The Best of what to see & do in Toronto this December

Geez, the city is really glowing with holiday lights and more so than ever before! Bright and merry everything is everywhere and helping to bring back the spirit of the season. Lots of encouraging and inspiring reasons to get out this coming month but there’s also plenty for those of us who prefer to stay cozy indoors. Here is what we’re most excited about (and you may want to jump on a few of these for the holiday gift giving season)…

Aaron LaVigne and the company of the North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman – MurphyMad

Jesus Christ Superstar (50th Anniversary Production): on stage until January 2, 2022. Princess of Wales Theatre. The proven musical phenomenon returns to Toronto in this 50th Anniversary Production. Set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of Judas. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’, ‘Gethsemane’ and ‘Superstar’. Aaron LaVigne leads the show as Jesus, joined by James T. Justis as Judas and Jenna Rubaii as Mary. The tour also features Alvin Crawford as Caiphas, Tommy Sherlock as Pilate, and Tyce Green as Annas.

aabaakwad 2021: AGO December 3 to 5. First Nations artists, makers and writers from around the world, come together in-person and online for this year’s event, aabaakwad (it clears after a storm). The only Indigenous-led arts gathering of its kind in the world, co-presented by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Canada Council of the Arts, this year’s event welcomes more than 40 presenters from 24 First Nations and six countries, including Rebecca Belmore, Liisa-Ravna Finbog, Timimie Märak, Alan Michelson, Taqralik Partridge, Duke Redbird, internationally renowned writer Gerald Vizenor, and winner of the 2021 Sobey Art Award Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, for three days of free conversation and performance. This year’s gathering corresponds with the opening of Robert Houle: Red is Beautiful, a major career retrospective exhibition by the renowned Saulteaux artist, and attendees will also have the opportunity to see several new installations on view in the AGO’s J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art.To see the full schedule and to register for aabaakwad events and proceedings visit www.aabaakwad.com. All events will be live-streamed in real time for free.

Hometown Holidays with Barenaked Ladies: begins December 2 (various dates) CAA Theatre. Back live and in-person these not-to-be-missed holiday concerts will feature seasonal favourites and a few of BNL’s greatest hits at their evening performances. There will also be a few “Snacktime!” matinee shows for the young (and young-at-heart) filled with beloved songs from BNL’s JUNO-winning Snacktime! Album along with holiday favourites and classic hits. Evening performances of “Hits for the Holidays” are ages 12 and up. Premium seating will be available for “Hits for the Holidays” shows which include the best seats in the house plus a full-colour commemorative laminated keepsake ornament to take home. Details here.

Willner Madge Gallery, Dawn of Life Opens at the Royal Ontario Museum: December 4. The ROM’s exciting new permanent gallery opens taking us on an epic journey back (oh, about 4 billion years ago!) to the origins of life on our planet. Included is one of the world’s most astounding fossil collections — nearly 1000 species from tiny trilobites to colossal sea scorpions are showcased in the nearly 10,000 square-foot gallery. Included in the space are exceptional Canadian fossils found in deposits across the country that are of great scientific significance, four of which are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Artist reconstructions, interactive technology also help us understand the evolutionary journey of life on Earth to help us understand more about the world we know today.

SensoryBox TYA with Young People’s Theatre: December 4 to 30. Just in time for the holidays YPT returns with the premiere of the sens-sational live-stream adventure theatre. Co-developed with Calgary’s Ghost River Theatre, this one of a kind tactile theatre experience explores the electric connection between our senses and the imagination. The experience includes both the delivery of a wrapped box nd a live-streamed adventure hosted by award-winning theatre artist Richard Lee.

Come From Away: performances resume December 15. The Tony and Olivier award-winning smash hit musical tells the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them. Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships.

Taste of Iceland: December 2 to 5. This feature festival celebrates the culture of Iceland and returns with programming this year in various locations. Included on this year’s roster of events are live music at the El Mocambo, DJ Ice skating event, films and a healing sound bath. All events are free and admission is first come, first serve, but pre-registration is mandatory.

Sip! Niagara Food & Drink Festival: December 4 and 5. Outdoor in-person. s a tasty festival filled with amazing sips from local and distant Wineries, Cideries, Distillers and Breweries. Guests can pair up their sips with delicious bites from local restaurants and chefs all while listening to terrific musical guests in one of the most gorgeous locations found in Niagara.

The Nutcracker by The National Ballet of Canada: December 10 to 31 (in-person). The classic tale and holiday tradition for many and the National Ballet of Canada has one of the best in the world. The story unfolds as squabbling siblings Misha and Marie are attending a Christmas party at their country estate when their mysterious Uncle Nikolai arrives, bearing gifts. These include a beautiful nutcracker doll for Marie who takes it to the nursery that night. Then the magic begins. The clock strikes twelve, the Christmas tree grows to enormous proportions, and Misha and Marie begin their journey to the icy realm of the Snow Queen and golden palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy where they must learn to get along.

TSO Home Alone in Concert: Roy Thomson Hall December 3 and 4. This beloved holiday favourite features renowned composer John Williams’s charming and delightful score performed live to picture by the TSO. Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy who’s accidentally left behind when his family leaves for Christmas vacation, and who must defend his home against two bungling thieves (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Also starring Catherine O’Hara and John Candy, and nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (“Somewhere in My Memory”).

Holiday Trees at High Park Zoo: December 5 to January 8. Bundle up and  take the family for a walk through the zoo area and have your cameras ready for the festive treelined trees. Free to attend.

Distillery District, holiday market
Distillery District

The Distillery Winter Village: until December 31. Returning to the historical district is the most magical open air holiday village for visitors to check out food and gift items. Tickets are required during peak dates/times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to help manage capacity.

Immersive Nutcracker, A Winter Miracle: from the innovators beyond the Immersive Van Gogh and Immersive Klimt: Revolution comes another world premiere immersive experience. Just in time for the holiday season, Immersive Nutcracker will offer a unique way to experience a holiday tradition. An interactive 30 minute immersive state-of-the-art technical performance places the audience right in the centre of all the action. Great for the entire family.

Toronto Santa Claus Parade: December 4, 2021 (Virtual) at 7:00 pm EST on CTV. The annual larger than life parade will take place this year through the magic of television. See the dazzling floats, delightful characters, and special performances all in the comforts of your own home.

Ross Petty’s Alice in Winterland: December 18 & 19 (virtual). Families have the chance to Choose Your Own Adventure with this brand new virtual musical ALICE IN WINTERLAND. Will Alice follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole, get invited to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, or learn the latest TIK TOK dance craze? YOU DECIDE!

The Canadian Tire Christmas Trail: until December 23 (in person, drive-thru). This magical drive through takes visitors along a 1.5 km multi-sensory trail in a safe and spectacular way! Gorgeous lights, live entertainment and everything festive await! And yes, you’ll be able to take your photo with Santa from the safety of your own vehicle. Visitors can also capture the full experience by tuning into the official playlist on Apple Music or Spotify. Tickets must be purchased online. Proceeds will go to the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to benefit child and youth sport throughout Canada.

POLAR Winter Festival: Bandshell Park, Exhibition Grounds. November 25 to December 26.The magical holiday experience presented by The Concierge Club returns this year but this time it will be an outdoor walk through! Tons of photo ops with later than life decorations from giant teddy bears to a breathtaking Play Ice Tunnel filled with thousands of crystals.  The Bandshell stage will be transformed into Santa’s living room filled with festive decor for the perfect photo with Santa. A holiday market will feature local shops to get to your gift list. Expect a few rides as well on the Christmas train, classic carousel anymore.  Fill your bellies with holiday east from the food trucks or cuddle around the fire pits with cocktails at the Hotel X’s X-Lounge. Tickets start from $14.99 (rides and Santa photo packages are additional)

Winterfest at Canada’s Wonderland: Open until December 31. Step into a world of holiday magic as the popular outdoor festive returns bigger and better than ever. Visit the North Pole themed area feature more live entertainment, holiday lights, decor, ice wine bar, family rides and an stunning new LED tunnel called the “Northern Straight”. Skate on Snow Flake Lake surrounded  by twinkly lit trees set in front of the iconic Wonder Mountain. Nightly tree-lighting ceremony offers a spectacular song-and-dance spectacular. Join Charlie Brown and Friends in a sing-along holiday celebration, and definitely check ou the Cool Yule Christmas high energy show that covers all the favourite holiday pop songs!

Snow Magic Drive Thru Fun: Ontario Place, now open until January 16. Not your usual winter wonderland with elves and Santa’s workshop but this drive through experience is a magical world filled inspired by Fire, Ice & Light! Here you’ll discover illuminated art projections, fire effects, twinkly light tunnels, and incredible soundscapes. Tickets are timed entry.

One of a Kind Show: Enercare Centre Exhibition Place. November 25 to December 5. Over 400 talented makers from across the country are participating in this 11-day in-person winter shopping event. Featuring thousands of Canadian made goods for home decor, fashion, jewellery, toys, beauty, artisanal foods and much more.

Ghazaleh Avarzamani’s Terms and Conditions Apply: installation at Aga Khan Museum until February 2022. Iranian-Canadian artist has done many international solo shows and residency programs, she’s currently is involved with the inaugural artist-in-residency program at the world-renowned museum. Two of her works are currently presented (outdoor and indoor). Using forms of game and theories of play she explores language and examine power structures and systems of communications. Utilizing signs familiar through pop culture and materials associate with everyday life test the limits of knowledge in terms of reality and play. The outdoor installation takes over the five huge infinity pools at the Museum’s park. Filled with 24 tons of blue rubber mulch – same of what’s used in children’s playgrounds to help guard children against serious injury. The indoor work features 30 stunning stained-glassed mosaics created with tie-in to religious spaces on in response to the Museum’s collections and architecture.

Happy Sundays at The Baby G (1608 Dundas Street West): a new and FREE weekly concert series featuring up and coming talent. Dedicated to providing a platform for emerging musicians, this December The Baby G will welcome Montreal singer-songwriter Hanorah, kulintang quintet ensemble Pantyao, and into pop band Tallies. More info at transmitpresents.com.

 

 

About Sonya Davidson 851 Articles
Covering events, openings and all the deliciousness in Toronto. Staff reporter for the Toronto International Film Festival. Follow @theculturepearl on Instagram and Twitter. Reach her at sonya@torontoguardian.com