The Queen Elizabeth Theatre is a performance venue in downtown Vancouver that hosts plays, concerts and other performing arts productions.
Note: A number of free events happen at the theatre in August in 2023. On Wednesday evenings there are free movies with Sunset Cinema outdoors in the plaza (a.k.a. šxʷƛ̓exən Xwtl’a7shn). On the Fridays of August 4th, 11th and 18th there is Dance Dance Dance which features free Latin dance lessons. Also, on Wednesday, August 9th, there is the VCT Visual Arts Open House. On that day Vancouver Civic Theatres present a Visual Arts Open House in the lobbies of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from 5:00 until 8:00 pm.
The current visual arts exhibition in the lobby of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre features the Transformations Art Collective with works by artists Jane McDougall, Olga Campbell and Dorothy Doherty. Admission to the VCT Visual Arts Open House on August 9th is free and includes a 6:30 pm artist talk and live music with Louise and Greg Weir.
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The Queen E. Theatre
Located at 630 Hamilton Street in downtown Vancouver, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was built in 1959 and named after the current monarch of both Canada and the UK. It was created as part of an international design competition and it became a model for many theatre houses across North America.
Since its start, the venue has hosted numerous symphony and opera performances. Today it is the home to Ballet British Columbia, Vancouver Ballet, Vancouver Opera, Broadway Across Canada’s Vancouver touring productions, and many other larger shows. Goh Ballet Nutcracker also performs here in December.
Vancouver Civic Theatres
As well as the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, there are three other venues included in the Vancouver Civic Theatres group of locations. The Annex is a cabaret-style theatre, the Orpheum is an elegant 90-year-old venue, and the Vancouver Playhouse is a cozy smaller theatre. The City of Vancouver owns and manages all of these venues.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre’s Interior
Inside the Queen Elizabeth people are often impressed with the majestically high ceiling, the comfy looking chairs, and the large balconies and stage. The place isn’t as fancy as the Orpheum, but it’s still pretty nice.
In the theatre there are four types of sections you can sit in. These include the orchestra which is the closest you can get to the stage. The mezzanine is still on the main floor but a little farther from the front. Third, there is the dress circle which is the overhang of the balcony that can also be quite close to the stage. And fourth, the balcony is the higher level that is fairly far from the stage, but still with reasonably good views.
As the theatre is pretty large, with over 2900 seats in it, sitting at the back of the balcony can make it challenging to see in detail what’s happening on stage. As they say though, there aren’t any really bad seats as there are no posts or other obstructions. Compared to some other large theatre venues around the world, balcony seats at the Queen E. are pretty good.
Queen Elizabeth Plaza
The plaza outside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is sometimes used for community events. The plaza’s official name is šxʷƛ̓exən Xwtl’a7shn which means “a place one is invited to” in the local Indigenous languages. When spoken, the name is pronounced more or less as “Hoot-awe-shen” or “Hoot-lacken”.
Over the years the outdoor area has been home to the Downtown Farmers Market, Harvest Haus Octoberfest event and the Vancouver Christmas Market. None of those events happen in the plaza any more, but other events sometimes still do. Sunset Cinema, for example, is a series of free outdoor movies that happens in the summer.
Below are some tips and things that are helpful to know before attending a performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
TIP #1: Everyone, including children and babies, has to have their own ticket and seat to an event.
TIP #2: Accessible seating is available throughout the orchestra and mezzanine. There are wheelchair-accessible washrooms on these levels as well. There are also specific parking spots that can be reserved ahead of time.
TIP #3: If you love musical theatre, consider signing up for Broadway Across Canada. With this subscription you are guaranteed seats to all of the amazing shows that tour across the country and stop in Vancouver.
TIP #4: If you like live theatre, local theatre groups you might like include those listed below. They don’t perform at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. They do though put on great shows at other nice venues.
- The Arts Club Theatre (a year-round company with three venues)
- Bard on the Beach (which runs from June until September)
- Theatre Under the Stars (which runs in July and August)
For more information about this venue and what’s coming to it, see the Queen Elizabeth Theatre website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver Theatre Companies & Venues
- Shows & Entertainment Calendar
- Entertainment in Vancouver
- Vancouver Restaurants
- Lower Mainland Choirs