The First Out-of-Town Performance
The first public performance of Camelot took place on Saturday evening, October 1, 1960, at the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto. Camelot was the inaugural attraction in the expensive new theatre.
In his memoir, The Street Where I Live, Alan Jay Lerner wrote that on opening night in Toronto, "The show ran four and a half hours! The curtain came down at twenty minutes to one. Only Tristan and Isolde equaled it as a bladder contest."
Was Lerner's Account Correct?
Some degree of colorful exaggeration (or simple misremembering) on Lerner's part may have been involved in his account. The day after the opening, a report from Toronto appeared in The New York Times, written by Lewis Calta, a theatre columnist for the paper who had traveled to Toronto to report on the opening.
Calta's article states that the curtain was scheduled to rise at 8:30, but "it wasn't until ten minutes later that [conductor] Franz Allers raised his baton to play the national anthems of this country and the United States."
Calta wrote that the curtain rose at 8:50. (The ten minutes between Allers raising his baton and the curtain rising were presumably taken up not only with the playing of the two anthems but also with the show's overture.) According to Calta, the curtain came down at 12:20.
If Calta's account is correct, the show, including intermission, ran about three-and-a-half hours. Calta confirmed these times in a Times column that appeared on October 10, also specifically stating that the performance "ran for three hours and thirty minutes."
In all likelihood, Calta was correct as other contemporary news items also mention a three-and-a-half hour running time for the early performances.