Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ed Mirvish Theatre Renaming

On December 6, 2011, David Mirvish gathered press and patrons to the Canon Theatre to make what he called the most personal and important announcement of his professional career.  In honour of his father, henceforth the venue would be named "Ed Mirvish Theatre" after the impresario responsible for reviving the theatre industry in Toronto with the purchase of the Royal Alexandra in 1963.

 A touching biographical short film was played reviewing the business tycoon's many accomplishments including his flagship Honest Ed's store with its annual turkey giveaways, his restaurants that completed the conversion of King St West into the "Entertainment District", the building of The Princess of Wales theatre and the purchase and restoration of the Old Vic in London England for which he was awarded the Commander of the British Empire (which he nicknamed Creator of Bargains Everywhere).


Through it all, it was clear that the one constant, muse and love of his life was his wife Anne, who first shared her affinity for the arts and theatre with him.  He in turn has passed this passion onto his son David, for which Toronto theatre lovers are extremely grateful.


A variety of singers, actors, producers and performers who had worked closely with Ed were invited to pay tribute to him on this special day.   From Les Miserables, Louise Pitre sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from her role as Fantine while Michael Burgess sang Jean Val Jean's big number "Bring Him Home".  Camilla Scott sang "Someone to Watch Over Me" from Crazy for You" and Molly Johnson sang "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess.  Since Ed was named an honorary policeman, the Police choir sang a medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs including Phantom of the Opera and Don't Cry for Me Argentina.


Shirley Douglas (Kiefer Sutherland's mother) shared memories about Ed including a story about how horrified the British initially were to have a "Canadian habadasher" buy the Old Vic, only to be quickly won over by his charm and wit.   She then recited his favourite poem "My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose".   Producer Paul Elliot spoke of the many shows he put together with Ed such as Buddy Holly.  Paul described how Ed would always take his performers out for a meal at his restaurants and how he would agree to a million dollar deal on a handshake and then say "Ok, let's go to dinner".  Through it all, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt from 4 Hands 2 Pianos acted as emcees, introducing each special guest.


Messages from each level of government congratulated the Mirvishes and thanked Ed for all he had done for Toronto.  Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty's messages were pre-recorded while Rob Ford showed up in person to present David Mirvish with a plaque and declare December 6 "Ed Mirvish Theatre Day".  All the guests returned to the stage for the revealing of the new "Mirvish" marquee that would replace the old Canon one and they all sang (or tried to sing) "There's No Business Like Show Business".  Apparently no one knew the words other than the famous chorus since they mostly had their backs to us as they tried to read the words displayed on the screen behind them.

This was an extremely emotional ceremony.  It was touching to see all the love and admiration conveyed for Ed Mirvish, especially from David who was beaming with pride.

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