1. BEAT NATION: ART, HIP HOP AND ABORIGINAL CULTURE (FREE!)
Beat Nation, a new exhibit at the Power Plant, shines a light on artists who explore the impact of hip-hop culture on contemporary Aboriginal identity. Over a dozen artists are represented in this show, which crosses mediums to include not only performance and video, but also paintings, sculpture and installation. At the free opening party on Friday evening, Tsimshian/Gitksan and Cree artist Skeena Reece will perform “Like a Boss,” which honours the boycott of the 45th Academy Awards ceremony by Marlon Brando, who famously protested the treatment of Aboriginals in the film industry. Dec. 15 to May 5, 2013. The Power Plant, 231 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4949, thepowerplant.org.
2. BARENAKED LADIES: HITS AND HOLIDAY SONGS
The rock-band-meets-orchestra match-up is usually reserved for groups that might already be described as “symphonic” on their own (think Metallica). Which is why this pairing, between the TSO and the Barenaked Ladies, those folksy pop goofballs, is as perplexing as it is intriguing. The performance is slated to feature classical renditions of the band’s hits as well as holiday favourites—we can sort of hear the soaring strings behind “Jane” already. Sort of. Dec. 14. $25–$69. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., roythomson.com.
3. COLM WILKINSON: BROADWAY, CHRISTMAS AND BEYOND
Musical theatre hero Colm Wilkinson adopted Toronto as his home in 1989, and in return, Toronto adopted the Dubliner as its favourite tenor, awarding him Doras for his lead roles in Les Miz and Phantom of the Opera. On this tour, Wilkinson will be performing Broadway hits as well as holiday classics. We can only hope he’ll bring out his unforgettable rendition of “Bring Him Home,” which could thaw the heart of the most cold-hearted of grinches. Dec. 14. $50–$90. Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr., 905-306-6000, livingartscentre.ca.
4. THE KILLERS (WITH TEGAN AND SARA)
In the mid-2000s, this band of four young Las Vegas scamps catapulted onto the music scene with a series of sly and raucous chart-topping dance-rock tunes. Back from a two-year hiatus and riding the high of their recently released fourth album, Battle Born, the Killers are joined by Calgary’s identical twin indie darlings, Tegan and Sara, on an international tour that’s making a Toronto pit stop (their only Canadian show) this weekend. Dec. 15. $55.25–$80.75. Air Canada Centre, 50 Bay St., 1-855-985-5000, ticketmaster.ca.
5. IT’S A WONDERFUL TORONTO
Rob Ford and Theatre Passe Muraille must both have prayed to Santa to grant the mayor his stay – each camp needed it to keep their jobs (for the holiday season, anyways). Bravely portrayed by Paul Bates, Rob Ford (the character) begins the show rehearsing for a Christmas special, but starts to worry that it’s going to be a flop and will destroy his political career. Or something. Mostly, it’s an excuse to have “Ford” perform a variety of parodies and musical numbers that try to teach the audience the true meaning of the holidays. Dec. 11 to 22. $25–$30. Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., 416-504-7529, passemuraille.on.ca.
6. COUNTDOWN TO ARMAGEDDON
Can’t think of what to do for your last week on earth? With all the choices—finding a bunker to ride out the apocalypse, nervously checking your watch and/or the sky every 10 seconds—a good movie (or several) might be just the ticket to keep calm and carry on in the face of impending doom. TIFF is celebrating the end of days with a weeklong film festival about, naturally enough, the apocalypse. Highlights include the frighteningly plausible Children of Men, Lars von Trier’s sublimely frigid Melancholia, the Bruce Willis and Liv Tyler vehicle Armageddon, natch, and a late-night showing of Mel Gibson’s The Road Warrior, which will take the audience into the safety of Dec. 22. Hopefully. Dec. 14 to 21. $12. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 416-968-3456, tiff.net.
7. DICKENS’ WOMEN
Miriam Margolyes does a dickens of a job in this tour de force, taking on over 23 of the most beloved female characters from Charles’s books. A veteran of voice work, Margolyes uses the characters to reveal aspects of Dickens’ life in this revival of her 1989 one-woman show, starting with her favourite character, Mrs. Gamp, from the lesser-known 1844 novel Martin Chuzzlewit. For those reared on more contemporary fare trying to puzzle out why Margolyes seems familiar, let us solve that one for you: she was the green-thumbed Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter series. Dec. 12 to 15. $20–$40. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Ln., 416-866-8666, youngcentre.ca.
8. A NIGHT OF BRITISH CHRISTMAS SPECIALS
Don your bowler hat and grab a brolly (or sonic screwdriver)—Comedy Bar is hosting a night of improvised takes on British TV holiday specials (for some reason, U.K. TV shows get particularly cheesy at this time of year, a tradition that North American shows have largely dispensed with). Directive Collective and Bad Dog Theatre (creators of the hit show Troubadour) are collaborating on these imagined Christmas episodes of Downtown Abbey and Dr. Whom (the grammatically hyper-correct Dr. Who), which both take place before the real versions air. The evening begins with Theatresports, Bad Dog’s long-standing improv show. Dec. 15. $12–$30. Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. W., 416-551-6540, comedybar.ca.