October 1, 1960 – Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts opened with the premiere of Lerner and Loewe’s musical Camelot, starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet.
The idea for a performing arts centre that could serve the needs of an increasingly dynamic city predates the building’s opening by almost 20 years. In the mid-1940s, Nathan Phillips issued a challenge to Toronto industrialists to underwrite the cost of a multipurpose centre for theatre, music and dance. Response to Phillips’ challenge was not immediate. E.P. Taylor, the racehorse-loving head of the O’Keefe Brewing Company and Argus Corporation, was already one of the city’s most generous philanthropists, and in 1954, he offered to build a performing arts centre that would not only serve the needs of local institutions but to increase the diversity of entertainment options available in Toronto. … The O’Keefe Centre opened on 1 October 1960 with a red-carpet gala.
The venue – which has hosted well-known performers such as Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Angela Lansbury, Yul Brynner, Carol Channing, and Katharine Hepburn – operated as the O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts from 1960 to 1996, before became the Hummingbird Centre from 1996 to 2007, and was rebuilt from 2008 to 2010 when it reopened as the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.