Mirvish is a house hold name in the Canadian psyche, and a production company that has been bringing the wonder of theatre to Canadian audiences for decades.
Since being founded in 1987 by David Mirvish, it has grown to become the biggest theatrical promoter in Canada, and made Toronto into one the world’s theatrical centres, behind Broadway and London.
Royal Alexandria Theatre, Toronto.
David Mirvish is a modern day renaissance man, and the son of Toronto retailing icon ‘Honest’ Ed Mirvish. It was his father that started the Mirvish theatre tradition when he bought the historical Royal Alexandra Theatre more than 40 years ago.
“I remember that first night at The Royal Alexandra with my father and my mother after we bought the theatre,” says David. “All the critics came up from New York and I feel like they were all scratching their heads and wondering what we had done since my father had completely re-built it and restored it to what it had been in its heyday. I think everyone wished him well but also wondered if he would survive.”
David and Ed Mirvish, founders of Mirvish Productions.
For most of its life up to that point the theatre served as a ‘road house’, a temporary venue for travelling productions. But when David took over the 1500 seat theatre in 1987, he founded Mirvish Productions to produce original works and Canadian stagings of famous musicals. Among the notable early Mirvish-produced and co-produced shows seen at the Royal Alexandra were Brian Macdonald’s acclaimed staging of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore.
Since then Mirvish has expanded, with 4 theatres and over 30 original productions under its belt, the company has made itself a house hold name in the international theatre circuit, and Toronto a cultural capital.
“Theatre has such a long rich history, but sometimes the real joy with theatre is in the moment when an audience falls in love with the show they didn’t expect, or the show that they wouldn’t have seen if it wasn’t for our work with Mirvish,” adds David. “That’s what makes theatre so incredible. It is this collaboration between the audience and the actors. The actors are reading the audience’s body language and no single production exists in a vacuum. It’s what makes it special and also what makes it dangerous. Of course, some of it is also luck.”
This year’s season has been an astounding success for the Mirvish company, with the overwhelmingly positive reception of Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots, which has been extended for a third time into the new year. The show tells the true story of a man named Charlie Price who inherits a shoe factory from his father. Charlie forms an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola. With Lola’s help, Charlie develops a plan to produce a line of high-heeled boots.
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