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Mirvish Productions

Mirvish Productions is Canada's largest commercial theatre production company. The company owns and operates four major downtown Toronto theatres.

Every year, Mirvish Productions produces and presents dozens of plays and musicals, chosen from the best theatre originating in Canada, New York, London, Australia and beyond. The company programmes two subscription seasons: the Main Season, which offers popular, large-scale productions, and the Off-Mirvish Season, which specializes in smaller more challenging productions. It also programmes many stand-alone shows of new works and revivals, supplemented with special concert engagements of dance, music and comedy.

Owned by the Mirvish family, the company got its start when Ed Mirvish, an iconic Torontonian who founded the landmark bargain department store Honest Ed’s, made headlines in 1963 when he purchased and saved from demolition Toronto's historic Royal Alexandra Theatre, one of the oldest and most famous legitimate theatres in North America. For the next 23 years, Ed Mirvish operated the Royal Alex — as it had been operated for most of its history — primarily as a "roadhouse", staging short-run touring productions from London and New York and renting the space to local companies, such as the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.

But Ed Mirvish did more than just operate the Royal Alex, he created an exciting neighbourhood in which the theatre could flourish. In 1963, the King Street West area was filled with derelict warehouses and foundries. Ed bought several of these buildings and opened popular restaurants, laying the foundation for what is now the most thriving entertainment neighbourhood in Toronto.

In 1986, David Mirvish assumed the responsibility for the family's theatrical interests. He changed the focus of the company to not only offering touring productions but also producing original plays and musicals, producing local productions of blockbuster international titles starring Canadian talent, as well as co-producing with such regional Canadian theatres as the Stratford Festival, the Shaw Festival, the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Citadel Theatre and bringing their works to Toronto.

Among the notable early Mirvish productions and co-productions seen at the Royal Alexandra were Brian Macdonald's acclaimed staging of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore; the world tour of the English Shakespeare Company's Henry IV and Henry V; Sweet Bird of Youth with Joanne Woodward; Spoils of War with Kate Nelligan (in her first Canadian stage appearance); Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, the first Indigenous Canadian play to receive a major commercial production in Canada; the world premiere of the musical Jane Eyre, which subsequently moved to Broadway; and the wildly popular Toronto production and national tours of Les Misérables.

In 1993, in response to the growth of the Toronto theatre community and local audiences, Ed and David Mirvish built the Princess of Wales Theatre, a luxurious 2000-seat venue one block to the west of the Royal Alexandra (and the first privately financed free-standing legitimate theatre to be built in North America in more than 30 years). The Princess of Wales opened with the box office record-breaking Mirvish co-production (in partnership with London producer Cameron Mackintosh) of the musical Miss Saigon. The two theatres formed the centre around which Toronto's "Entertainment District" has since grown.

The Mirvish theatre family doubled in size in 2008 when the company purchased two Yonge Street venues: the 2300-seat Canon Theatre — now the Ed Mirvish Theatre, which was renamed in honour of one of Toronto’s most beloved city boosters — and the intimate 700-seat Panasonic Theatre, now the CAA Theatre.

Other recent Mirvish shows have included the North American premiere of Mamma Mia!; the Canadian premieres of Disney’s The Lion King, The Who's Tommy, Rent, The Producers, Hairspray, Rock of Ages, Billy Elliott, Matilda the Musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Disgraced, Oslo and Come From Away; and the transfer of the Canadian hits The Drawer Boy, Two Pianos, Four Hands, The Drowsy Chaperone, Butcher and Da Kink in My Hair.

David Mirvish photo

Edwin “Ed” Mirvish was a shopkeeper, theatre impresario, restaurateur, Toronto icon, ballroom dancer and family man.

He was born in Colonial Beach, Virginia in 1914 and came to Canada at the age of nine. In 1941 he and his wife, Anne, opened a dress shop, first called the Sportsbar and then Anne and Eddie's, at Bloor and Bathurst that ultimately became the famous discount department store Honest Ed’s.

In 1963 he purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre and saved it from demolition. It was the beginning of his life in the theatre business. In 1982 he and son David purchased the renowned Old Vic Theatre in London, England, which they refurbished and restored to its former splendour.

In 1993 Ed and David opened the Princess of Wales Theatre — the first privately financed free-standing legitimate theatre to be built in North America in more than 30 years — with the Cameron Mackintosh production of Miss Saigon, the most expensive production in Canadian theatre up to that time.

Ed Mirvish was a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1998, he and David received the Olivier Award for their lifetime contributions to British theatre. Ed Mirvish passed away in Toronto on July 11, 2007.

 

Honest Ed's exterior

Ed Mirvish opened Honest Ed’s in 1948 at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst where he and his wife, Anne, had established a dress shop in 1941. The discount department store, one of the first in the world, would go on to become a beloved Toronto landmark. After his father’s death in 2007, David Mirvish operated the store until its closing at the end of 2016.

Honest Ed’s was known for its huge flashing sign (23,000 lightbulbs!), corny slogans (known as Edlines), wacky promotions, hand-lettered signs, street parties and turkey giveaways but it was also one-stop shopping for generations of immigrants who came for the bargains and the variety of goods as they set up house and raised their families in the city.

The store was indeed singular and to quote one of the more popular slogans: “There’s no place like this place, anyplace!”

 

Royal Alexandra Theatre exterior

Edwin "Honest Ed" Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra from the Mulock estate in 1963 and closed the theatre for extensive modernisation, repair and renovation, restoring the old house to the splendour of its early days. It reopened on September 9, 1963 with William Bendix and Nancy Carroll in Never Too Late. Ed Mirvish personally oversaw the operation of the theatre for the next 23 years, until 1986 when he handed management over to his son, David, and Mirvish Productions was founded.

The Royal Alexandra was named a National Historic Monument in 1987.

 

David Mirvish Gallery photo

David Mirvish began his career as an art dealer in 1963 when, at the age of 19, he opened the David Mirvish Gallery.

Over the next 15 years, through some 130 exhibitions, the gallery became a focal point of Toronto’s cultural life and achieved international renown as a showcase for contemporary Canadian, American and British art. The gallery was most noted for exhibiting work by the following artists: Milton Avery, Walter Darby Bannard, Jack Bush, Anthony Caro, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hofmann, Morris Louis, Robert Motherwell, Robert Murray, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, David Smith and Frank Stella. 

It was considered a pillar in the establishment of the abstract art movement in Canada. The gallery ceased public exhibitions in the summer of 1978 but continues to provide both inventory and expertise to a number of commercial art dealers worldwide and to lend works to scholarly exhibitions.

 

 

David Mirvish Books logoIn 1974, David Mirvish opened David Mirvish Books/Books on Art as an outgrowth of the David Mirvish Gallery.

Featuring, but not limited to, books on art and design, including rare and out of print titles, the store was a mecca for artists, art lovers, educators and students and became known as one of the premier independent booksellers in the city. Book launches and author signings were regular events, often accompanied by the installation of an art exhibition.

The store was also beloved for the 50-foot-long Frank Stella painting, Damascus Gate, Stretch Variation, which hung prominently on the back wall.

The bookstore closed on March 1, 2009, after 35 years in the heart of Mirvish Village.

 

Gehry Project rendering

In the fall of 2012, David Mirvish and architect Frank Gehry unveiled the design for a mixed-use project on King Street West that will transform Toronto’s Entertainment District. The multi-year, multi-phase project is the largest and most significant urban commission to date for the world-renowned Toronto-born Gehry.

The project will encompass two distinct and striking residential towers at the intersection of King Street West and Ed Mirvish Way and build on the legacy David’s father began when he purchased and restored the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1963.

In 2017, David Mirvish sold Mirvish + Gehry to developer Great Gulf which is undertaking the fulfilment of the project with Westdale Properties and Dream Unlimited.

 

history of mirvish theatre timeline from 1963-2020

The History of Mirvish Theatre Timeline lists productions that have played at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the other Mirvish-owned Toronto theatres from 1963 to 2020. We've made it easy for you to identify productions written by Canadians and productions that supported Canadian artists and Canadian partner companies!

 Canadian productions / Canadian artists and partners

  Canadian authors / Canadian productions / Canadian artists and partners