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Princess of Wales Timeline

The Princess of Wales Turns 25

The 1980s were the era of the “mega-musical,” the term given to shows such as CATS, LES MISERABLES and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. These productions were mega in many ways: the size of casts, sets, costumes and special effects; and their appeal to audiences around the world. These shows also shared a few other elements — primarily that they were all British born and all produced by Cameron Macintosh.

The last of these mega-musicals opened in September 1989 at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The much-anticipated new show from the creators of LES MISERABLES, Claude-Michel Schônberg and Alain Boublil, MISS SAIGON was the apotheosis of the mega-musical. It was bigger and bolder, and took the staging of a musical to a higher level.

As all three of the British mega-musicals had successfully played Toronto with local sit-down companies, it was only a matter of time before MISS SAIGON would find its way on one of this city’s stages. But was there a stage large enough to accommodate it? After all, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane stage is 60 feet deep, and the MISS SAIGON set used every inch for its spectacular special effects, including the famous helicopter that carried away the last American evacuees from Saigon before the city fell to the invading North Vietnamese army. Toronto did not have a theatre large enough.

David and Ed Mirvish offered to build a theatre for MISS SAIGON. It would be a state-of-the-art facility but designed in the tradition of the Victorian playhouses so that, while still large enough for spectacular shows, would also provide an intimacy for audiences.

They decided to build it on King Street so that it could be a sister theatre to other the Mirvish-owned venue, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, which was built in 1907. And like the Royal Alex, it would be built on land originally used as the playing field of Upper Canada College.

Designed by architect Peter Smith, with an interior design by the then up-and-coming design firm Yabu Pushelberg, now world renowned, and featuring artwork by the brilliant Frank Stella, the Princess of Wales opened with the Canadian premiere of MISS SAIGON on May 26, 1993.

The theatre has since become the premiere home of classic and contemporary musical productions.  The timeline below takes you through the building’s construction and history, highlighting some of the more than 78 shows that have played there in the last 25 years.

1991
Construction begins on Princess of Wales
August 6, 1991 - May, 1993

Construction on the Princess of Wales began on August 6, 1991. Its name honours Diana, Princess of Wales.

  • Construction from above

    Courtesy of Mirvish Productions

  • Construction of balcony

    Courtesy of Mirvish Productions

  • Ed & David Mirvish oversee construction of the Princess of Wales

    Courtesy of Mirvish Productions

1993
Princess Of Wales
1993

The Princess of Wales Theatre opened its doors to the public in 1993. The first privately owned and financed theatre built in Canada since 1907, this theatre seats 2,000 and boasts state-of-the-art technical facilities, as well as one of the widest and deepest stages in North America.

  • Frank Stella mural in the Princess of Wales

    Photo by Evan Dion

    Mural by Frank Stella.

  • Frank Stella's muralled dome

    Photo by Evan Dion

    Frank Stella's muralled dome in all its splendor at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

  • Water streams from bathroom sink

    Photo by Evan Dion

    Tiny jets of water stream from an undulating pipe stretching the length of the communal sinks in the washroom.

  • Interior of theatre with boxes

    Photo by Evan Dion

    The sculpted frieze of the boxes reflects the shapes and forms of Stella's murals.

Miss Saigon
May 8, 1993 - April 30, 1995

Miss Saigon has its Canadian premiere at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre.  Opening night  -  May 26, 1993.

  • Miss Saigon logo
  • Ed & David Mirvish stand in front of the Princess of Wales on Opening Night
1995
Beauty & The Beast
July 25, 1995 - August 30, 1997

Distinctly Canadian flavor to the Toronto cast of Beauty & the Beast. Of the 39 cast members, 36 are Canadian. Dan Chameroy appeared as the muscle-bound, self-adoring Gaston.

Les Misérables
August 15, 1998 - January 2, 1999

The production features Colm Wilkinson, reprising the role of Jean Valjean. Wilkinson had not played the part since leaving the original Broadway Company in 1987.

  • Les Miserables
  • Colm Wilkinson performs BRING HIM HOME (Les Misérables).

1999
Chicago
February 2, 1999 - February 26, 1999

Chicago first played the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1977 and in 1998 played the Princess of Wales for this first time. This time around Chita Rivera plays murderess Roxie Hart.

Chicago the Musical Artwork
The Pajama Game
June 17, 1999 - July 24, 1999

The North American premiere of Simon Callow's British staging. The production is designed by abstract artist Frank Stella (whose permanent works already decorate the Princess of Wales). With Canadian actress Camilla Scott.

Cabaret
September 8, 1999 - October 16, 1999

Starring Joely Fisher.

2000
The Lion King

Canadian premiere of Disney’s The Lion King. This is the second North American production of the musical, after Broadway, and the fourth in the world. With a cast of 48, including 40 Canadians - Stephen Allerick as Simba, Saskia Garel as Nala, Richard McMillan as Scar, Eugene Clark as Mufasa, Mark Terene as Pumbaa, Jeffrey Kuhn as Zazu and Topaz Hasfal as Sarabi.

The Lion King Artwork
2004
on stage 2004
Hairspray
May 5, 2004 - November 28, 2004

The Toronto engagement of Hairspray is the first international production of the 2002 Tony Award winning Broadway hit based on the cult movie by John Waters.

2005
'da Kink in my Hair
January 8, 2005 - April 24, 2005

Trey Anthony's 'da Kink in my Hair, makes it the first Canadian play to grace the stage at the Princess of Wales. Due to the demand, the play is extended five times! Directed by Weyni Mengesha.

'da Kink artwork
2006
The Lord of the Rings
February 8, 2006 - September 3, 2006

The much-anticipated $30-million British musical theatre production of The Lord of the Rings makes its world premiere in Toronto with a cast of 50 and complex hydraulically operated sets. This largely Canadian cast of orcs, elves and hobbits is directed by Matthew Warchus in a three-act, 3½-hour show. 

on stage 2006
2007
The Phantom of the Opera
February 21, 2007 - June 17, 2007
The Phantom of the Opera Artwork & Mask
Sweeney Todd
November 6, 2007 - December 9, 2007

John Doyle's re-imagined production. The 10-member cast doubles as the orchestra.

Twelve Angry Men
June 3 - 15, 2008

After playing for five weeks to standing ovations and packed houses earlier this year (Jan 8 – Feb. 10, 2008), the highly regarded Roundabout Theatre Company production of Twelve Angry Men returns for a strictly limited run of only 16 performances. Starring Richard Thomas & Kevin Dobson.

Two men in conversation

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Richard Thomas & Kevin Dobson in Roundabout Theatre Company's Twelve Angry Men

Priscilla Queen of the Desert
October 12, 2010 - January 2, 2011

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical makes its North American debut before moving to Broadway. Starring Tony Sheldon (Bernadette), Will Swenson (Tick/Mitzi), Nick Adams (Adam/Felicia), Canadian C. David Johnson (Bob) and fellow Canadian actors Thom Allison, Susan Dunstan and David Lopez.

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
Sep 8, 2011 – Sep 18, 2011

For the first time, the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival  takes place in the Princess of Wales Theatre. The theatre is outfitted with a state of the art projection system for this year's red-carpet events.

Hugh Jackman in Concert
July 5, 2011 - July 17, 2011
Hugh Jackman

Photo Credit: Josie Di Luzio

2012
War Horse
February 10, 2012 - January 16, 2013

Adapted by Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel, Britain’s National Theatre presents War HorseThe puppetry by Handspring Puppetry Company ,brings galloping, full-scale horses to life on stage — their flanks, hides and sinews built of steel, leather and aircraft cables. The stage show received five Tony Awards, including best play!

Mirvish Productions

2013
The Book Of Mormon
April 30, 2013 - June 9, 2013

First engagement of The Book of Mormon at the Princess of Wales. The Toronto engagement is part of the first national tour of the nine-time Tony Award-winning show, a religious satire centred on two Mormon missionaries.

The Book of Mormon Artwork
2015
Blithe Spirit
February 11, 2015 - March 15, 2015

Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit first played the Royal Alexandra theatre in 1943, 1945 and again in 1982. This time, The Princess of Wales wecomed the legend Angela Lansbury as the medium Madame Arcati. 

  • Blithe Spirit Artwork featuring Angela Lansbury
  • Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcati in the North American tour.

    Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

    Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcati in the North American tour.

A Gentleman's Guide To Love & Murder
May 25, 2016 - June 26, 201

Getting away with murder can be so much fun... and there's no better proof than the knock-'em-dead hit show that's earned unanimous raves and won the 2014 Tony Award for BEST MUSICAL.

Cast photo

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

National Touring Company. The cast with John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith (red) in a scene from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
October 10, 2017 - November 19, 2017

Curious Incident originated at Britain's National Theatre and sparked a Broadway production that eventually spawned a U.S. tour. Mirvish Productions brings in the British touring production to Toronto.

Christopher on stage

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Julie Hale (Siobhan) & Joshua Jenkins (Christopher Boone) in Curious Incident International Tour.

An American In Paris
March 27, 2018 - April 29, 2018

McGee Maddox (National Ballet of Canada) stars in this George & Ira Gershwin classic. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

McGee Maddox and Allison Walsh in An American in Paris.