Toronto theater impresario Ed Mirvish dies


TORONTO -- Ed Mirvish, who rose from humble discount store roots as "Honest Ed" to become a legendary Canadian live theater impresario, died Wednesday in Toronto. He was 92.

Mirvish, who saved Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theater from the wrecking ball in 1963 and bought and restored London's Old Vic Theater, died of natural causes, according to his family.

Born in Virginia to Jewish Lithuanian immigrants in 1914, Mirvish and his family eventually landed in Toronto just before the Depression. He would eventually become best known as the owner and operator of the giant Honest Ed's discount store at the corner of Bloor Avenue and Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto.

But as a theater impresario, Mirvish's Royal Alexandra Theater hosted a who's who of legendary stage actors, including Peter O'Toole, Helen Hayes, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Paul Robeson.

And along with son David, Ed Mirvish in 1993 built the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto, which staged a host of Broadway and London West End productions, including "Godspell," "The Lion King" and "The Lord of the Rings."

The Mirvishes also run the Canon Theater in Toronto under a management contract with Live Nation.

Toronto mayor David Miller on Wednesday paid tribute to Mirvish for his commitment to the city's performing arts community.

"His foresight ... gave birth to the Entertainment District and helped revitalize the city's live theater industry, bringing with it thousands of jobs and busloads of tourists flocking to see the latest great production," Miller said in a statement.

Among the many awards Mirvish received was the Commander of the Order of the British Empire -- for saving the Old Vic in 1988 -- and the Member of the Order of Canada.

He will be buried Friday in Toronto.