On This Day in History: Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Add a Comment by Rebecca Bollwitt

July 5th, 1959 was the opening day of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver and a few weeks later Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II personally gave it her name. The venue accommodates 2,781 patrons and over the years it has hosted some of the world’s greatest plays, musicals, operas, ballets and concerts.

1957, excavation for the theatre. VPL Accession Number: 40590.
Photo credit: Province Newspaper; Jennings, Byron Charles.

“Vancouverites responded proudly to the new building and boasted it was ‘one of the world’s finest theatres’ and ‘lifted this city into the realm of urban sophistication.’

1959, opening. VPL Accession Number: 40593.
Photo credit: Province Newspaper; Sedawie, Gordon F.

The impact of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on the local live entertainment scene was profound. By 1962, major users of the QET included the newly formed Vancouver Opera Association, as well as the Vancouver International Festival, the Vancouver Symphony Society, World Adventure Tours and Famous Artists Limited run by impresario Hugh Pickett. For the first time, big roadshows such as My Fair Lady, came to Vancouver. The city’s proximity to Seattle proved advantageous as American promoters were able to extend western tours of Broadway shows with a booking at the QET.” [source: City of Vancouver]

Behind the scenes view from “Blogger Night at the Opera”. Photo credit: GusF on Flickr

Aboriginal Pavillion
Aboriginal pavillion on the QE Theatre plaza during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Photo credit: napalm nikki on Flickr

It is one of Vancouver’s civic theatres (along with the Orpheum and the Vancouver Playhouse) and is home to resident companies, the Vancouver Opera and Ballet BC. This summer you can check out Mamma Mia!, Janet Jackson, and The Wiggles on stage. In November, the Vancouver Christmas Market will return to the QET plaza for its second year.

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