The Grand Theatre in London Ontario opened on September 9, 1901. Located at 471 Richmond Street just south of Dufferin Avenue in the heart of downtown, the theatre’s main auditorium has a seating capacity of 839 with a regular season running from September to May. It was originally constructed to accommodate the public’s need for a suitable performance space after the Grand Opera House burned down in 1900. It was acoustically designed to project music and sound from the stage to the very rear of the audience.
The theatre was run by Ambrose Small, a Toronto area businessman, until his mysterious disappearance in 1919, In fact, the theatre is said to be haunted by his ghost to this day. On December 2, 1919 Mr. Small deposited one million dollars in a Toronto bank account, ate a meal with his wife and was never seen again. Some weeks later, the theatre’s security guard testified that he saw Mr. Small entering The Grand Theatre. This building was investigated in the first episode of ‘The Girly Ghosthunters’ show in 2005.The venue was originally designed to seat 1850 patrons, with a large proscenium stage and ornate arch to showcase its size. With box seats and two balconies, it was considered to be most prestigious and opulent for its day.
The Grand also features the McManus Studio Theatre in the basement which is geared towards hosting smaller productions. More recently, Artistic Director Susan Ferley launched the annual performance and rehearsal calendar for The Grand Theatre High School Project, giving students the challenge of producing both a major musical on the Main Stage and a Shakespeare play in the McManus Studio below. Together, the Grand and these students combine for form The Theatre for Young Audiences and is committed to putting on two shows every season.
As cinema took over, the theatre was equipped for film presentation when it was sold to Famous Players in 1924. After a brief ownership stint with Famous Players in 1945, the theatre chain sold the building to the London Little Theatre company for a small price and the theatre built a reputation as a superior amateur stage venue, arguably becoming Canada’s most active and successful amateur theatre company.
In 1975, the theatre’s board of governors recognized the structure’s need for upkeep and responded with a major reconstruction costing five million dollars and was not completed until 1978. The reconstruction included reinforcement of the 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 was awarded the bid for the renovations and necessary planning was subsequently also awarded a Governor General’s award for their re-design of TGT.
Among the more noteworthy actors who have performed under the Grand’s proscenium arch 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.
“World Curious. London Proud.” That is the mantra that governs TGT’s direction in the new millennium. Under the leadership of newly appointed Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum and Executive Director Deb Harvey, the Grand is building a bold future with visionary leadership at the helm, bringing the passion to take on courageous new projects, new programming, and a renewed sense of relevance, both internationally and here in the London community. As one of the leading cultural and entertainment venues in the city, the Grand is proudly located in the heart of downtown London, Ontario and stands as a place for for everyone, to gather, celebrate, and be inspired by unique and unforgettable theatre experiences.
For many, this is the reason they seek the Grand when booking special events – the theatre presents itself as an ideal and historic backdrop for people’s fondest memories. The venue ties past to present, and provides fertile ground for the future. It’s history, iconography, and design are a very manifest of the theatre’s new mandate.
The Grand puts London on the international stage with original concepts, stories, and sounds from around the world, and works on collaborations with exceptional national and international performing arts groups. The theatre prides itself in its ongoing commitment to developing, producing, and premiering new, original homegrown stories through COMPASS, a new stage play development program. The Artistic Direction team works tirelessly to bring communities together in a spirit of shared experiences, utilizing TGT as a channel for its voices.
COMPASS New Play Development Program is dedicated to creating and premiering new work on TGT stages. TGT remains world-curious and London-proud and this program reflects their belief that in order to be a relevant theatre company, they must develop and premiere their own stories on their own stages.
The Grand will commission, write, produce, and premiere original plays that are relevant to the city of London, the province of Ontario, and Canada in general. And while these homegrown plays will begin here, our stories will be shared with theatres and stages around the world. COMPASS is dedicated to igniting imaginations by bringing a modern, unconventional, and brand new sense of theatre engagement to London, as has been seen in contemporary productions like Vigilante – a modernized, post-apocalypticized visualization of The Black Donnellys of area folklore.
The newly named Spriet Stage is widely considered one of the most beautiful theatres in Canada. This stage dates back to the New Grand Opera House built in 1901, complete with the original proscenium arch, one of the last remaining in Canada, featuring original artwork by muralist Frederick S. Challener.
This visually captivating space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooks Richmond Street and is a perfect spot to book for swanky occasions, or small-scale entertainment.
This space is perfect for more intimate gatherings, small events, and private cocktail receptions.
For more information about venue rentals, click here.
For more information about reserving a pre-show or post-show reception for your group, click here.
The High School Project
The Grand’s commitment to educational programming and the mentorship of the next generation of writers and actors through The High School Project – in fact the only project of its kind in North America. A partnership with the Sheridan College Music Theatre Program is already playing a key role in shaping the theatre’s new identity. Their new community outreach initiative named 100 Schools also furthers the theatre’s not-for-profit community mandate by bringing professional theatre to London area schools, and at zero cost!
A not-for-profit regional theatre, the Grand produces and presents professional theatre on two stages: the Spriet Stage (839 seats) and the McManus Stage (144 seats). The Grand season runs from September to May with a subscription series on both stages.
What makes The Grand Theatre’s High School Project so unique is that it gives high school students from London and surrounding area the chance to work with professional directors, choreographers, musical directors, and stage managers.
In 2006, the High School Project added a Shakespearean production, to be performed in the spring in the McManus Studio, leaving the main stage open for their musical scheduled 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 post-renovation in the 1970s:
- 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)
- Evita (Fall 2017)
- Prom Queen (Fall 2018)
Since 1998, full casts and musical pits of area students have regularly performed on the main stage featuring a full cast of high school students. Originally, the program had intended for productions to be annually cycled between a Broadway musical, a Shakespeare piece, and a Canadian piece. However, due to the overwhelming success of West Side Story in 1998, the High School Project remained a Broadway musical since the year 2000. Students also assist in stage management, set creation, and the creation of wardrobes, props, and every other aspect of production.
Particularly in recent years, The Grand has taken a very forward approach on the productions that it brings to stage for the public’s enjoyment.
A musical story about the belief in the power of his music and his love for the woman who inspired his songs. Together they record a demo album with a motley crew of bar friends, and their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated love story.
Silence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell
Though the story is most definitely complicated by the inclusion of the iconic man as a main character, this is essentially a love story celebrating the wonders of life and accepting of the inevitability of death.
What a Young Wife Ought to Know
An unflinching look at love, sex, and fertility, inspired by real stories of young mothers during the Canadian birth control movement of the early 20th century, Crow’s presents a new production of this important play from one of Canada’s most celebrated theatre makers.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
A vivid stage adaptation of the novel by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. The story focuses on two women and how their lives become intertwined after a series of drastic events. This is the story of their subsequent friendship and support for each other in the backdrop of Kabul in the 20th and 21st century.
The Glass Menagerie
In this classic drama, one of the greatest American plays of the 20th century, Tennessee Williams looks at the Wingfield family as they deal with emotions and revelations that change their lives forever. As characters come to terms with the inexorable changing ot the times, and their related fates, a fundamental piece of Americana storytelling unfolds to move and captivate the audience.
Joni Mitchell: River
A series of singers – including Forest Ontario’s Emm Gryner – lead an accomplished pit of noteworthy local performers in beautiful rearrangements of this classic Joni Mitchell must-have album.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
This play is based on the novel by Wayne Johnston, a Canadian bestseller, and shortlisted for the 1998 Giller Prize and the 1998 Governor General’s Award for English fiction.
Colours in the Storm
A music-driven play – and not specifically a musical – about the life and mysterious death of iconic Canadian painter, Tom Thomson.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Board the Nautilus with the mysterious Captain Nemo as he explores the depths of the ocean, the heights of technology and the edge of madness. Rediscover a sense of wonder at human ingenuity in this eye-popping, multi-media experience. A commission of the TORONTO 2015 arts and cultural festival PANAMANIA.
The Addams Family
The show is based upon The Addams Family characters – infamous from film and television – depicting a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre.
Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash
Ring of Fire was conceived by William Meade and created and directed by Richard Maltby, Jr. The musical contains 38 of Johnny Cash’s songs, such as “Country Boy,” “A Thing Called Love,” “Five Feet High and Rising,” “Daddy Sang Bass,” “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “I’ve Been Everywhere,” “The Man in Black” and “Hurt.”
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
A musical comedy that centers on a fictional spelling bee set in a geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School. Six quirky adolescents compete in the Bee, run by three equally quirky grown-ups. An unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six young characters.
While the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner – needs no introduction after a blockbuster film starring Reese Witherspoon, this charming musical continues to enthrall onstage. Throughout the show, no one has faith in Elle Woods, but she manages to surprise them when she defies expectations while staying true to herself.
The Great Gatsby
Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated masterpiece come to life on an historical stage worthy of the classic’s vintage.
C’mon… You know the story. How would this not be fun?
Ways to Get Involved
A new project launched as part of the Grand’s London Proud initiative, 1000 Seats will offer ten seats for every performance in the Spriet Stage Series to first-time theatre goers. All Londoners who have never been to the Grand are welcome to access this program and can access further information here.
Cultural Access Pass
The Grand offers a wonderful opportunity to all new Canadians!
A gift to each new Canadian and new Canadian citizen during their first year of citizenship, the Cultural Access Pass provides complimentary admission to the Grand Theatre to the pass holder and up to 4 dependent children (18 years or younger) for select Grand Theatre productions.
This unique program creates opportunities for Canada’s newest citizens to discover our rich cultural history and exceptional theatre. Tickets become available two weeks prior to the start of the production. To obtain tickets present your Cultural Access Pass in person only at the box office at 471 Richmond Street.
Tickets in Support of your Charitable Event
Each season, the Grand donates over $50,000 in ticket value to more than 800 charities in the London area. For more information or to request a ticket donation for your charitable event, please email Suzanne Lanthier, Director of Development at email@example.com or call 519-672-9030 x251.
Beyond the Stage
The Grand provides and intimate experience for enthusiasts both onstage and off, there’s more to experience than ever before! Check out our post-show events and pre-show talks, Clubs, backstage tours, and more
Pre-show talks with James Stewart Reaney
Join host James Stewart Reaney at select Wednesday matinees, as he sparks creative conversations about the production.
- Timothy Findley’s The Wars – November 7
- Barber Shop Chronicles – November 21
- Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad – January 30
- Vigilante – March 6
- August Wilson’s Fences – April 3
- Mamma Mia! – May 8
James Stewart Reaney
LondonFuse contributor James Stewart Reaney, recently retired from The London Free Press after a career of more than 30 years, has covered everything from the 1986 World Series to operas at the Grand to Neil Young concerts and spent almost a decade hosting videos starring such icons as London pop punkers The Alcohollys and Canadian opera star Ben Heppner.
See the real historic Grand Theatre, behind the scenes, where the audience can’t see. Get an inside look at how the theatre manages productions on both the Spriet and McManus stages. Learn about how the ghost of Ambrose Small is said to haunt the theatre, and more. Tour groups hear all the best stories first-hand from staff members and artists at work on their lines, music, set designs, costumes, and props.
Complimentary backstage tours are available for groups pre-show or post-show, and on request based on availability. Tours range from 30-60 minutes (depending on your group and activities in the building). To get an up close look at the The Grand with a virtual tour, click here.
For information, schedules, availability, and reservations please contact Monica Hodgson, Sales and Partnerships Manager, at 519-672-9030 ext. 291 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Extend your theatre experience on Wednesday evenings and get closer to the artists after the performance with exclusive talks, casual conversations, and spontaneous happenings in the relaxed atmosphere of the Poster Lounge or McManus Stage. Pull up a chair – the bar will be open!
- Timothy Findley’s The Wars – October 24 & 31, November 7
- Barber Shop Chronicles – November 21
- The Boy in the Moon – November 21 & 28
- Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad – January 23 & 30, February 6
- Maggie & Pierre – February 13
- Vigilante – February 20 & 27, March 6
- August Wilson’s Fences – March 20 & 27, April 3
- Cabaret – April 10, 17, 24
- Mamma Mia! – April 24, May 1, 8, 15
What Not to Miss This Year
The Wars is a critically acclaimed 1977 novel by Timothy Findley that is English studies curriculum in many boards across Canada. The story follows Robert Ross, a nineteen-year-old Canadian who enlists in World War I after the death of his beloved older sister in an attempt to escape both his grief and the social norms of oppressive Victorian society. Drawn into the madness of war, Ross commits “a last desperate act to declare his commitment to life in the midst of death.” Ross’ narrative is depicted as flashback or rather shattered memoir, as a historian tries to piece together how overwhelming and abnormal circumstances can irreparably transform even the strongest of us, interviewing the various characters whose lives Ross touched on his journey.
This fall TGT acknowledges the 100th anniversary of the end of WWII as honour the sacrifices of our soldiers past and present with this Governor General Award-winning story,
Don’t Miss Out on London’s Rich Theatre Nightlife
London’t downtown core offers literally dozens of options for dinner reservations before your show – several only steps from the theatre doors which makes planning your evening ideal. Numerous cocktail lounges and late night music bars also fill the area if you decide to stay out late. But undeniably, London’s The Grand Theatre represents a landmark that is both historical and cultural in terms of playing a major role in weaving our area and national cultural tapestry.
With inclusive programming that incorporates the efforts of passionate young people, is inclusive of international performance traditions, and promotes a superior standard of live dramatic performance not on smaller stages, London theatre-goers are absolutely spoiled with the calibre of live stage performance that they have access to.
Shows are a family affair, with something to offer everyone. The theatre does not shy away from projects requiring bold visual effects and stage combat training, as seen in this reel from The Grand Theatre’s production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:
To check the performance schedule for The Grand Theatre, click here.
For their box office, call 519-672-9030
Monday to Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm ET
Saturday and Sunday – closed