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COVID-19 closes curtain on Mirvish Productions, Stratford Festival seasons

COVID-19 safety concerns are closing the curtain on hotly-touted theatre shows planned by Mirvish Productions, as well as the Stratford Festival.

David Mirvish says his season — which traditionally starts in September — won’t launch until January 2021 out of “an abundance of caution.”

He added: “An entire season of shows takes a lot of planning and coordination with hundreds and hundreds of theatre professionals from around the world, so I believe it is to everyone’s benefit to make this change at this time.”

COVID-19 precautions suspended theatre shows in mid-March, halting audience favourites including Mirvish’s productions of Hamilton and Come From Away and forcing Stratford to scrap its April and May shows.

Mirvish says the largely Toronto-based cast and crew of Come From Away can be ready to relaunch if public health officials deem it safe, suggesting “they would need very little time to get the show up and going again.”

But Hamilton is a different story.

“Of the two, Come From Away is a much easier proposition,” communications director John Karastamatis explained by email.

“While the sets, props, costumes, lights and sound equipment of Hamilton are also sitting idle at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, its cast is from the United States, where they returned once performances were cancelled here. It is more complicated for them to return, especially as there is an international border for them to cross.”

Starting up Hamilton again is a more difficult proposition because its cast hails from the United States, where they returned once the Toronto production shuttered, said Mirvish communications director John Karastamatis. (Joan Marcus/Mirvish)

Resumed shows would also depend on Hamilton‘s touring schedule, which extends through the next two years, he said.

Hamilton was scheduled to play 112 shows in Toronto over 14 weeks. It had mounted just 37 of those performances when COVID-19 forced restrictions on large gatherings, with its last show running Fri., March 13.

Mirvish’s six-show lineup set for January includes the Canadian premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies and the North American premiere of the musical comedy & Juliet, which had just received nine Olivier Award nominations including best musical.

Also slated are new productions of Jesus Christ SuperstarOklahoma!, and Murder on the Orient Express.

‘A crushing announcement’ 

Meanwhile, Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino says the entire 2020 season is on hold until it is safe to gather in theatres. It was supposed to run April 11 to Nov. 1.

Cimolino called the cancellation “devastating” for the southern Ontario city, where “thousands of people and hundreds of business owners rely on the festival for their livelihood.”

In Stratford, Cimolino called his festival’s decision “a crushing announcement” that was “entirely beyond our control.”

‘Sadly, we have to come to terms with the fact that, as it relies on large public gatherings, theatre will be one of the last sectors to recover from this pandemic,’ Stratford artistic director Antoni Cimolino said Monday. (Nigel Hunt/CBC)

“Sadly, we have to come to terms with the fact that, as it relies on large public gatherings, theatre will be one of the last sectors to recover from this pandemic,” Cimolino said Monday in a release.

Stratford was set to roll out 15 productions in four theatres, including Colm Feore’s Richard III as the inaugural show at the new $70-million Tom Patterson Theatre.

Cimolino had hoped to open and dedicate the theatre to the festival’s late founder on June 11, which would have been Patterson’s 100th birthday.

Other major shows included the first major production of Chicago outside of the United Kingdom and New York in more than 30 years; a new musical from Steven Page and Daniel MacIvor; and Three Tall Women featuring Martha Henry and Lucy Peacock.

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