Royal Alexandra Theatre

 The Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, completed in 1907 at a cost of $750 000, is one of the few surviving large professional theatres found in numerous Canadian cities at the turn of the century. It was designed by John LYLE in 1906 for a group of prominent businessmen headed by Cawthra Mulock. In 1963 the theatre was purchased by the Toronto entrepreneur "Honest Ed"MIRVISH and restored to its Edwardian beauty at a cost of $500 000.

With a seating capacity of 1497, the Royal Alex is noted for its large proscenium stage, excellent acoustics and intimacy between performers and audience. Although the theatre has staged a few Canadian works, including John WEINZWEIG's ballet Red Ear of Corn, the revues My Fur Lady and Spring Thaw, John GRAY's Billy Bishop Goes to War and Linda Griffiths's Maggie and Pierre, the theatre for most of its history has been a touring house for drama, musicals, opera and dance, particularly from Britain and the US.

In 1986 David Mirvish became executive producer and initiated a policy of coproducing with major Canadian national arts organizations such as the Canadian Opera Company, the Stratford and Shaw festivals and regional theatres such as the Manitoba Theatre Centre and Citadel Theatre. In 1989, Tomson Highway's drama Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing became the first native Canadian play to receive a major commercial production in Canada. Although its Royal Alex production was a critical success, the Mirvishes initiated a policy of coproducing large-scale hit musicals with producers in London and New York but using mostly Canadian casts. Alain Boublil's and Claude-Michel Schönberg's Les Misérables ran for several years after its 1989 opening and also toured nationally. In order to accommodate still larger scale productions, the Mirvishes opened the adjoining $25 million Princess of Wales Theatre with a $12 million production of Miss Saigon in 1993. A regular subscription series was reinstated at the Royal Alex in 1996.

See alsoTORONTO FEATURE: ROYAL ALEXANDRA THEATRE.