A convention featuring stars and writers from romance dramas featured on channels such as Hallmark, Lifetime and Netflix has been canceled because of the spread of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The second RomaDrama Live! convention, which debuted last year in Nashville, had been scheduled for Jan. 7-9 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach. But its organizers, Gabrielle Graf Palmer and Sara Lunsford, announced just before Christmas that the spread of omicron posed too great a threat to performers and audiences.
“We’ve always said we are a family, the RomaDrama Family,” they wrote in a social media post. “We love each of you dearly, and we feel the deep need to protect you as our own. Therefore, after many conversations with our Medical Director and based on the current spread of both the Omicron and Delta variants, we’ve made the responsible decision to postpone our January event.”
The convention has been rescheduled for June 24-26 at the convention center.
“Our event will remain in Palm Beach, and at this time, will feature all of our current celebrity guests,” Palmer and Lunsford wrote, adding that they planned to offer virtual events during the original Jan. 7-9 weekend.
RomaDramaLive was created by Palmer and Lunsford on a girls’ birthday weekend in 2018 when the two set out to meet Starz TV Outlander star Sam Roland Heughan at Wizard World Comi-Con in Chicago.
As fan girls, it occurred to them that there was nothing comparable for devotees like themselves of The Hallmark Channel or Lifetime to attend. Sitting at the hotel bar later that night, scribbling notes on a napkin, the two came up with ideas for what has turned into RomaDrama Live!, part convention, part boutique fan experience and all wholesome good time.
“This is truly a personal labor of love for both of us,” says Palmer.
“We both faced some adversity and found ourselves suddenly single,” remembers Palmer. “We had two choices, be swallowed up whole or take control of our lives and forge a new path for ourselves and our children.”
“We decided to give it everything we have and push forward,” she says.
The two founded BriteStar Events and held their first RomaDrama Live! event last summer outside Nashville.
“It’s just plain fun,” says Palmer. “Bring your girlfriends, daughter, or grandchildren, meet your favorite actors, let your hair down and feel like yourself again.”
Organizers of RomaDrama Live said current ticket holders would receive special bonuses, and those who had booked rooms at the Hilton would be able to move their dates to the new weekend.
Also canceled is the Theatre Lab’s New Play Festival, which had been scheduled for the same Jan. 7-9 weekend and would have featured five fresh works by E.M. Lewis, Steve McMahon, Adrienne Dawes, Johnny G. Lloyd and Enrique Urueta.
In a message Dec. 29, producing artistic director Matt Stabile said the festival would have to be canceled because of the rise in omicron cases, noting that mounting the festival is a logistical challenge because nearly 100 actors and technicians come to Florida Atlantic University for the week.
“Unfortunately, I believe the circumstances surrounding the festival have drastically changed in the past couple of weeks,” Stabile wrote. “A highly contagious variant causing massive spikes in caseloads and more frequent ‘breakthrough’ infections makes this year’s festival a risky proposition — one that could not only jeopardize the festival, but the remainder of our MainStage Season — particularly because we begin rehearsals for our next show, a world premiere, three days after the festival ends.”
Therefore, the festival will be postponed, he wrote. “I was very much looking forward to sharing this year’s slate of plays with you and I promise that we will do just that in the very near future,” he said, adding that the patrons would be given refunds. “Now just is not the right time to take on this project. This was not an easy decision to make, but it is one that I feel best protects the people that work with and for us and the company itself.”
Stabile said a date for the festival will be announced later.
Also canceled for January was the opening show of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s 2022 season, Jersey Boys, the jukebox musical chronicling the lives and music of the Four Seasons, the 1960s singing group led by the heroically high-voiced Frankie Valli.
The Maltz had intended to mount the show outdoors at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter from Jan. 11-30, but canceled just before Christmas, saying that multiple factors were to blame.
“Unfortunately we experienced a confluence of issues that led to this difficult decision, including supply chain delays, material cost escalation, engineering issues and skilled labor shortages unique to this production,” producing artistic director Andrew Kato wrote in a message to patrons posted on the Maltz website.
Kato wrote that ticketholders would receive full refunds by the end of January.
The Maltz canceled its 2020-21 season for the COVID-19 pandemic, and concentrated instead on a $36 million renovation and expansion of its playhouse complex. The goal of the new theater is to have a Broadway-scale stage, enabling the troupe to accommodate future pre-Broadway tryouts of plays or musicals as well as full-sized national tours.
Also included are three floors of state-of-the-art production facilities, an innovative dining experience dubbed Scene Café, expanded lobby and conservatory spaces, a redesigned entrance area and a 199-seat second theater auditorium.
]The $4.2 million first phase of the expansion began in the spring of 2019, after the final performance of that season, and was completed that fall.
Jersey Boys had been in the works for two years, with the initial idea to do the 1955 Adler and Ross baseball musical Damn Yankees, but that turned out to be “too complicated with the restrictions due to COVID – social distancing and everything – and too expensive,” Kato said at the time.
For Jersey Boys, the Maltz had planned to construct a stage at home plate, with 1,600 seats made available in the center of the stands.
The Maltz will open its season at The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens on Feb. 8 with a production of Paul Rudnick’s 1991 comedy I Hate Hamlet, the story of a TV actor who has to be persuaded to star in Shakespeare’s play by the ghost of a legendary Shakespearean actor. The show runs through Feb. 20.
The Maltz’s new theater will debut Feb. 19 with the 1966 Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields musical Sweet Charity, about the life and loves of a taxi dancer at a Times Square dance hall. The musical is scheduled to run through March 9.