Looking for Toronto theatre tickets? Read on for an insider's guide to Broadway-style shows, unique dinner theatre (mysteries and black light theatre) as well as cutting-edge independent venues.
All year around, any night of the week, you'll find live theatre in Toronto. During the "theatre season" (roughly Sept-May), your choices will be even more varied.
Here's a run-down of what to expect!
Types of Toronto theatre
Blockbuster Broadway shows
We’re talking big-name global shows like A Chorus Line, We Will Rock You, Dirty Dancing, Cats, Les Miserables, etc. The venues for these shows are usually Panasonic, Royal Alexandra, Canon Theatre, Princess of Wales.
One of the nice things about dinner theatre, especially for visitors to the city, is that it saves time and effort. You don’t have to travel from restaurant to theatre. They’re both in the same location, with no waiting in line, and because of the set-up (pre-ordering), you also get fast dinner service (no panic if you’re going to make it to the theatre on time!).
Famous People Players – Black light theatre. Unusual. Very entertaining, with excellent food and service. See my review.
Mysteriously Yours – Great fun! Inter-active comedy. I saw this at the Old Mill location and found their buffet meal delicious. They use a few different venues, so make sure you get the right address.
Medieval Times dinner theatre - Features a live horse show. My friend has seen this and loves it. Takes guests there. I’ve always wanted to see it, but since I have respiratory problems, I can’t. This is their disclaimer: “Allergy / Strobe Warning: Medieval Times uses stroboscopic and pyrotechnic effects. Medieval Times is a live horse show in an enclosed arena. Persons with respiratory conditions, allergies, or asthma attend at their own risk.” When I’ve seen the ads on television, there does seem to be a lot of artificial smoke in the air. So be warned.
Stage West (Mississauga) – A little further out, but a good option if you’re staying in a hotel in that end of the city. They offer hotel/theatre packages too.
Other types of Toronto theatre
Community theatre groups such as Markham Little Theatre are usually much less expensive than the major theatres and often just as entertaining. These are amateur productions but the actors are often wonderful!
You can see up-and-coming young actors... the stars of tomorrow? -- at university and college theatres such as Hart House Theatre at University of Toronto.
Got kids? Introduce them early to the joy of Toronto theatre with children’s theatre such as Lorraine Kimsa Theatre For Young People, or Solar Stage Children’s Theatre.
For specialty theatre check out Buddies in Bad Times (gay themes), Native Earth Performing Arts (Aboriginal), Toronto Irish Players (Irish), and Harold Green Jewish Theatre (Jewish).
I always like to see local themes in art whenever I travel. It helps me gain some understanding of the place I’m visiting. Here are a few theatres that make an effort to offer Canadian plays on a regular basis:
Historic Toronto theatres and concert halls
178 Victoria Street – but the main entrance is on Shuter Street
Opened in 1894. A grand old Toronto theatre. Mostly concerts nowadays, but in the past it has staged unusual events like labour conventions, boxing and wrestling matches, a visit from the Dalai Lama, on-stage weddings, political rallies and even typing contests!
Royal Alexandra Theatre
260 King St. West
Opened in 1907. "An Edwardian jewel-box", and “the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in North America,” according to their web site. Offers broadway-style theatre. For you monarchists, please note: “The Royal Alexandra is also North America's only truly "royal" theatre - "royal" by patent from Edward VII - named with royal permission for his consort, Alexandra, a Danish princess and great-grandmother of the present queen.” (Source: Mirvish.com) The theatre was designed by John M. Lyle, a famous Canadian architect who also worked on Union Station Toronto, another historic Toronto landmark. It was the first air-conditioned building in Canada and the first fireproof building in Toronto. It was also the most lavish Toronto public building of its era, and its handsome stone exterior and red and gold interior is still strikingly impressive.
The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
189 Yonge Street
Opened in 1913. This is a unique two-tier theatre. The lower theatre is called the Elgin and the upper theater is the Winter Garden. It’s now a National Historic Site, and even if you don’t get the chance to catch a show there, you can still see it on a guided tour. A wonderful setting for the Opera Atelier shows; love that rich red setting.
Ed Mirvish Theatre (Formerly the Canon Theatre)
244 Victoria Street
Opened in 1920. It began life as a vaudeville and cinema in 1920 and was converted in 1989 to a live performance theatre for Broadway-style hits. (Note: this used to be called Pantages, then Canon, now it's Ed Mirvish. The names change when a new company buys the naming rights. Very annoying!)
Meet the Actors
The Canadian Stage Company has an interesting feature called TALK BACKS. These are informal question-and-answer periods following a performance at the theatre. After every Tuesday evening and Wednesday matinee show, excluding previews.Where to find what’s on now
NOW Toronto - Pick up a free copy of the current weekly paper, or visit their web site: www.Nowtoronto.com/whatson
For reviews, check out http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/
If you’re planning ahead, you can get an overview of the theatre season at www.Torontolivetheatre.com
You may enjoy
Ontario Theatre - an overview of the theatre scene across the province.
Shaw Festival - Niagara on the Lake's beloved summer festival.