash)
This was probably the year’s strongest category, full of many of our favourite actors ever. But it was also the only category that was a 100% no questions asked slam dunk for our chosen winner. We didn’t even reconsider after he won the Oscar (we really don’t like giving another award to the Oscar winner, it feels redundant, but sometimes it’s the only move). This performance was a masterpiece and arguing with it is futile.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
Rene Russo (Nightcrawler)
Nightcrawler in general got short shrift during awards season this year (poor Gyllenhaal was all but completely forgotten despite delivering a career-best performance) but it was Rene Russo’s devastating turn that for us highlighted that incredible film and in particular deserved a ton more recognition. This is us recognizing her.
Best Actor in a Comedy
Ben Schnetzer (Pride)
Mark our words, Ben Schnetzer is going to be a huge star. This 25-year-old New Yorker (whom we had no idea was American after standout turns as a German in The Book Thief and a Brit in Pride) is captivating and chameleonic. His intelligent, funny and deeply moving performance in one of our favourite films of the year perfectly demonstrated his immeasurable presence.
Best Actress in a Comedy
Leslie Mann (The Other Woman)
We feel like we’ve been waiting for The Other Woman for over a decade. We suspect that maybe Leslie Mann has been as well. After years of playing second fiddle pretty girls, she finally got to really fly in this movie, mixing a few honestly heartbreaking moments in with the sort of comedic performance that makes you think of her famous husband as the plus one.
Best Actor in a Drama
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Another Oscar winner we just couldn’t argue with (there’s a third coming up; while the nominations were nonsense this year a lot of the winners were spot-on). Eddie Redmayne has been a favourite for years and we’re so thrilled to see him become one of the biggest stars in the world. Stephen Hawking may be an easy awards bait role but the execution of the role was clearly not easy at all and it was all the silent emotive moments many actors would have glossed over that made us true believers in Eddie’s genius performance (pun absolutely intended).
Best Actress in a Drama
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
This was a great year for many of our favourite supporting actors and lesser-known celebrities really making a name for themselves on film. Another great example is Rosamund Pike who has always flourished in charming, subtle films like Barney’s Version but never quite hit mainstream fame. Then she got Gone. It was perfect casting, a character that allowed Rosamund to wield those perfect cheekbones and practiced charm as weapons, frosting over her usual kind vulnerability in the sort of ruthless performance that will never let us sleep soundly again.
Into the Woods
Considering how much stunt casting was in this group, there was shockingly no weak link. In fact, the stunt casting added to the fun (and, in Meryl’s case, the emotional gravitas, if not the vocals). Anchored by a beautifully lived-in performance from Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife with strong turns by Anna Kendrick, Lilla Crawford & James Corden and highlighted by epic scene thief Chris Pine, this group fired on all cylinders.
Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)
I mean, honestly. Remember when people got all excited about one long continuous shot that lasted a few minutes? Iñárritu seamlessly pulled that off for his Entire Movie. But what was really special about the brazen Birdman directorial style was that it wasn’t just visual trickery for the sake of film nerd prestige- everything worked on a story level; everything fit together tonally; every single visual choice had a purpose beyond looking cool and that’s what makes a directorially bold film actually worth watching.
Best Screenplay: Comedy
Tom Gormican (That Awkward Moment)
You likely just rolled your eyes but we’re willing to bet you didn’t actually see That Awkward Moment, so you don’t know what you’re talking about. This terribly marketed rom-com sported a hilarious and charming script that refused to trade character and relationships for an easy laugh. If only the right people had seen it! Alas, the studio misread the appropriate target audience and fired all their promotional bullets in entirely the wrong direction. Give this film a shot. If you even love it half as much as we did, you’ll still really really love it.
Best Screenplay: Drama
Joon-ho Bong & Kelly Masterson (Snowpiercer)
The sheer imagination of this film was mind-boggling. Insightful, ambitious and executed with incredible precision, Snowpiercer was the sort of marriage of visual art and genre-smashing storytelling panache that reminds us why film is such a valuable medium. It must be seen to be believed.
Performer of the Year
The intensely prolific Anna Kendrick had an amazing year in 2014, starring in two musicals (the huge Into the Woods and the wonderful Last Five Years) and four indies. Of the 110 films ranked in our My Cinematic 2014 feature, three Anna Kendrick projects ranked in the top 15, two of them in the top 5! This is just one of those trains you have to be on. If you’re not on yet, there’s something wrong with you because Anna is an objective delight.
Justin Lader (The One I Love)
There is exactly one feature length credit on Justin Lader’s IMDB page. That that one credit was one of the most startlingly beautiful films of the entire year is a huge testament to his creativity and talent. Combining careful plotting with intense character development, Justin redefined the role of screenwriter for improvised filmmaking and created one of the most inventive and metaphorically rich pieces of storytelling on screen in 2014. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
The film industry lost a ton of remarkable artists in 2014 but no loss hit our culture in the heart quite like the suicide of Robin Williams. The legendary actor and comedian’s death was sudden and heart-wrenching, resulting in an immediate outpouring of grief and gratitude as well as a much-needed discussion about mental illness. This honorary award is our insufficient tribute to the man who was Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Armand Goldman & Sean Maguire and who taught us to Seize the Day. Thank you, Robin; we ain’t never had a friend like you.
The Mindy Project
By getting Danny and Mindy together mid-season two and putting them together long-term by season’s end, this most cheerful of auteur-driven passion projects stepped into territory relatively unexplored by the standard network rom-com. It could not be working better, particularly in the new relationship territory covered by 2014.
The black humour and perfect ensemble are the keys to this fresh and riveting anthology adaptation of the Coen brothers movie. Despite their superficial differences, a lot of the prestige dramas on cable were starting to hit overly familiar notes. Fargo took us by surprise and that’s really hard to do in this particular television landscape.
Best Reality Series
This award likely would have gone to Survivor if they only did one season a year because “Cagayan” was a triumph. But “San Juan del Sur” was so atrocious that it knocked the stalwart series down a peg. In a less competitive field, Survivor still might have prevailed, but its sillier but more complex CBS cousin just happened to offer up its greatest season in a decade so the contest, ultimately, wasn’t even close. A near-perfect cast, strong twists and fresh comps made for a legendary summer.
Best New Series
We’re in love with HBO’s comedy lineup, in no small part because of this wackadoo treasure about app developers in Silicon Valley. From late genius Christopher Evan Welch as a megalomaniacal investor to Zach Woods as a drippy try-hard business man (we’re so obsessed with Zach Woods in general) to Martin Starr’s deadpan Satanist, Silicon Valley has one of the most fun casts of characters on TV. Extra points for spot-on faux-Google Hooli.
Best Canceled Series
Angy. So Angry! The cancellation of Selfie is everything that is wrong with network television. While the cancellation of the other shows on this list hurt our hearts because they were personal favourites, Selfie is a whole other matter. It was grossly mishandled in a way that reveals a criminal inability to see the big picture. I’m sure there’s a “Building an Audience in the Digital Age” handbook somewhere that told the ABC executives that their early release strategy would work but if they’d actually watched the show, if they had any taste, any eye for quality storytelling, they would have seen that Selfie was a show that would start slow and build in momentum as the characters grew together and the off-the-charts chemistry between John Cho and Karen Gillan could really shine. A big, infuriating waste that is exactly the reason why cable is winning. For the love of god, skate to where the puck is going to be!
“Piano Man” by Anthony Morigerato (So You Think You Can Dance)
Contemporary contemporary contemporary- that’s always been the artistic bread and butter of TV’s best dance show. Then Anthony Morigerato choreographed this. A gorgeous, atmospheric, story-driven, technically demanding, fantastically musical tap duet featuring the two best tappers the show has ever had. Zack and Aaron both nailed contemporary when it came across their plate, but we’d like to see a contemporary dancer attempt this. We still can’t get over it.
No contest. Television direction is getting more sophisticated by the minute but nothing is quite as stylistically ambitious as Hannibal.
Best Writing for a Comedy
“Beach House” by Jenni Konner, Lena Dunham & Judd Apatow (Girls)
Girls may be uneven and at times even groan-inducing but when it’s good, it’s brilliant. And it’s never been as good as in this searing portrait of friendships that should have died years ago. There was a moment when we thought Lena Dunham might actually be the voice of her generation; that moment was “Beach House”.
Best Writing for a Drama
“Mizumono” by Steve Lightfoot & Bryan Fuller (Hannibal)
A thrilling finale to what might just be the most expertly crafted show on television, in an all-round sense. It was tense, it was bold, it completely shook the series to its core and sent it spinning into the steepest of cliffhangers. “Bryan Fuller is making motherfucking Television” indeed.
Best Ensemble in a Comedy
We still cringe when we think about how great this ensemble was and the fact that they were employed so very very briefly. Led by three impeccable leading men, the cast chemistry here was fantastic with everyone capable of carrying the heart of the show just as much as the big laughs.
Best Ensemble in a Drama
The bench depth in this show’s first season was insane and the world-building that facilitated was really what made the show work. The selling point was Billy Bob Thornton but it was Martin Freeman and Allison Tolman who kept us coming back. Then Key & Peele, Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, Oliver Platt, Glenn Howerton, Adam Goldberg- if you’ll excuse the pun, everyone in Fargo was a person of interest.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Troy Gentile (The Goldbergs)
Barry Goldberg is nuts. He’s a pure, grade-A, big brother nincompoop with a deluded self image and severe anger issues. But, because he’s a Goldberg, he’s also a relatable character you really feel for. How they do that, we’ll never know, but we’re pretty sure it has a lot to do with Troy Gentile and his incomparable all-in performance.
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black)
What we love most about Orange is the New Black is the way they deploy their supporting actresses, making them the leading lady of at least one episode and using each new season to explore those who faded to the background the previous year. The result of that in season two was the glorious development of Poussey who shone not just in her own spotlight episode but all season as she quietly struggled to define and maintain her relationship with her best friend Taystee.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
Rupert Friend (Homeland)
If you had asked us in 2013 whether there was a chance Homeland could have any sort of life after Damian Lewis, we would have said absolutely not. Rupert Friend is the reason why we would have been wrong. The detail and subtlety with which he developed Peter Quinn into the show’s new leading man was nothing short of brilliant, which is why he’s the winner of the season’s most competitive category (so competitive that we not only struggled to choose between the five nominees, we’re still fretting about the brilliant actors we had to cut to shorten the list to five; we love you, Matt Czuchry!).
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
Maura Tierney (The Affair)
How amazing is Maura Tierney in The Affair? She has to be just alienating enough that the audience doesn’t hate Dominic West for cheating on her (though, really, who cheats on Maura Tierney?!) but sympathetic enough that we’re really conflicted about it. She’s warm and relatable but also a little spoiled and complacent, both too trusting and suspicious, bitterness hardened and sadness softened and generally just impossibly human. An absolutely brilliant portrait of a woman in an impossible position who, for most of the season, doesn’t even know she’s there.
Best Actor in a Comedy
Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie)
We have a confession to make: not a single one of our staff writers watched Nurse Jackie until this season. It was actually Merritt Wever’s My TV Award-winning turn on New Girl that got us to finally tune in (one of us may or may not have binge-watched all six seasons in like 2 weeks). Oh, what we’ve been missing! Merritt’s brilliant Zoey and Anna Deavere Smith as Gloria Akalitus! Eddie! Thor! But most notably, it’s crazy to us how many seasons we let go by without including the wildly underrated Peter Facinelli in the Best Actor in a Comedy category. All the nominees in this category are killer (and all under-appreciated; not an Emmy nominee among them) but we felt it was well past time Coop got his due.
Best Actress in a Comedy
Minnie Driver (About a Boy)
Especially when it comes to comedy series, we’re suckers for punishment; we have a tendency to fall hard for things that are doomed. Jason Katims’ delightful half hour adaptation of About a Boy is no exception. After two small-order seasons, the heartfelt comedy is likely done for good but we’ll never forget the tenderness and oddball fun of Minnie Driver’s perfect performance as wacky mum Fiona. “You’re my English Patient. And I think you deserve to win all the awards”.
Best Actor in a Drama
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
We have to admit we didn’t know Jeffrey Tambor could do that. We knew he was funny- every Arrested Development fan knows he’s funny- but the emotional depth, the naturalism in a role far outside himself, the dramatic turns, we just didn’t see that coming. Somehow underestimating him made the profound achievement of Transparent all the sweeter.
Best Actress in a Drama
Robin Wright (House of Cards)
If we’re being honest, we wanted to give this to Tatiana Maslany again (it’s not a fair fight- she’s playing 5 regular characters plus a smattering of guest roles!) but we’re trying to avoid a Modern Family situation (seriously, there are So Many good comedies on TV) and are thus shying away from repeat winners, at least in back to back years. So we went with Robin Wright, if only for the sheer agony and calculation of that interview scene.
Best Guest Actor
Hunter Parrish (The Good Wife)
We love Hunter Parrish and it makes us mad that he seems to have caught a severe case of the Bradley Coopers (you know, that thing where the world sees baby blues and a perfect jaw line and immediately thinks “brainless hunk”, thereby managing to overlook a huge talent for the first decade of his career). His short but infamous run on The Good Wife won’t be remembered for his brilliantly tortured performance (the death twist was just too eclipsing), but it should be.
Best Guest Actress
Rhea Perlman (The Mindy Project)
Rhea Perlman as Mrs. Castellano might be the best piece of guest casting since Michael J. Fox first showed up on The Good Wife. Not only is she pitch-perfect comedy-wise but she fits her son Chris Messina to a tee, filling in every single blank the show may have left in its superb leading man.
Best Talk/Variety Host
Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report)
The loss of The Colbert Report is huge. Are we looking forward to getting to know the real Colbert when he takes over his new late night desk? Absolutely (he seems like a cool dude). But “Colbert” was a masterpiece of modern satire who will never be able to be replaced.
Best Reality Host/Judge
Harry Connick Jr (American Idol)
We’ll always be fond of Simon for his sheer icon status and we loved Nicki Minaj for all the wrong reasons but Harry Connick Jr. is the single greatest judge American Idol has ever had. No, we are not exaggerating. He’s funny and charming and great TV (how dreamy are those glasses?) but he’s also tough and uncompromising and, most importantly, he actually knows music. Words like “semi-tone” and “diaphragm” and “syncopation” have Finally replaced “pitchy” and you can actually see the kids improving under his guidance. The panel right now is perfectly balanced like it’s never been before but it’s Harry who is the real revelation.
Best Male Reality Star
Derrick Levasseur (Big Brother)
Four of the five nominees in this category dominated their season and went on to win the grand prize (the fifth is the intensely watchable Spencer Bledsoe who we’re sure will win Survivor at some point, if Lucy ever lets him kick the football). Of those four champion performances, only one was among the best the game’s ever been played. Just like in Big Brother, no one even came close to beating Derrick here.
Best Female Reality Star
Sharleen Joynt (The Bachelor)
We didn’t watch Juan Pablo’s season of The Bachelor. We didn’t like him at all on Des’ season so we just decided to skip him entirely when he was idiotically picked to be the next lead. But we watched the “Women Tell All” and fell madly in love with his feisty frontrunner Sharleen. Her fun tweets and brilliant episode recaps (she’s the only person who loved Nick Viall as much as we did) drove us back to Juan Pablo’s season where we proceeded to watch the whole thing on fast-forward, pausing just to see all the Sharleen scenes. If she wasn’t already engaged, we’d want nothing more than a Sharleen season of The Bachelorette (straight-to-camera looks and opera dates all the way).
Best Reality Team
Ricky Ubeda & Valerie Rockey (So You Think You Can Dance)
Until season 11, our pick for the best dancer ever on So You Think You Can Dance had not changed since season three (Danny Tidwell *sigh*) then came Ricky. But as much as the eventual winner was a technical marvel, he was also one of the season’s most likeable personalities, especially when he was dancing with his partner Valerie (a charming and unassuming tap dancer whose versatility skated her right into the finale).
Best TV Couple
Mindy & Danny (The Mindy Project)
Do we really need to explain this?
Moment of the Year
Clone Dance Party (Orphan Black)
A technical marvel, a perfect 5-piece character portrait, a mythology-free emotional highpoint in an action-packed season finale, a thing starring Tatiana Maslany and Jordan Gavaris. This might have been the TV moment of the decade.
The Hello Ladies Movie
We loved Hello Ladies when it aired in 2013 but we may have loved the 2014 wrap-up movie even more. Stephen Merchant’s cringeingly aspirational Stuart, Nate Torrence as his glass-half-full friend, Christine Woods as the richly relatable girl-next-door of sorts- these were people we could have happily spent years of our television lives with. In the somewhat rushed bittersweet ending you could see the beautiful slowly developed places the series was going to go, which was sad to see burned off in a mere two hours. But it was wonderful that we got to see an ending at all and an ending this lovely? Priceless.
Corey Fogelmanis (Girl Meets World)
This 15-year-old is the heart and soul of the delightful Boy Meets World sequel currently on the Disney channel teaching modern kids about the value of quirk. The fact that Minkus’ son is not a one-note joke but rather a key part of the core cast is a testament to the sympathy and balance the aptly named Corey brings to the role along with his impeccable timing and bold, outlandish comic sensibility.
Performer of the Year
The star of our Best Drama winner and a key guest star on the Best Comedy with a fun cameo in the Honorary Award winner, Allison Tolman wasn’t everywhere in 2014, she was just in all of our favourite things. Hilarious and heartfelt and relatable and endlessly charming, we hope she’s in all of our favourite things every year for quite some time.
The 2014 My Theatre (Toronto) Award Winners Are:
Best New Work
Potosi by Alexander Offord (Good Old Neon/Toronto Fringe Festival)
The Fringe Best New Play winner sparked a ton of controversy and polarized audiences but what we saw was a whip-smart, ballsy drama with a complicated female lead and a lot to say about corporate politics and moral justification. It was stirring, it was haunting, it was unapologetic, and we’re still debating it nearly nine months later which is about as big a compliment we can think of for any new work.
Best Ballet Performance: Leading
Jillian Vanstone in Manon (National Ballet of Canada)
This is a tricky category because the nature of ballet casting makes luck and timing a bigger factor than it usually is in our awards consideration. What night we decide to see a ballet decides who we see dance the lead roles. And we only see each production once, so the decision is not “who was the best Manon” but rather we’re comparing a Manon to a Tatiana to a Juliet. So we’re left with an inexact science, all we can do is follow our hearts, and nothing hit our hearts quite like the wonderfully sincere Jillian Vanstone’s heartbreaking performance in Manon.
Best Ballet Performance: Supporting or Short Program
Dylan Tedaldi in Dance Me to the End of Love (National Ballet of Canada)
In our first year separating the ballet category into “Leading” and “Supporting or Short Program”, the latter category was dominated by one-night-only performances from the Mad Hot Ballet gala last June. The most spellbinding (if you’ll forgive the pun; the gala’s theme was “spellbound”) was this Guillaume Coté-choreographed solo set to Leonard Cohen’s infectiously moody “Dance Me to the End of Love” and danced by captivating up-and-coming second soloist Dylan Tedaldi. Armed with incredibly strong physicality and a commanding stage presence, Dylan is already one of our favourite National Ballet dancers and is poised to become an even bigger player in the future of the company.
Best Solo Performance
Mark Shyzer in Great Battles in History (Toronto Fringe Festival)
Alone with just his ukelele and the ghost of a lover past, Mark Shyzer filled the TPM Backspace with infinite laughter and heartbreak and imaginative, emotive storytelling as he attempted to recreate all the Great Battles in History without any of the props, effects or performers that were supposed to play a part in his play-within-the-play. It was meta-theatricality at its finest, a quiet tour de force and a true highlight of the 2014 Toronto Fringe.
Best Opera Performance
Dimitri Pittas in A Masked Ball (Canadian Opera Company)
Dimitri Pittas has one of those voices that wakes you up. We often find ourselves in the Four Seasons Centre at the end of a long day, settling in for a long operatic lull. But if the opera stars Dimitri Pittas, a single tenor note makes us sit up so straight in our seats that the people behind us begin to complain. Set amidst the refreshing humour and emotional resonance of Verdi’s magnificent Masked Ball, that magical voice was at its most moving.
Sextet (Tarragon Theatre)
Morris Panych’s new play about a touring string sextet stranded in their motel by a snow storm was funny, moving and honest, delivered perfectly by a sextet of Canadian theatre stars- Damien Atkins, Laura Condlln, Rebecca Northan, Bruce Dow, Jordan Pettle and Matthew Edison- who each forged a unique and indelible character in a true ensemble performance.
Best Supporting Actor
Patrick Galligan in The Sea (The Shaw Festival)
Delivering one of the defining performances at the Shaw Festival in recent years, Patrick Galligan ran away with this category. He’s a classic supporting actor- versatile and dependable, shining for years in small roles that back up those with higher line counts- but in The Sea, Patrick turned a smaller line count role into the selling point of an already critically beloved production.
Best Supporting Actress
Maev Beaty in King Lear (The Stratford Festival)
King Lear is just about the greatest thing created by a human being. We were pretty sure it’s quality level was set in stone. Then we saw Maev Beaty play Goneril in her Stratford Festival debut. Her deeply human portrait of an unloved princess turned neglect-hardened queen completely opened up the text in ways we’d never seen and proved that even the greatest thing can be made better when you add Maev.
Best Actor in a Musical
Ramin Karimloo in Les Misérables (Mirvish Productions)
We saw Les Misérables really late in its Toronto run- in January 2014- which is why this award feels terribly overdue. It also feels strange anytime a Toronto My Theatre Award goes to a Broadway or West End performer (and Ramin is both) because, while they may have stopped here along the way, they’re not really a part of the community the way most of the other nominees in this category are. But Ramin is Toronto born and bred and his Valjean was the best we’ve ever seen (and we saw Colm; yeah, that’s right, we think he’s better than Colm) so there was no way he we couldn’t choose him for this win.
Best Actress in a Musical
Louise Pitre in Company (Theatre 20)
Theatre20’s star-studded production of Sondheim’s Company was a little wobbly. But the legendary Louise Pitre’s sock-solid performance as ageing cynic Joanne was a sight to behold, especially in her signature number “The Ladies Who Lunch”. Capturing the character’s regal but crass dichotomy, mixed with her killer voice and dry humour, Louise’s Joanne was full of sound and fury, signifying everything.
Best Actor in a Play
Kevin Hanchard in The Mountaintop (The Shaw Festival/Obsidian Theatre Company)
The trick of Katori Hall’s magical historical fiction The Mountaintop is that it tasks its lead actor with playing a deeply flawed character based on the playwright’s imagining of Martin Luther King Jr’s private life while also capturing the mythical man who lives so vividly in the consciousness of the audience. The wonderful Kevin Hanchard mastered said trick perfectly to triumph in the most competitive category of the year.
Best Actress in a Play
Lesley Faulkner in Lungs (Tarragon Theatre)
Director Weyni Mengesha’s staging of this one-act in the Tarragon Extra Space was beautifully sparse, leaving nothing but two actors and Duncan Macmillan’s excellent text to tell a 50-year story about life and love and the consequences of being here. The complexity with which Lesley Faulkner filled the empty stage as a neurotic woman contemplating motherhood while trying to hold on to her relationship was truly mesmerizing.
Beth Kates for The Road to Mecca (Soulpepper Theatre Company)
There was a lot of fantastically imaginative work nominated in this category this year- beautifully built fantasy worlds, technical marvels and metaphorically rich visual statements. The award went to Beth Kates for two principal reasons- the expanse and detail of her design, and the central role it played in the production. Without Beth’s artistically engaging and intricate work on Mecca, the titular road would have led to nowhere.
Best Design: Lighting/Sound
Lorenzo Savoini & Thomas Ryder Payne for The De Chardin Project (Theatre Passe Muraille)
In complete contrast to the very physical Best Design-winning set, The De Chardin Project‘s aesthetic was all about creating environment where there was none. In a play that shifts between time and space, from our world to whatever lies beyond, Thomas Ryder Payne’s aggressive soundscape and Lorenzo Savoini’s intricate lighting design were as much our guides as the two actors on stage.
Chris Abraham for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Stratford Festival)
For this category we chose mostly directors whose work was fairly straightforward and relentlessly story and character-based, those who thought outside of the box not to show off but to keep the spotlight where it was meant to be and find creative solutions to the challenges in their text. What Chris Abraham did with the mainstage Dream at Stratford last year was exactly that. He blew open a dusty play and added new magic without abandoning the bones of Shakespeare’s storytelling. His work was bold and thoughtful, basking in the possibilities of the text rather than fighting it. A really inspiring piece of directorial work that made for a meaningful and delightful production.
Of Human Bondage (Soulpepper Theatre Company)
Adaptation, design (set, costume, lighting and especially sound), performance, direction- everything came together beautifully in this dark and longing production from the ever-reliable Soulpepper. Inventively directed by artistic director Albert Schultz with achingly affecting star turns from Gregory Prest and Michelle Monteith, the remount of this artistic achievement (returning to the stage May 2nd) is not to be missed.
Romeo and (her) Juliet (Headstrong Collective/Urban Bard)
We love Regional Ensemble because it’s our chance to acknowledge some of the amazing performances we weren’t able to nominate in the solo categories. There were so many of them this year, which made choosing a winner from this stiff competition really tough. The deal-breaker was the search for a weak link, that one cast member who just didn’t live up to the standard set by their cast mates. We thought long and hard but the cast of Romeo & (her) Juliet just didn’t have one. This play happened to be about Romeo and Juliet (played beautifully by Leslie McBay and Krystina Bojanowski) but they won best ensemble because every character was so richly developed that it easily could have been about Mercutio and Benvolio (Max Tepper and Clare Blackwood) or Paris and Tybalt (Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski and Melanie Hrymak. Actually, we would pay big money to see the Paris/Tybalt spinoff; we’d call it #TeamCapulet: Spurned & Vexed).
Best Supporting Actor
Jakob Ehman in Cockfight (Theatre Brouhaha/Red One Theatre Collective)
Another amazing category, Best Supporting Actor turned brother against brother (literally, two of the nominees played brothers) and forced us to choose between a number of our favourite actors in the city. But ultimately we just couldn’t shake the volatile vulnerability of Jakob’s performance in Cockfight. The production was nearly a year ago and the push and pull of wanting to save him then run from him is still haunting our dreams.
Best Supporting Actress
Erin Eldershaw in Julius Caesar Project (Spur-of-the-Moment-Shakespeare-Collective/Toronto Fringe Festival)
We’re picky about our Shakespeare. Chances are we’ve seen the play before so it’s tricky to make your work stand out without annoying us by over-reaching. In the boldly prison-set Julius Caesar at last year’s Fringe, Erin’s turn as Mark Antony was strikingly good in refreshingly subtle ways. Commanding and inspiring with an extra hint of darkness, she elevated the often milquetoast role and easily stole our loyalty (which usually lies with Brutus; read into that what you will).
David Ferry in Blackbird (independent)
David Ferry’s turn as a man trying to hide from his past was the most morally complex performance of the year. He was charming but eerie, cowardly but kind, misguided and misunderstood, victimized and victimizing, horrific and pitiable and everything all at once. It was impossible to walk away from Blackbird feeling truly comfortable with your sense of right and wrong and it was David Ferry’s unmatched performance that created that feeling. We didn’t enjoy it one little bit, but it was genius nevertheless.
Kat Letwin in Dark Matter (Circlesnake Productions)
Kat’s acceptance speech began with the words “this is the stupidest decision anyone has ever made”. But we saw 200+ productions last year; we scoured the city for the best leading performance from a female actor, keeping our eyes open for every kind of star turn from musical to comedy to the darkest of dramas, Shakespeare to Chekhov to Williams to Sandler. This was the strongest category in the entire regional division and we gave it a lot of careful thought before reaching our inevitable conclusion. The Best Actress in a Regional Production in 2014 was Kat Letwin as Marlow in Circlesnake’s gorgeous and tragic and hilarious ensemble-created piece Dark Matter. At some point she has to stop arguing with us, right? One day?
Nick Blais for New Jerusalem (Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company)
This is a tricky category because it’s so diverse. Indie designers work with such a range of budgets and spaces that you end up comparing apples to oranges. In picking a winner we chose the design that best combined what we think of as the three pillars of a great set: visual interest (the temple Nick built in the TCA Studio was simply beautiful), metaphorical or thematic value (he used a fascinating blend of industrial and devotional elements), and functionality (a clever practical effect that was built into the set gave the play a thrilling final moment). Easily one of the best designs we’ve seen in years.
Scott Emerson Moyle for Romeo and (her) Juliet (Headstrong Collective/Urban Bard)
We’ve always loved Scott’s use of space, working with site-specific locations to create an immersive experience. For Romeo and (her) Juliet, he brought that skill set indoors to the perfectly chosen Bloor Street United Church where the classic story swirled around audience members seated in the pews. But what impressed us even more were his strong textual choices- redefining characters to fit the producers’ contemporary vision and making really bold cuts- and the consistency with which he drew excellent and uniquely developed performances from his actors (remember that Best Ensemble win).
Dark Matter (Circlesnake Productions)
No production in 2014 moved and inspired us quite like the beautiful surprise that was Circlesnake’s Dark Matter. A bold, strange concept (Heart of Darkness in Space!) and a unique creation process (the ensemble-developed piece was the product of improv exercises, writing workshops and lots of experimentation) led the four actors (Kat Letwin, Colin Munch, Joshua Browne and Mikaela Dyke) and director Alec Toller to an inspired finished product that was as funny as it was heartbreaking, as philosophical as it was experiential. Not nearly enough people saw this production the first time around so we’re determined to keep pestering this crew until they do a remount, but only if you promise to go see it. Do you promise to go see it?
Nicole Wilson in Potosi (Good Old Neon/Toronto Fringe Festival)
We simplified the winner selection process this year by doing away with the fan vote. But we still wanted to include you somehow so we kept voting lines open (and by “lines” we mean Facebook, Twitter, Email and the Comments Section) and used your input to break any ties in the staff vote and choose a Fan Favourite. In an insanely close race, the incredibly popular Best Actress nominee Nicole Wilson took the prize by a margin of three votes.
Nicole Strawbridge (First Act Productions)
This award tends to go to a young artistic director and this year is no different (though last year was). Triple threat Nicole Strawbridge is a great musical theatre performer in her own right but it’s the company she’s built that is her most impressive achievement. The quickly growing First Act Productions is one of the only independent musical theatre producers in the city, executing solid, full-scale productions of classic shows (and now expanding into training programs) with Nicole at the helm either directing, choreographing, starring, producing or some combination thereof.
Performer of the Year
Kat Sandler (Theatre Brouhaha)
This year we decided to redefine what we meant by “performer” to honour one of the most prolific and talented members of the non-performing Toronto theatre community. Playwright Kat Sandler is an indie theatre darling and has been for several years but it was her superb 1-2-3 punch of Cockfight, Punch Up and Retreat over a matter of months in 2014 that solidified her in our mind as the defining artist of the season. Kat Sandler plays raked up 11 My Theatre Award nominations this year, which sounds impressive enough even before we point out that that’s second only to Shakespeare.
In the past few years, “fight direction by Nate Bitton” has become one of the most consistent sights in indie theatre programs. Also a fairly prolific actor (he was part of Rarely Pure’s Best Ensemble-nominated As You Like It cast), Nate’s consistently well-paced and character-rooted fight choreography appeared in no fewer than nine productions in 2014 including The Wedding Singer, As You Like It, Lord of the Flies, Goodnight Desdemona Good Morning Juliet, reasons to be pretty, Under the Skin, Vinegar Tom, Valkyrie and Mercury Fur.
Best New Work
Astro Boy and The God of Comics, by Natsu Onoda Power (Company One)
Company One leaps at projects less-daring companies would shy away from. Not surprising that they made a big splash last summer with Astro Boy. This multimedia piece (using projections, animations, and live-cartooning performed by a fantastic ensemble), is Power’s thrilling and moving homage to the legendary artist Osamu Tezuka, and his classic character, Astro Boy.
Alex Pollock in The Flick (Company One)
The Flick reminded us all about what life in a small-town, rundown movie theater is like, and the potential for personal drama that bubbles up in any low-wage job. Pollock was particularly explosive in C1’s production, bringing a whopping dose of cantankerousness, pathos, and hilarity to the role.
Eunice Wong in Smart People (Huntington Theatre Company)
Eunice Wong played the tightly-wound, ultra-successful, compassionate, and complex Ginny Yang in the Huntington production of Smart People. Wong conveyed Ginny’s prickliness with the same care and power needed for her to effectively portray Ginny’s vulnerabilities, and the result was an outstanding performance.
Necessary Monsters, by John Kuntz (SpeakEasy Stage Company)
I called Kuntz’s new play “monstrous and daring,” and I stand by that characterization. Coming at the tail end of 2014, this production was stunningly staged and directed, but my highest praise goes to the eight talented actors (including the playwright) who made the creepy, multilayered world of the play a reality, or rather an unreality.
David R. Gammons, for Comedy of Errors (Actor Shakespeare Project)
I love how Gammons consistently manages to electrify classic works without indulging in Julie Taymor-like flash and panache. I didn’t think I could love a production of Shakespeare’s earliest (and perhaps silliest) comedy, but I loved ASP’s production of The Comedy of Errors. As I wrote in my review: “Catching contemporary sources of wit while also being skillfully guided through early modern English by these crazy carnies may actually be the closest I have ever come to identifying with those Jacobean viewers over four hundred years ago. An amazing feat.”
Smart People, by Lydia R. Diamond (Huntington Theatre Company)
I can’t gush enough about this play, and this production. The subject is timely, the dialogue roaringly funny, the actors were compelling, the designs and transitions seamless. I sometimes feel I spend more time critiquing Huntington shows than salivating over them, but this production took the cake for me in 2014. A job very, very well done.
This Pulitzer Prize-nominated musical, which opens on Broadway this spring, found critical acclaim at the downtown Public Theatre (a fantastic space for challenging new works headed for Broadway, like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton). While technically opening in 2013, the show extended and ran into 2014 (when I saw it) and garnered numerous awards in the 2014 season. Fun Home tells the story of a young lesbian discovering her sexuality while navigating her relationship with her father who has had homosexual encounters of his own.
Best Revival of a Musical
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig and the Angry Inch was an unstoppable musical force in 2014 – thrusting discussions of gender and identity to the forefront on Broadway in the loudest way possible. Hedwig is a cult classic that, with the assistance of the undeniably talented Neil Patrick Harris, found a mainstream audience. This rock musical has since gone through numerous Hedwigs, but its imprint on the Broadway community is undeniable.
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is a visually-stunning feat of a play that, at its core, deals with the difficult topic of autism and how autism can impact an entire family. It does so from the unique point of view of Christopher – a mathematically brilliant young man who struggles with human contact and often suffers from sensory overloads in public spaces, but who sees the world in an incredibly ordered and perceptive way. Curious Incident is open on Broadway and a not-to-be-missed experience (especially with Alex Sharp in the title role).
Best Actor in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig & the Angry Inch
Very few can pull off what Neil Patrick Harris did in a multitude of wigs, tights, and super-high heels on a nightly basis in Hedwig. Harris’s Hedwig was a lean, mean, dancing machine with vocals to rival any rock front man (or woman!), and audiences turned out in droves to see Harris’ work.
Best Actor in a Play
Alex Sharp in Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
This category was by far the most difficult to determine because opinions were split between several noteworthy performances last year. Both Cranston and Boyer were remarkable in their respective roles in All the Way and Hand to God (Boyer can be seen again in Hand to God this spring on Broadway), but neither is quite as successful as Alex Sharp in Curious Incident. Sharp’s role as Christopher not only demands a high level of physicality as he bounds across the stage, it requires an inspired level of believability as an autistic child who does not react to every day situations the same way that others do. Sharp wins over the audience as an atypical protagonist, delivering an impressive array of mathematical calculations and facts in a quick and credible way.
Best Actress in a Musical
Jessie Mueller in Beautiful
Mueller sold audiences on Beautiful with her spot-on portrayal of Carole King – the show would be little more than a jukebox musical without her presence on stage.
Best Actress in a Play
Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
Casting aside the debate over whether Lady Day is a play or a musical, Audra McDonald’s performance as music-legend Billie Holiday was enthralling, and she did justice to a jazz icon.
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
James Monroe Iglehart in Aladdin
James Monroe Iglehart crooned, tapped, flipped, and magic’d his way into the hearts of Aladdin audiences. His interpretation of the role of Genie was wonderfully distinct from Robin Williams’ iconic portrayal, but he brought a chaotic energy to the role that rivaled Williams. Honorable mention goes out to Joshua Henry, whose performance in Violet solidified his position on Broadway has a powerhouse, contemporary performer (anyone who manages to cast Henry opposite Patina Miller in anything is my hero).
Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Micah Stock in It’s Only a Play
In a play chock full of notable names, newcomer Micah Stock stands out. Humble and humorous, Stock proved that he has the acting chops to not only play with the pros, but to steal the show away from underneath them. Never again will I be able to hear “Defying Gravity” without chuckling.
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Lena Hall in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Neil Patrick Harris may have starred as leading lady Hedwig, but Lena Hall proved that it is possible to give a subtle and sophisticated performance while surrounded by loud music and pulsing lights. Moreover, when Hall gets the opportunity to take center stage and show off her rock star vocal talents, she brings down the house.
Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Sarah Greene in The Cripple of Inishmaan
A young Irish actress and newcomer to the Broadway stage, Sarah Greene’s performance as the self-confident and fiery Helen McCormick in The Cripple of Inishmaan was perfection. Greene’s comedic timing was brilliant and her portrayal of McCormick was both grossly entertaining and remarkably nuanced.