Royal Alexandra Theatre
The Royal Alexandra embodies the ambition of the young Toronto stock broker Cawthra Mulock, who sought to put his home town on the cultural map by building for it "the finest theatre on the continent." What he and his architect – John M. Lyle – created has since been called "an Edwardian jewel-box", a treasure chest of imported marble, hand-carved cherry and walnut, fine silks and velvets, crystal chandeliers and ornate, gilded plaster – all constructed on the city’s first steel-framed structure (allowing cantilevered balconies, with no internal pillars to obstruct lines of sight) – and over a huge ice-pit that made this theatre one of the first "air conditioned" buildings in North America.
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.
Since its opening in 1907, almost 3000 productions have played the Royal Alexandra. Its roster of stars is an honour-roll of twentieth century theatre: John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Cornell, Helen Hayes, Orson Welles, Ruth Gordon, Al Jolson, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Pickford, Cedric Hardwicke, Sydney Greenstreet, John and Ethel Barrymore, Fred and Adele Astaire, Harry Lauder, Maurice Evans, Alan Bates, Marilyn Miller, Deborah Kerr… Edith Piaf sang here, Paul Robeson played Othello here, Pavlova danced here, the Marx Brothers made Alex audiences laugh and Mae West made them blush.
Edwin "Honest Ed" Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra from the Mulock estate in 1963 and closed the theatre for extensive modernisation, repair and renovation, restoring the old house to the splendour of its early days. Mr. Mirvish personally oversaw the operation of the theatre for the next 23 years, until 1986 when he handed management and administration over to his son, David, and David’s company, Mirvish Productions.
The Royal Alexandra was named a National Historic Monument in 1987, on its 80th birthday.
Inside The Theatre
There are three levels of seating in the Royal Alexandra: orchestra, balcony and upper balcony (gallery). Each level offers a lobby, bar/refreshment area and washrooms. The largest lounge area, the Yale Simpson Room, is on the lowest level, beneath the auditorium. The Royal Alex has a wheelchair-accessible washroom on the street (orchestra) level, on the east side of the main lobby.
PLEASE NOTE: as a national historic landmark, the Royal Alexandra is required to maintain the style and appearance of a 19th century theatre. There are no elevators in the building. Wheelchair seating is available only in the orchestra level. Those having difficulty with stairs are advised to purchase orchestra seating. The upper balcony (gallery) in theatres of this age – known as "the gods" – is, traditionally, "student seating". It is the lowest-priced seating in the theatre, but the floor is steeply angled and the seats are narrower and more closely spaced than those of the orchestra and balcony.