The Princess of Wales Theatre is a 2,000-seat live theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located on King Street West, in Toronto's downtown Entertainment District. The theatre's name has a triple meaning: it honours Diana, Princess of Wales, with whose consent the theatre was named; it links the building to its sister theatre, the Royal Alexandra, one block to the east, also named – with Royal assent – for a former Princess of Wales; and it recalls the Princess Theatre, Toronto's first "first-class legitimate" playhouse, that stood three blocks to the east until 1931.
Ed and David Mirvish built the theatre as a state-of-the-art facility to stage large-scale musicals for long runs. The family's Mirvish Productions owns Toronto's Royal Alexandra, Ed Mirvish (formerly the Canon), and CAA (formerly the Panasonic) theatres. The Mirvish family owned the former Honest Ed's discount store and the Mirvish Village retail district, which are currently being redeveloped.
Construction began on August 6, 1991. The project architect was Peter Smith, of the Toronto firm Lett-Smith. Smith was also responsible for the duMaurier Theatre Centre in Toronto and for the restoration of the Grand Theatre, in London, Ontario.
For the Princess of Wales Theatre, David Mirvish commissioned a series of murals by American abstract expressionist painter and sculptor Frank Stella. The paintings——cover the auditorium ceiling dome, the proscenium arch, the walls of lounges and lobbies on all four levels of the theatre and the outside back wall of the fly tower. They are believed to comprise one of the largest mural installations of modern times. Stella also designed the decorative fronts of the boxes and balconies and the decorative end-caps of the each seating row. The theatre has seating on three levels—orchestra, dress circle and balcony—with elevator access to all levels and is configured as a traditional 19th century English proscenium theatre. Further, the entire theatre is barrier-free, enabling wheelchair access to all levels — not a common occurrence in Toronto considering the age of many of its theatres. The Princess of Wales Theatre is designed to incorporate both traditional and contemporary design elements.
The theatre opened on May 26, 1993, with a Canadian production of the megamusical Miss Saigon.1 Subsequent productions in the Princess of Wales have included the musicals Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Les Misérables, Hairspray, Chicago, Oliver!, Cabaret, The Phantom of the Opera and The Sound of Music.
A stage production of The Lord of the Rings made its world premiere in the facilities on February 8, 2006, losing money owing to terrible reviews and a lack of public interest. The original stage was gutted and replaced with a complex stage surface that includes three interlocking turntables and 17 independent elevators for this production.
On September 29, 2012, after operating for only 19 years, Mirvish Productions announced a plan to demolish the Princess of Wales Theatre in favour of a multi-purpose complex designed by Frank Gehry and which would include an extensive artwork collection available for public viewing, as well as museums, condominium units, and retail spaces.3 However, in response to criticism from city planners, Mirvish and Gehry announced a revised plan in May 2014 which would spare the structure.4
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