Royal Alexandra Theatre

Royal Alexandra Theatre

The Royal Alexandra Theatre is a theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada located near King and Simcoe Streets. Built in 1907, the Royal Alex is the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in North America. [ sank in the Irish Sea after being struck by a torpedo. One of those killed in the disaster was Syndicate partner and creative head Charles Frohman.

Over the 1940s and '50s, the Royal Alex fell - as did so many regional theatres, unable to compete with cinema, radio and television - into hard times. The neighbourhood surrounding the theatre also went into decline, becoming dominated by railway marshalling yards, warehouses and light industry. In 1962, after a decade of money-losing operation, the trustees of the Mulock estate (Cawthra Mulock died during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918) put the theatre up for sale. The property was purchased by Ed Mirvish, owner of the Toronto discount/bargain shop Honest Ed's for the sum of $250,000. Mirvish said at the time that he knew nothing about theatre - had never even been inside a theatre - but knew a bargain when he saw one.

As a condition of the sale, Ed Mirvish pledged to continue operating the Royal Alex as a legitimate theatre for at least five years. If, at the end of that time, he was unwilling to continue, he was then permitted to demolish the building and use the site for other purposes. Mirvish closed the theatre for one year - the longest it had ever been dark - for renovation and restoration. The Royal Alex re-opened in September, 1963, with the comedy "Never Too Late", starring William Bendix and produced by Ed Mirvish.

Ed Mirvish rarely after ventured into production, but used the theatre - as it had always been used - as a road house, booking in touring shows and pre-Broadway tryouts. He also allowed the theatre to be used by local companies - including the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada - and made the Alex the home, for many years, of the popular annual Toronto revue "Spring Thaw". He did, however, achieve notable success as a producer with "Hair" in 1970, and "Godspell" in 1972. The latter starred a group of young Canadian unknowns who would go on to great success, including Victor Garber, Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin.

Following the renovation of the Royal Alex, Mirvish purchased, one by one, the warehouse and industrial buildings along King St. to the west of the theatre. In these, he opened a group of colourful restaurants - including Ed's Warehouse, Ed's Folly and Old Ed's - in a successful effort to draw people back into the neighbourhood. The last of these restaurants closed in 2000 by which point the area around the Royal Alex had been transformed from abandoned warehouses into a district of independent winebars, restaurants, cafes and bistros.

In 1975, Toronto City Council recognized the historic value of the theatre by designating it under the Ontario Heritage Act. In 1987, on the 80th anniversary of the theatre, it was named a Canadian National Historic Site.

Ed Mirvish and his son David Mirvish, added a second theatre to the family interests in 1982, when they purchased and restored London, England's historic Old Vic. In 1986, David Mirvish created the company Mirvish Productions to produce original, "sit-down" plays and musicals for the Royal Alexandra. Ed Mirvish retired from active participation in the theatres in 1987, handing the business to his son. In 1993, David Mirvish added a third theatre to the empire, building the Princess of Wales Theatre a block to the west of the Royal Alexandra. The Princess was named, in part, in memory of the old Princess, rival to the Alex in the early years of the 20th century.

The theatre's managers have been Lawrence Solman 1907-1931, William Breen 1933-1939, Ernest Rawley 1939-1963, Edwin De Rocher 1963-1969, Yale Simpson 1969-1989, Graham Hall 1989-1994, Ron Jacobson 1994 - present.

Notable people who have performed at the Royal Alex

* Johnston Forbes-Robertson and Gertrude Elliott
* Mary Pickford
* Fred and Adele Astaire
* E. H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe
* Margaret Anglin
* Fanny Brice
* The Marx Brothers
* Mae West
* Alla Nazimova
* Theda Bara
* Eddie Cantor
* Maurice Chevalier
* Marie Dressler
* Margot Fonteyn
* George Formby
* Al Jolson
* Sir Harry Lauder
* Beatrice Lillie
* Ruth Gordon
* Maurice Evans
* Helen Hayes
* John Barrymore
* Ethel Barrymore
* Katharine Cornell
* Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy
* Alicia Markova
* Ingrid Bergman
* Sir John Gielgud
* Ralph Richardson
* Dame Peggy Ashcroft
* Deborah Kerr
* Édith Piaf
* Paul Robeson
* Orson Welles
* Maggie Smith
* Ethel Waters
* Alan Bates
* Sir Derek Jacobi
* Joanne Woodward
* Gilda Radner
* Victor Garber
* Eugene Levy
* Martin Short
* Joan Collins
* Linda Evans
* Mickey Dolenz

ee also

* Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre
* Princess of Wales Theatre
* Massey Hall
* Royal Alexandra Theatre
* Roy Thomson Hall
* Hummingbird Centre
* Bathurst Street Theatre
* The Canon Theatre
* Monarchy in Ontario


External links

* [ Mirvish Productions]
* [ Mirvish's Legendary Production of Godspell]
* [ The Royal Alexandra: Honest Ed's Other Monument]


*Cite book
edition = 1
publisher = Harpercollins
isbn = 155278648X
last = Brockhouse
first = Robert
title = Royal Alexandra Theatre: a Celebration of 100 Years
date = 2008-02-07

*Dombowski, Philip and Janet MacKinnon, eds., TORONTO'S LANDMARK RESTORATION PROJECTS, Bulletin of the Historic Theatres Trust/Société des salles historiques, Montreal, Winter 1994/95
*Haynes, N.J. A HISTORY OF THE ROYAL ALEXANDRA THEATRE, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA, 1914–1918" PhD dissertation, Univ. of Colo., Boulder, 1973.
*O'Neill, Mora Dianne Guthrie, A PARTIAL HISTORY OF THE ROYAL ALEXANDRA THEATRE, PhD Dissertation, Graduate faculty of Louisiana State University, 1976
*Westcott, Jamie, ROYAL ALEX: FROM PAST TO PRESENT, The "Toronto Sun", Special Supplement on the 80th Anniversary of the Royal Alexandra, Oct. 18, 1987

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