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Canon Theatre

Dispatch: A Standing Tribute to Ed Mirvish

Blocks of cardboard and sheets of brown paper plastered the Canon Theatre’s facade this morning as dignitaries, actors, singers, members of the media and theatre fans all converged on the hall for a surprise announcement from producer David Mirvish. While the theatre’s exterior had an “under construction” vibe, the lobby, mezzanine, and boxes retained the venue’s elegant art deco opulence.

The audience was treated to a performance from Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, the artists behind the comedy Two Pianos Four Hands, before Mirvish took to the podium for the announcement that explained all that brown paper—as of today the venue shall be known as the Ed Mirvish Theatre.

Ed Mirvish, father to David, made his name in Toronto as a businessman and theatre impresario before his death in 2007. He opened the city’s most famous discount store, Honest Ed’s, in 1948 and went on to buy and refurbish the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1962. The purchase of the Royal Alex marked his, and Toronto’s, presence in the world of theatre. (Mirvish Productions also operates the Princess of Wales and Panasonic theatres.)

A line of singers, actors and even politicians expressed their gratitude for the senior Mirvish’s patronage of the arts, and congratulated his family for establishing a landmark that will serves as an enduring tribute to his legacy.

Michael Burgess, Shirley Douglas and Molly Johnson showed their thanks through on-stage performances, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty addressed the crowd via video messages. The event concluded as Mayor Rob Ford unveiled the Ed Mirvish Theatre’s glowing new marquee—a fitting homage to the man who energized Toronto’s theatre scene.

—Rasheed Clarke

Hot Date: Fela Kuti’s Groovin’ for Good Governance

Sahr Ngaujah stars as Fela Kuti in Fela! (photo by Monica Carboni)

OCTOBER 25 TO NOVEMBER 6 Fela Anikulapo Kuti has been described as Che Guevara and Bob Marley rolled into one. A fitting description, as throughout the 1970s and ‘80s Kuti utilized his big band–styled music as a conduit for scathing critiques targeted at the oppressive military regimes in his native Nigeria. The creation of his unique sound and the story of his activism are showcased in Fela!, the hit Broadway musical now on stage in Toronto for a limited engagement. Featuring lively performances, electric choreography by Bill T. Jones, and Kuti’s legendary brand of Afrobeat—a fusion of jazz, funk, rock, and African chants and rhythms that he created with drummer and comrade Tony Allen—this Tony-winning production offers a powerful political statement backed by some of the 20th century’s most vital music. Canon Theatre, Tuesday to Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and
8 p.m., Sunday 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., $35 to $130; call 416-872-1212 or click here for tickets.

Hot Date: Billy Elliot’s Ballet

Photo by David Scheinmann

ON NOW Toronto is ready to embrace a young boy and his inspirational love of dance as Billy Elliot the Musical comes to the stage. Based on the hit British film of the same name, this production—already hailed by critics and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic—follows a working-class lad who trades his boxing gloves for ballet shoes, despite his family’s disapproval. Thrilling choreography and a score by Elton John complement this story of perseverance and personal discovery. Canon Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 1:30 p.m., $26 to $200; call 416-872-1212 or navigate here to buy.

Weekend Roundup, December 17th to 19th

It’s the final weekend before Christmas and there is a lot more to do in the city than just shop. If you’re looking for a break from holiday cheer or hoping to dive into it a week early Toronto’s got you covered.

Friday: Rock on with Alexisonfire

Friday, December 17th
The classic tale of Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas premieres tonight at the Sony Centre. This holiday favourite is given the Broadway treatment with fantastic sets, terrific costumes and all-new songs.

St. Catharines natives Alexisonfire return to their roots with an all-ages show tonight at Sound Academy. Expect to rock out to tunes from their recent album, Old Crows/Young Cardinals, as well as many of their past hits.

Television personality Gerry Dee brings his comedic stylings to the Panasonic Theatre stage with his Gerry Dee and Friends Holiday Show. Canadian comedians Darrin Rose and Frank Spadone also drop in for so stand-up hilarity.

Saturday: See the intriguing movements of Studies in Motion (photo by Tim Matheson)

Saturday, December 18th
Climb aboard the Mariposa Cruises’ Northern Spirit ship for its family-oriented Santa Cruise. This afternoon tour of the Toronto harbour offers children the chance to meet Santa and his elves while taking in Toronto’s iconic skyline.

Tonight presents your last chance to see Studies in Motion at the St. Lawrence Centre’s Bluma Appel Theatre. The well-reviewed play examines the life of the brilliant yet troubled artist Eadweard Muybridge.

The Toronto Children’s Chorus performs tonight at Roy Thomson Hall. Ruth Watson Henderson’s The Last Straw will be sung by the ensemble’s 300-plus children. Its 150-voice Alumni Choir is also be featured as part of this joyous concert.

Sunday: Cheer on Andrea Bargnani and the Raptors

Sunday, December 19th
The Los Angeles Lakers may be one of the most imposing squads in the National Basketball Association, but somehow our Toronto Raptors always manage to put up a good fight. Head to the Air Canada Centre this afternoon to see if Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson and the rest of the Raptors can come out on top.

Catch a performance of Stephen Sondheim’s hilarious farce, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, at the Canon Theatre. This baudy musical is sure to have you rolling in the aisles.

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Handel’s Messiah. Today you can hear it twice: the Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers “Toronto’s Biggest Messiah” at Roy Thomson Hall—featuring more than 60 instruments—while the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir encourage audience participation in its Sing-Along Messiah, a long-time Toronto tradition.

Hot Dates: Forum’s Ancient Antics

Bruce Dow, Randy Hughson and Cliff Saunders in "Forum" (photo by David Hou)

DECEMBER 15 TO JANUARY 16 Travel back to ancient Rome for a bawdy good time as the Tony-winning farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum takes to the Toronto stage. A smash-hit at last summer’s Stratford Festival, this hilarious romp follows a slave’s attempt to gain freedom by winning the hand of a courtesan for his master. Madcap music by Stephen Sondheim plus manic performances by co-leads Sean Cullen and Bruce Dow are sure to keep you and your toga in stitches. Canon Theatre, Tuesday to Sunday, various times, $40 to $120; for tickets, call 416-872-1212 or click here.

Weekend Roundup, October 22 to 24

Friday: Hear what the Dalai Lama has to say

Friday, October 22
His Holiness the Dalai Lama returns to Toronto to share his personal thoughts on achieving peace in today’s modern world at the Rogers Centre. His speech, titled Human Approaches to World Peace, encourages us to balance material development with spiritual growth.

It’s your last chance to take in a runway show at LG Fashion Week! Today, see Amanda Lew Kee’s nature-inspired designs, the perfectly tailored DUY collection, and textural pieces from Denis Gagnon.

Head to Massey Hall, where comedienne Margaret Cho makes a stop as part of her “Cho Dependent” tour. Her provocative observations are sure to have you rolling in the aisles.

Saturday: Indulge your sweet tooth

Saturday, October 23
The first weekend of the International Festival of Authors brings together the best and brightest of contemporary world literature—including Jonathan Franzen, Nicole Krauss and Yann Martel—at Harbourfront Centre. There are tons of events to check out today, including an interview with legendary Canadian author Farley Mowat.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with the Toronto Chocolate Festival’s city-wide Chocolicious event, where sweet and pastry shops open their doors with tastings and samplings. More delicious happenings are scheduled throughout the weekend.

The countdown to Halloween continues. Get in the spirit at the Powerhouse of Terror! The Powerhouse was built by the patients at Lakeshore Psychiatric Centre in 1936 and is considered to be one of the most haunted buildings in Toronto. With five terrifying attractions, including the House of Carnage, Zombie Marsh and Cornfield maze, it will put your bravery to the test!

Sunday: Get to know the witches of Oz

Sunday, October 24
The smash-hit Broadway musical Wicked is back for its third engagement in Toronto. Return to Oz and hear the story of Glinda the Good Witch met the Wicked Witch of the West, long before Dorothy dropped in. Grab your tickets before they sell out—again!

It’s the 20th-annual McMichael Autumn Art Sale this weekend. More than 200 works are up for sale, including those by acclaimed contemporary artists Cindy Praakel, Kenneth Kirsh and Lynda Cunningham. The event is expected to attract hundreds of art patrons to the pictureseque site of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Make sure you’re one of them!

The ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, which celebrates the latest film and new-media works by Indigenous peoples from around the world, concludes today. This evening at Bloor Cinema, catch the aptly titled Closing Night, a psychological drama about the scarring legacy of Canadian residential schools.

You Are Here: Entertainment and Shopping
on Yonge Street

Toronto’s best-known thoroughfare stretches from Lake Ontario to locales far north of the city. Its main strip, of course, runs through the downtown core and offers lots to see and do. Strut along the street for some serious shopping, or find a seat at one of three historic theatres to witness unforgettable entertainment.
View You Are Here: Yonge Street in a larger map

Panasonic Theatre

MODERN CLASSIC Built almost a century ago, what is now the Panasonic Theatre began life as a private residence. Soon after it became a cinema and went on to serve as a primary venue for the Toronto International Film Festival, during that event’s infancy. Since undergoing renovations in 2005, the theatre has been a state-of-the-art home for a variety of live shows, from an 18-month engagement by Blue Man Group to the recently acclaimed production Love, Loss and What I Wore. 651 Yonge St., 416-872-1212.

PUBLIC PLAZA The unofficial centre of downtown Toronto, bustling Yonge-Dundas Square is a year-round gathering place and host to concerts, cultural celebrations, film screenings and many other events, many of which are free. This month, do a bit of early holiday shopping at the Arts at the Heart marketplace (October 2, 9, 10, 23 and 24) and be serenaded by such Canadian bands as Woodpigeon (October 6). Southeast corner of Yonge and Dundas streets, 416-979-9960.

Canon Theatre

SPLENDID SITE When the venue now known as the Canon Theatre opened as a moviehouse in 1920, its 3,373 seats made it the largest cinema in Canada. Since then it has survived scandal, numerous ownership changes and a spell in legal limbo to become a premier facility for live theatre. Opulently outfitted with huge chandeliers and a sweeping lobby staircase, the Canon welcomes theatregoers to Cirque du Soleil’s Banana Shpeel (to October 10) and the popular Tony Award-winning musical Wicked, which opens October 20. 244 Victoria St., 416-872-1212.

MALL STOP Spanning two full blocks, the Toronto Eaton Centre is the city’s largest and most heavily trafficked shopping spot. More than 230 retailers, from Harry Rosen and Michael Kors to Williams-Sonoma and Apple, sell their sought-after wares here—for anyone seeking to spend, this mall is a one-stop shop. The domed-glass ceiling ensures a bright and airy ambience in which to ponder your purchases. 220 Yonge St., 416-598-8560.

Winter Garden Theatre

DRAMATIC DUO The only double-decker theatre operating in the world, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre is truly a local landmark. Restored to its early-20th century majesty, the former vaudeville playhouse and cinema now hosts musical and theatrical productions, including Opera Atelier’s Acis and Galatea, opening October 30. Weekly tours offer behind-the-scenes insight about the Elgin’s damask and gilded plaster detailing and the upper-level Winter Garden’s garden murals and beech-leaf canopy. 189 Yonge St., 416-314-2901.

ALL IN ONE The flagship location of Canada’s oldest department store, The Bay, is an eight-storey mecca with goods to satisfy any shopper’s desires. The main attractions are apparel and accessories for men, women and children from respected Canadian and international brands—ladies, in particular, have the run of The Room, which features high-end designer fashions—but space is also made for housewares, electronics, eateries and much more. 176 Yonge St., 416-861-9111.

Weekend Roundup, October 8 to 10

Toronto’s fun doesn’t stop just because the temperature drops outdoors! There are plenty of new exhibits, shows and performances which will guarantee a good time for everyone this weekend!

Friday: Be wowed by iD (photo by Valérie Remise/Theatre T & Cie)

Friday, October 8th
Catch the entertaining, adults-only puppet show, Billy Twinkle: Requiem for a Golden Boy at the Factory Theatre! When puppeteer Billy Twinkle gets fired from his job on a cruise ship, he must perform his life story as a puppet show to rediscover his love for the craft. It’s a must-see performance that has been garnering rave reviews!

Cirque Éloize has created another masterpiece! Now showing at the Sony Centre For the Performing Arts, iD is filled with jaw-dropping acts  that combine theatre, dance, music, and circus arts. With lots of energy and risky stunts, this innovative show brings plenty of visual effects to make for an unforgettable evening.

Trick or treat! Although Halloween is a few weeks away, visitors to Canada’s Wonderland should prepare to scream as this famous amusement park is once again transformed into the largest haunted attraction in the country. The annual Halloween Haunt offers tons of spooky attractions like haunted mazes and the Psycho Circus. Plus, experience all your favourite rides in complete darkness!

Saturday: Hear classics performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Saturday, October 9th
Enjoy a night of legendary music as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs George Gershwin’s legendary Rhapsody in Blue. This all-American concert will also feature Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Leonard Bernstein’s overture to Candide. Head to Roy Thomson Hall for this powerful performance!

Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida has returned to the Canadian Opera Company stage! This tragic opera tells the forbidden love story between an Ethiopian slave girl and an Egyptian king in a time of war. It’s a stirring show, on now at the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts.

The Fryderyk Chopin and Romantic Piano exhibit opens today at the Royal Ontario Museum. Showcasing numerous instruments, costumes and original scores from the Romantic Era, the show celebrates the bicentennial of this amazing composer’s birth.

Sunday: See mythical beasts at the Ontario Science Centre

Sunday, October 10th
Are you fan of all things fantasy? Head to the Ontario Science Centre to see their newest exhibit Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids. On display is an unbelievable range of sculptures, fossils, creatures and characters that have played a large role in popular myths and fables. You (literally) can’t miss the 40-metre long Chinese dragon that stretches along this exhibit!

The Arts at the Heart market takes over the busy Yonge-Dundas Square this weekend as hundreds of vendors display their handmade wares for sale. Find unique and colourful apparel, fashionable jewelery, belts, accessories and so much more.

It’s your last chance to check out Cirque du Soleil’s Banana Shpeel! This unique production brings together incredible circus acts, colourful costumes, vibrant dance routines, and a hilarious story. The final performance is tonight at the Canon Theatre.

Hot Date: Cirque’s Antics

OPENS SEPTEMBER 14 Mix vaudeville entertainment with modern acrobatics and you get Banana Shpeel, a new creation by Cirque du Soleil. Inspired by vintage theatre, the production is stuffed with laugh-out-loud comedy, colourful dance routines and feats of derring-do such as hand balancing, foot juggling and full-body contortionism. The combination of engaging characters, unique costumes, daring stunts and classic slapstick is sure to leave you in awe. Canon Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1:30 p.m., $25 to $110; call 416-872-1212 or click here for tickets.

Hot Date: Maternal Mayhem

AUGUST 17 TO SEPTEMBER 4 Mrs. Brown, a Dublin mother of six, travels to Toronto all the way from the Emerald Isle to share the follies and jollies of family life at Christmas time in the North American premiere of How Now Mrs. Brown Cow. Starring Brendan O’Carroll as the title character, the Brown clan’s comedic tales began as an Irish radio program in 1990, then became a successful book before sweeping the stage. Canon Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m., $25 to $75; call 416-872-1212 or click here for tickets.

Hot Date: All That Jazz

Harry Connick Jr. is among this year’s Toronto Jazz Festival headliners

JUNE 25 TO JULY 4 Some of the world’s top contemporary musicians arrive in Toronto for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. With 350 concerts at more than 40 venues, there’s a show to suit anyone’s style: traditional swing and bebop, vocal jazz, avant-jazz, blues and more. Popular crooner Harry Connick Jr. performs on June 27 at the Canon Theatre. Piano enthusiasts will want to check out Herbie Hancock and his all-star band on June 26, as well as the Keith Jarrett Trio on June 30. The genre’s adventurous spirit is also well represented by boundary shattering Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, freewheeling guitarist Mike Stern, the multifaceted Dave Douglas and Keystone, and talented band James Farm featuring Joshua Redman. Call 416-928-2033 or click here for a full schedule and ticketing information.

Hot Date: Prairie Musical

Steve Blanchard and Melissa Gilbert star in Little House on the Prairie (photo by Michael Daniel).


TO FEBRUARY 28
One of the most beloved stories in American literature is reimagined for the stage in a musical production of Little House on the Prairie. Inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic books, Melissa Gilbert—who played Laura “Half Pint” Ingalls on the long-running Little House television series—stars as the loveable matriarch in this celebration of a family’s pioneering spirit as it endures the joys and hardships of frontier life in South Dakota. Canon Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m., $30 to $99; call 416-872-1212 or click here to purchase.