Review: It’s A Wonderful Toronto: The Rob Ford Holiday Spectacular! (National Theatre of the World)

For the politically minded, It’s A Wonderful Toronto offers up some holiday chuckles at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille

The premise of It’s a Wonderful Toronto: The Rob Ford Holiday Spectacular! is that of a show within a show, as it is actually the dress rehearsal for a musical of the same name. Mayor Ford (Paul Bates) has agreed to the musical, comprised of a variety of sketch and musical parodies of classic Christmas music and films, in an attempt to improve his public image – but he ultimately decides that the songs and sketches paint him in a negative light. When Ford becomes convinced that the show is not only going to tank but smear his political career, he threatens to jump from the balcony of the theatre and end it all.

It’s a Wonderful Toronto is, obviously, a political satire, and has a less-than-positive opinion of the mayor. I was hesitant going in, fearing it would take the “easy” route of making fun of Ford’s weight – something I am generally wary of, because I feel people should be judged on their actions and not on their physical appearance. I was pleasantly surprised that his size, although occasionally referred to, was not the target of the show’s mockery. It mostly criticized his politics, and the results were pretty funny. Though the many suicide jokes, used in the context of It’s A Wonderful Life, sometimes left a bad taste in my mouth.

The show also mocks Krista Ford (played by Jenna Warriner), niece of the mayor and daughter of Doug Ford, who made headlines for some of her offensive Twitter messages. I admittedly know nothing about this real-life person, and wonder if the ditzy-blonde portrayal was entirely fair.

The cast is rounded out by the harried director Dan (Brandon Firla), his ex-girlfriend and Ford PR rep Jane Ann Finch (Aurora Browne), and the lovelorn actress Cassie (Ashley Botting). These characters are used to lampoon both the Ken Gass situation at Factory Theatre this year and the Canadian Actors Equity Association. I am fairly “in-the-know” regarding industry affairs, but I felt that anyone who does not work in theatre wouldn’t really get these jokes.

In the final estimation I think It’s A Wonderful Toronto is merely okay. The musical numbers are well written and there are a few good laughs in the dialogue and lyrics, but nothing blew me away. If you are politically minded and in the mood for a few holiday-themed chuckles, this show may be worth checking out.


Photo of Paul Bates by David Leyes.