Toronto’s Theatre Scene: The Hottest Places to Check out Musical Theatre

Toronto, Ontario is home to a rich and ever-developing theatre scene. As an artist, I am fortunate to be able to work in a community that not only welcomes Broadway’s culture but also fosters new and exciting Canadian content.

For my first blog, I wanted to share a list of my favourite ways to get engaged with musical theatre in Toronto. From large-scale tours to small and experimental shows, T.O. offers a wide variety of musical theatre content for Toronto locals and tourists alike.

Toronto Fringe

Fringe festivals are always a fun and exciting way to get a sneak peak at emerging theatre trends and off the wall productions. Established in 1989, the Toronto Fringe has grown to be one of Canada’s largest theatre festivals and welcomes artists from all over the world. Since the shows are selected via an un-juried lottery system, there is always a multitude of shows to choose from, and it usually includes a large number of musicals. In its 26-year history, the festival has featured over 1,100 productions including the 1997 premiere of the Tony Award winning musical The Drowsy Chaperone, which debuted on Broadway in 2006. See dates and locations on the official Toronto Fringe website.

Hot Tip: During your Fringe visit, make sure to visit the Steam Whistle Beer Tent, where you can mix and mingle with theatre makers and audiences alike.

Mirvish Productions

Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto (Photo: Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0)

Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto (Photo: Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0)

Established in 1986 by David Mirvish, son of Toronto retail icon “Honest Ed” Mirvish, this production company is responsible for bringing the biggest Broadway blockbusters hot off of the “Great White Way” to Toronto.

Mirvish owns and operates four large theatre houses across the city: The Princess of Wales, the Ed Mirvish (formerly known as The Canon), The Panasonic and The Royal Alexandra, which is the oldest continuously operating theatre in North America. Musicals like Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and the North American debut of Mamma Mia! have all enjoyed long and successful runs in Toronto, making Mirvish one of the most powerful producers and presenters of commercial theatre in the world.

Not only does Mirvish feature hot ticket touring productions like Newsies, Wicked and Book of Mormon but he also hosts out-of-town tryouts. Shows like Aladdin and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert gave Toronto theatre fans a firsthand look during their pre-Broadway runs. Check out Mirvish’s website for details.

Hot Tip: Sign up for Mirvish’s EStage newsletter to receive special offers and discounts.

Theatre Sheridan

Years ago, I was a student at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario where I was enrolled in their Performing Arts Preparation program. The program was designed as an introduction to help students eager to pursue a career in the performing arts before moving onto vocational and degree programs, like Sheridan’s own much sought after Musical Theatre program.

To get more involved in theatre and make extra cash during my enrollment, I applied for a job as an usher at Theatre Sheridan, where students from the Musical Theatre program performed in professional-looking productions. I would stand in awe in the back of the theatre watching the talented emerging artists on stage night after night. Since my ushering days, the program has expanded into a four-year degree program and not only stages pre-existing musicals like In The Heights but also is home to the Canadian Musical Theatre Project. Founded in 2011, CMTP is described as “Canada’s first incubator for the development of new musical theatre works by Canadian and international composers, lyricists and book-writers and serves to create a permanent headquarters for the development of new musicals.” Creative teams work in collaboration with Sheridan students and staff to bring new musicals to life through a series of readings.

Although Sheridan is located outside Toronto, it’s worth the forty-minute commute to see some rising musical theatre talent and the early stages of new and innovative Canadian musicals. For more information, visit Theatre Sheridan’s website.

Hot Tip: While the website states that “selected guests” are invited to readings, Theatre Sheridan often hosts livestreams of readings for audiences across the world. Even if you’re not in Toronto, I definitely encourage you to watch!

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. (Photo: Torsymph via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. (Photo: Torsymph via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

My first experience attending a symphony event was last June where I took myself on a date to see Broadway’s Jeremy Jordan, Julia Murney, Carrie Manolakos and Christopher Johnstone perform a concert of Stephen Schwartz’s greatest musical hits with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The TSO offers a variety of concerts through out the year for every niche market imaginable, including concerts dedicated to film and video game scores.

Performed at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, the concert was another way for myself and other musical enthusiasts to engage with the Broadway community without having to leave Toronto. Not only was I able to witness some of my Broadway favourites sing live but I also got to attend my first symphony performance as well. Double win! More information is available on the TSO website.

Hot Tip: If you’re between the ages of 15-35, you’re eligible to purchase tickets through the TSOUNDCHECK program for just $16 per ticket!

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