On your next family day in Toronto, take advantage of the city’s cultural offerings and catch a live performance together. When it comes to the stage, this city has an ace up its sleeve in the form of Mirvish Productions, which has four fantastic venues to its name, the Royal Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, the Panasonic, and the flagship Ed Mirvish Theatre–named for the theatrical impresario, philanthropist, and founder of the delightfully quirky Honest Ed’s. Between the four of them, you’ll always have a good kid-friendly option, and you’ll usually be spoiled with choices.
The gorgeous beaux-arts style Royal Alexandra Theatre is a destination unto itself. Dating back to 1907, it’s the oldest continuously operating theatre in North America. While it often hosts cutting-edge dramas like Our Country’s Good, a harrowing tale of grit, determination, and love probably best left for date night, it’s also the home of lighter fare like The Heart of Robin Hood, a creative reimagining of the classic underdog tale coming up later this year. The considerably newer Princess of Wales (est. 1993), meanwhile, is the place to line up your holiday entertainment, with Donnie & Marie Christmas in Toronto already booked for the season. (No harm in planning ahead.)
For super-sized family fun right now, plot a course for the Panasonic Theatre, where you’ll travel 65 million years back in time to prehistoric Australia for Erth’s DINOSAUR ZOO LIVE. Your kids will be entanced as intricately detailed triceratops and titanosaur puppets move about the stage so effortlessly that you’re never entirely sure these dinos aren’t real. When the puppeteers call out for volunteers, you barely have time to react before you see their little hands shoot straight into the air. All of a sudden, that seemingly irrational nightmare you once had comes true as a terrifying tyrannosaurus rex leans in to gobble up your little time traveler for lunch. It’s all in good fun, though, and you’ll hear the harrowing saga recounted over and over again on the car ride home, at dinner, before bedtime, at school, in the park …
Fast-forward a couple million years to a performance of Return to Grace, an upbeat tribute to Elvis Presley in the Ed Mirvish Theatre. Though your kids may ask, “Elvis who?”, they won’t be in the dark for long. This two-hour musical is jam-packed with the King’s best-known toe-tapping songs, such as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” and the exciting “All Shook Up.” After your kids learn about everything from Elvis’ early years to his famous Aloha from Hawaii concert in 1973, they won’t stop practicing their best rock ‘n’ roll dance moves and their smooth shouts of, “Thank you, thank you very much” in your living room.
Whether you go with dinosaurs, rockers, or something else entirely, you’ll be reminded once again of the wonder of live theater, vowing to return for a family encore soon.
Photo by Tony Hisgett