O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts
The O’Keefe Centre opened 1 Oct 1960 with Alexander H. Cohen’s production of the pre-Broadway premiere of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet. Camelot was followed by musical productions featuring such artists as Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Angela Lansbury, Alfred Drake, Yul Brynner, Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Katharine Hepburn and Rudolf Nureyev.
Located on 2.5 acres on Toronto’s Front Street between Yonge and Scott streets at 1 Front Street East, the centre was built at a cost of $12 million and was owned until 1968 by the O’Keefe Brewing Co. In 1968 ownership was transferred to Metropolitan Toronto; in 1996 the facility was renamed the Hummingbird Centre after its sponsor, Hummingbird Communications. It became the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in 2007 and on September 15, 2019, it was re-branded as Meridian Hall.
A modernist design, when it was built, it was the largest concert hall in North America, the fan-shaped theatre was built to seat 3,155 people on two levels facing an 18 metre wide proscenium. Its cavernous auditorium, approached through a lobby which, with its carpeting, chandeliers and monumental 100’x15’ mural by Toronto artist York Wilson of The Seven Lively Arts was a focal point and monument to Culture in its own right. Though intended as a multi-purpose entertainment centre for opera, ballet, drama, and touring productions, the theatre’s size suited it primarily for large-scale productions.
General Manager’s during my time were Charles (Charlie) S. Cutts [1981-1989], and Martin (Marty) H. Onrot [1990-1995].