Grand Theatre (London, Ontario)
|Location||471 Richmond Street
London, Ontario, Canada
|Type||Proscenium Arch theatre|
|Capacity||main auditorium (839); The McManus Theatre (150)|
|Current use||Professional and amateur theatre|
|Opened||September 9, 1901|
Its main auditorium has a seating capacity of 839 with a regular season running from September to May. In addition, it has a secondary venue called The McManus Theatre, located on the lower floor with a seating capacity of 150.
The theatre opened on September 9, 1901 under the ownership of the theatre magnate, Ambrose Small who reportedly considered this theatre his favourite of his numerous similar holdings. He disappeared mysteriously on December 2, 1919. That day, Mr. Small deposited one million dollars in a Toronto bank account, lunched with his wife and was never seen again. Weeks after his disappearance, the night watchman swore he saw Mr. Small entering The Grand Theatre. Despite this lead, police were never able to close the file. It is rumoured that he haunts the building to this day. This building was investigated in the first episode of "The Girly Ghosthunters" show in 2005.
With the rise of film entertainment, the theatre was equipped for film presentation when it was sold to Famous Players in 1924. In 1945, the theatre chain sold the building to the London Little Theatre company for a relatively modest price and the theatre became an amateur stage venue. It was one of Canada's most active and successful amateur theatre companies.
In 1971, the theatre began a three-year process to become a fully professional regional theatre. In 1975, the governing board decided to react to the deteriorating state of the building with a major reconstruction costing five million dollars that was completed in 1978. The reconstruction included reinforcement of the main stage's proscenium arch as the sole major component of the building's original design and the addition of the McManus Studio as a secondary venue. The architectural firm that undertook the renovations was awarded a Governor General's award for their re-design of The Grand.
The Grand is an excellent example of the Proscenium Arch Theatre and is one of the more traditional forms of theatrical design. It was designed to send music and sound from the stage into the audience.
Among the great actors who have performed under the magnificent proscenium arch of The Grand are: W.C. Fields, Sarah Bernhardt, Michael Redgrave, Donald O'Connor, Sidney Poitier, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Maggie Smith, Michael Burgess, William Hutt, Martha Henry, Karen Kain, Victor Garber, Sandra Oh, and Leonard Nimoy.
The High School Project
The Grand Theatre's High School Project is unique in North America. It gives high school students from London and surrounding area the chance to work with professional directors, choreographers, musical directors, and stage managers.
Annually (since 1998), a full-length musical is performed on the main stage featuring a full cast of high school students. The original intention was for the productions to be annually cycled between a Broadway musical, a Shakespeare piece, and a Canadian piece. However, due to the success of West Side Story in 1998, the High School Project remained a Broadway musical from 2000 on.
In 2006, the High School Project added a Shakespearian production, to be performed in the spring in the McManus Studio, leaving the Musical component to be performed in the fall on the MainStage.
The following is a list of High School Project stage productions that have been performed on the Grand Theatre's main stage:
- West Side Story (1998)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
- Guys and Dolls (2000)
- Hello, Dolly! (2001)
- Oliver! (2002)
- The Music Man (2003)
- Fiddler on the Roof (2004)
- Oklahoma! (2005)
- The Sound of Music (Fall 2005)
- Twelfth Night (Spring 2006, McManus Studio)
- West Side Story (Fall 2006)
- Romeo and Juliet (Spring 2007; McManus Studio)
- Les Misérables: School Edition (Fall 2007)
- Listen to the Wind (Spring 2008; McManus Studio)
- The Pirates of Penzance (Fall 2008)
- As You Like It (Spring 2009; McManus Studio)
- Grease (Fall 2009)
- Macbeth (Spring 2010; McManus Studio)
- Anything Goes (Fall 2010)
- The Odyssey (Spring 2011; McManus Studio)
- Footloose" (Fall 2011)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (Spring 2012)
- My Fair Lady (Fall 2012)
- Taming of the Shrew (Spring 2013)
- Legally Blonde" (Fall 2013)
- The Importance of Being Earnest (Spring 2014)
- The Addams Family: A New Musical (Fall 2014)
- Much Ado About Nothing (Spring 2015)
- Hello Dolly! (Fall 2015)
- Les Misérables: School Edition (Fall 2016)
The Grand Theatre also presents a series of productions in the McManus Studio called The UnderGrand series consisting of more alternative fare. In addition to individual plays, there is the Playwright's Cabaret, a playwriting showcase where local playwrights are invited to write 10 or 30 minute sketches for public readings. The McManus is also home to the Grand Theatre's presentations of Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA).
- Peter Dearing (1957-1968)
- Heinar Pillar (1971–1976)
- William Hutt (1976–1980)
- Bernard Hopkins (1980–1983)
- Robin Phillips (1983-1984)
- Don Shipley (1984-1986)
- Larry Lillo (1986-1988)
- Martha Henry (1988–1995)
- Michael Shamata (1995–1999)
- Kelly Handerek (1999–2001)
- Susan Ferley (2001-2016)
- Dennis Garnhum (2016-present)