Saturday, 5 January 2008

Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres tour

Gord and I did a tour of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres this afternoon with Single Horizons, hosted by Richard of Muddy York Walking Tours.

Gord and I love theatre so found this very interesting. They have a fascinating history and it's amazing to see how well they have been restored. We definitely recommend this tour!

The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres are a pair of stacked theatres.

They are the last surviving Edwardian stacked theatres in the world. The pair were originally built as the centrepiece of Marcus Loew's theatre chain in 1913. The ornate lower theatre, then named Loew's Yonge Street Theatre, was home to plays and Vaudeville productions that attracted some of the world's top talent. The upper level Winter Garden, which is decorated to resemble a forest, also housed Vaudeville productions.

In 1928, the decline of Vaudeville forced the Winter Garden to close and it remained shuttered for several decades. Left inside it was a large collection of Vaudeville props and scenery, now the world's largest surviving collection. The lower theatre was eventually transformed into a cinema. Over time the building gradually deteriorated as did the theatre. In 1969, Loews sold the Elgin to Famous Players. By the 1970s the Elgin was showing mainly B movies and soft core pornography. In 1981 the Ontario Heritage Foundation bought the structure from Famous Players and set about restoring the two theatres.

Since then the theatres have been at the heart of Toronto's thriving theatre scene home to major productions and musicals with Cats being the first performance at the Elgin. The building was closed in 1987 to be fully restored and then reopened in 1989.

Elgin Theatre

On the main level

In the balcony

The box seats

The curtain

The ceiling

Peter Pan is the current production

The lounges

Vaudeville scenery on the walls

The model of the theatres

Winter Garden Theatre

On the main level

The box seats

The ceiling (those are real leaves!)

The original lighting controls

An original silent movie projector


TorAa said...

I used to work with Theatre when young. This post reminds me of that time.

Have a great 2008

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Both such BEAUTIFUL Theatres! The Elgin, particularly special...I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, theatres and their history...!
My friends Betty Garrett & Larry Parks played Toronto back in 1968-69...."I think they were doing either "CACTUS FLOWER" or "PLAZA SUITE".....I cannot remember. Bit I know I came to Toronto to see them and to help them Celebrate their 25th Wedding Anniversary...Whatever the theatre was---was downtown Toronto....(I must ask her what theatre it was....) And it was a lovely old theatre, too!

I love that you said, you never heard of Jerry Herman, but loved, La Cage....well, he is the MAIN person that created it, having written the Music & Lyrics. So, you have heard of him, but just didn't put it together! Amazing, isn't it?

Lifecruiser said...

Such a wonderful round tour! I love it! I can feel the history wings in there!


Start The Ship Party!


Tricia said...

Great information on the theater and I love the photos! I worked downtown in the jewelry trade in the 80's (Dundas Sq area) and I remember what the theater looked like before it was restored and how beautiful it was/is after the restoration. I wasn't aware of all of it's history though! Thanks for the info!

Christine said...

Oh my goodness. What a beautiful theatre and amazing pictures! Wow. I would have jumped at the chance to take these pictures too.

inherwritemind1 said...

What a gorgeous theater! Thank you for the tour.

The Rialto Theater in Peoria, Illiniois is a restored jewel. The interior reminds me of a Faberge egg.

Sue St Clair said...

Beautiful pics! Richard does such a fab tour :)