Although Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared the state’s playhouses safe to reopen, the area’s theater companies are less than comfortable with the notion of getting up and running again.
Most have canceled their 2020-2021 seasons, some in favor of a presence online with streaming options. A few have pushed their openings to next year with a shortened season of offerings. And there is a general concern over how many theaters will be able to survive and in what diminished form once the coronavirus plague is in the rearview mirror.
The Kravis Center is hoping to salvage some of its current season, but it is highly dependent on the personalities and shows continuing to tour. So far the West Palm Beach performing arts center has announced two waves of canceled acts. In September, it scrubbed such popular attractions as the Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert, originally scheduled for Jan. 1, 2021, Michael Bolton (Jan. 26) and the Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show (April 13-15).
Then in mid-October, it was forced to cancel such single-night appearances by Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie (Jan. 18), Jay Leno (Feb. 13) and Kristin Chenoweth (March 3), all of whom have halted their tours.
COVID-19 has also taken its toll on the Kravis on Broadway series. It was slated to open with a stage musical of the popular film An Officer and a Gentleman in November and Jimmy Buffett’s short-lived Broadway jukebox show Escape to Margaritaville in December. Both have been pushed into 2021, with the Buffett musical now scheduled for Jan. 5-10 and An Officer and a Gentleman slotted for April 21-25.
Others have not fared as well, with the road company of the recent revival of My Fair Lady canceled and the ever-popular Wicked and the Tony-winning Dear Evan Hansen postponed indefinitely. At the moment, Anastasia (March 30-April 4) and Mean Girls (May 11-16) are still on the Kravis schedule for their originally announced dates.
Ticket holders of canceled shows can request refunds or non-expiring gift certificates, though the Kravis would love them to convert their purchases into tax-deductible donations to the center.
Boca Raton’s Wick Theatre has had some activity this fall. While its mainstage remains dark, it has been producing supper club performances in its spacious lobby, like Motown to Broadway in October, with area favorite Avery Sommers heading a cast of four, emceed by Clay Cartland.
If all goes according to plan, the Wick will also be the first company in Palm Beach County to resume its subscription season. It expects to open a full production of the popular ABBA musical, Mamma Mia! (Jan. 7-Feb. 14), followed – theoretically, at least – by the show that played one weekend before the Wick shut it down in March over “an abundance of caution,” A Chorus Line (set to return March 4-April 4). The Wick’s shortened season would then conclude with Nunsense (April 15-May 9), with Laverne and Shirley’s Cindy Williams still expected to appear as one of the Little Sisters of Hoboken.
Speaking of firsts, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre was the first stage company in the county to call off its 2020-2021 season. It did so to concentrate on its previously announced $30 million expansion project, which will make its onstage and backstage facilities large enough to accommodate pre-Broadway tryouts and national tours. The 15-month-long project is slated for completion by October 2021, in time to be unveiled for the opening of the 2021-22 season. No shows have been announced for then, but the Maltz will likely remount How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was about to open as the final entry of last season when theaters all shut down.
MNM Theater Company, which normally performs at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse, has announced plans to produce the musical revue Closer Than Ever and stream it into homes from Nov. 27 to Dec. 31. The show, “a nonstop exploration of everyday struggles in the modern world,” features songs by Richard Maltby Jr., and David Shire, and a cast of MNM veterans including Shelley Keellor, Elijah Word, Aaron Bower and Johnbarry Green.
Rehearsals will be held at the company’s Boca Raton studio, where the performance will be filmed, all under strict COVID-19 guidelines. Tickets will be $20, and following payment, patron will be emailed a link to view the production. This might be the new normal.
Palm Beach Dramaworks, which was about to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a season of revivals from its past as well new works, has canceled its 2020-2021 season. But it has kept in touch with its audience through Zoom with free Contemporary Voices play readings, like Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, and Dramalogue interviews with members of the PBD family, from director J. Barry Lewis to designer Michael Amico to actor Estelle Parsons.
Dramaworks still has its canceled 20-21 show schedule on its website, but with the caution, in all capital letters, “DATES SUBJECT TO CHANGE.” And that aptly sums up the state of theater in South Florida at the moment.