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Theatre & Performance Old Stock, School Girls each win three at first gender-neutral Toronto Theatre Critics Awards

Melissa Eve Langdon in School Girls; Or, The Africa Mean Girls Play (2019).

Cesar Ghisilieri/Handout

Toronto’s theatre critics have put a lot of stock in Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, the hit klezmer musical from Halifax’s 2b Theatre Company by playwright Hannah Moscovitch, with songs by Christian Barry and Ben Caplan.

Still on, but sold out at the Tarragon Theatre, the moving show about a Jewish couple who meet in Canada after fleeing pogroms in Romania has picked up three 2019 Toronto Theatre Critics Awards (TTCA).

It was named best new musical of the season; Barry was named best director of a musical; and Mary Fay Coady – who plays the violin and Moscovitch’s late great-grandmother, Chaya, in it – was named a best supporting performer in a musical.

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That’s “a” best supporting performer, as this year’s TTCAs, honouring the 2018-2019 season, have made a significant change this year. The acting categories are now gender-neutral – and can have one to three winners.

So, Dear Evan Hansen’s Jessica Sherman and Ain’t Too Proud’s Ephraim Sykes also won in the best supporting performer category.

But Dear Evan Hansen’s Robert Markus is the sole winner of this year’s best leading performer in a musical award for his startling performance in the local Mirvish production of the Broadway smash.

The TTCAs’ change of direction comes in advance of a similar shift at the Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Toronto’s major theatre, dance and opera awards, which will announce its first gender-neutral nominations next week.

Rounding out the TTCAs’ musical-theatre categories: Mary Poppins at Young People’s Theatre was named best production of a musical, while an ensemble award went to the cast of Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life, Anika and Britta Johnson’s new immersive musical about a cult for the Musical Stage Company.

In the play categories, School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play, an Obsidian and Nightwood Theatre co-production of Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh’s off-Broadway comedy, picked up three awards: best production of a play; best supporting performance, for Akosua Amo-Adem; and best director, for Nina Lee Aquino.

Aquino shares that award with Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, director of the held-over, Drake-approved Soulpepper production of The Brothers Size by American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.

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The Brothers Size was named the best new international script to premiere in Toronto this season, while Jeff Ho’s adaptation Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land), which the indie company Saga Collectif premiered in January, was named best new Canadian play.

The small-but-mighty Coal Mine Theatre picked up a pair of TTCAs: Eric Peterson won the best lead performance in a play for his turn in The Father there, while Patrick Lavender, Richard Feren, Michelle Bohn and Nick Bottomley were honoured for their creepy collective design of The Nether.

Sabryn Rock earned a best supporting performance award for her work in The Royale at Soulpepper; and, last but far from least, the athletic actors in Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves (a Howland Company/Crow’s Theatre) picked up an ensemble award.

Founded in 2011, the TTCAs are voted upon a group of critics who work for print and online publications. I am one of them, however, this year, I recused myself from discussion and voting in the play categories because a family member’s work was under consideration.

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