Known in some circles as “Broadway North,” Toronto has a booming theatre and performing arts scene that puts it in league with some of the best.
Toronto features several large Broadway-style theatre venues, which often feature top stars and many hit plays and musicals, some of which come straight from London and New York City.
Downtown Toronto has a majority of these theatres, anchored by those located in the area along King Street known as the Theatre District.
The biggest name in Toronto theatre is Mirvish Productions, the company founded by the late businessman Ed Mirvish, who own several of the most prominent venues.
Built in 1907, The Royal Alexandria Theatre is the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in North America. This lavish beaux-arts style landmark has attracted acclaimed productions throughout its history, attracting such stars as Orson Welles, Martin Short, and Humphrey Bogart.
Just down the street from the “Royal Alex” is the Princess of Wales Theatre, another prominent stage for plays and musicals. Some of the theatre world’s most famous productions have passed through here, such as Les MisÃ¨rables and The Lion King.
Also owned by the Mirvish brand are two more large theatres: The Canon Theatre, a former vaudeville theatre from the 1920s located on Victoria Street not far from the Eaton Centre; and The Panasonic Theatre, located on Yonge Street just south of Bloor Street.
Toronto is simply saturated with theatrical history. Just north of Queen Street and not far from the Canon Theatre are the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, a pair of stacked theatres that date back to 1913.
They are the last surviving Edwardian stacked theatres in the world, and are also home to the world’s largest surviving collection of vaudeville props and scenery. They are still hosting shows today, as well as film and music video shoots. Several episodes of Late Night with Conan O’Brien were filmed there in 2004.
There are a number of smaller stages in the city that are highly acclaimed, including Factory Theatre on Bathurst Street, and Theatre Passe Muraille, a popular alternative theatre in the west end.
Soulpepper Theatre, located in the east end Distillery District, is theatre company that has been on the rise since a move to their new digs. Operating in a slightly different medium, The Second City theatre on King Street is a Toronto comedy icon that specializes in presenting sketch comedy and improvisation.
Of course lovers of the performing arts are not limited to plays and musicals while visiting Toronto. From famous opera singers and orchestras to international pop sensations, groups both big and small come to perform in Toronto.
Of the many multi-purpose venues in the city, several can be found in the downtown Theatre District, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s home on King Street West, Roy Thomson Hall.
Roy Thomson Hall host many types of performances, including classical music, choirs, comedians, and academic debates. Its cousin Massey Hall, located on Victoria Street near the Canon Theatre, also hosts a variety of performing arts.
Above all things Massey Hall is a musical landmark, having made its name as the site of famous performances like the one that became the Charlie Parker-Dizzy Gillespie album Jazz at Massey Hall, as well as Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall 1971. Today it hosts a wide range of acts, including previously having hosted the main shows for the Toronto leg of the Just for Laughs Festival.
The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, located on Queen Street West, is another heavy in the Toronto arts community. Built in 2006, it was built specifically to optimize the acoustics of opera and ballet performances.
Currently it is the home of the world famous National Ballet of Canada, as well as the Canadian Opera Company. Also downtown is the Sony Centre, a venue featuring a similar variety of music, theatre and shows. It is located at the intersection of Front Street and Yonge Street.
Of course, downtown Toronto does not necessarily have a stranglehold on the performing arts. North of the city, the Toronto Centre for the Arts has a main theatre stage with a capacity of over 1700, as well as a large recital hall and smaller studio theatre.
Conveniently located in North York not far from the Sheppard and North York Centre stations of the Yonge Subway Line, it also boasts easy access to Highway 401.
In addition to the many permanent arts establishments in the city, Toronto enjoys a number of festivals that feature theatre and performing arts. The Luminato festival in June is a popular celebration of theatre, dance, music, literature, visual arts, and more. Taking advantage of the weather at that time of the year, the festival takes place in indoor and outdoor locations throughout the city.
The Toronto Fringe Festival is an annual alternative theatre festival that takes place across the city every July. While that festival takes place inside the theatres of the city, Toronto’s Buskerfest takes all their performances outside to the areas around St. Lawrence Market.
That special event is held towards the end of August, and features daredevils, magicians, clowns, contortionists, acrobats and puppets, just to name a few.
Totally Toronto has more information on available Theatre and Performing Art Venues in Toronto, so take a look around.