Theaters prepare venues for a season packed full of plays and performances
BY SUSAN BURGESS
The performing arts season comes roaring back with the beginning of the new year after many 2020 shows were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Full CDC safety requirements will be met by all theaters, including deep cleaning and sanitizing, masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing and more. Each theater’s website will provide details.
2021 promises to be a very busy year for show- and concert-goers with a jam-packed schedule that includes some of the postponed events.
Community theaters in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties are going full steam ahead in late 2020, though. The Lyric, the Sunrise, The Barn and the Vero Beach Theatre Guild all have November/December shows that you can get tickets for right now. 2020 holiday shows have been curtailed but there are a few around.
Notably, Ballet Vero Beach saved its holiday show by moving at high speed to deal with the pandemic. The company changed its Nutcracker to film instead of a show for an in-person theater audience. Best of all for audiences, it is viewable for free on TV-30 [a local broadcast channel], and either YouTube or Vimeo or both online. Viewing probably starts Dec. 23.
This season the ballet company is doing an innovative family-friendly series and an accessible series in addition to its regular shows. Performances for both are an hour long. The accessible series modifies sound and visual effects. The family-friendly series seeks to provide professional dance exposure to youngsters at an early age. Performances are a little more informal and sometimes offer a chance for a photo with a dancer.
The company is performing three shows, but has not yet been able to set their dates. One is Ballet: Bold and Beautiful, encompassing all the fantasy, grandeur, and pageantry of classical ballet. Anchoring this program is The Sleeping Princess. Another is Composer’s Notebook, which allows audiences to see intricate orchestrations from Antonio Vivaldi’s music come to life before their eyes. The third show is Chamber Music: Sweeping Dance. Chamber music has the ability to surprise with the depth, nuance and passion it produces. You’ll see that amazing art can be found in unexpected places.
GUILD REMODELS THEATER
The most radical changes to a theater on the Treasure Coast come from the Vero Beach Theatre Guild where a massive remodeling to adjust to the pandemic and adapt to current needs is almost complete. The project began in March with a plan to enlarge the lobby and do some work in the offices. But it wasn’t long before “the project kind of grew because of COVID-19,” said theater board president Lisa McNamee.
The theater had 300 seats. The project removed 120 and put back 180 after removing the old carpeting and refurbishing all the floors. The seats were reinstalled with much wider spaces between the rows and more space between seats to allow for social distancing. The extra chairs were taken apart and stored. For now, seating is limited to 50 percent or less capacity. Glass shields were installed at the box office, along with a Plexiglas divider between the box office windows. The lobby, doubled in size, allows guests room for social distancing. Visit www.verobeachtheatreguild.com/news-events for a complete list of all the changes and safety precautions.
“COVID-19 drove the remodeling and added months to the project,” McNamee said.
In addition to work inside the theater, lights are being added to the parking lot and guests will find a new drop-off spot, especially handy for those with disabilities or when it rains. Because of the help from two skilled volunteers, Jim LaPorte and Gerry Quimby, the theater only bought supplies as needed for the project, McNamee said. Very generous discounts from suppliers kept costs down, she said.
The current show is the hilarious Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight, directed by Jon Putzke – about three pairs of lovers each trying to enjoy a romantic night. This is for mature audiences only and is a fully staged reading. The theater guild goes on to bring audiences the iconic Death of a Salesman, Over the Tavern [set in the 1950s], the romantic comedy Almost Maine, and many more including the smash hit musical Sister Act in April.
Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach canceled its entire season, moving all its plays to next season. But it is continuing its lively weekend events – Live in the Loop with outdoor dining and live music, and Comedy Zone’s hilarious stand-up comedy. Shows change each weekend so visit riversidetheatre.com for up-to-date listings.
Pineapple Playhouse on the southern border of Fort Pierce offers its Holiday Spectacular Dec. 4-6 and then hits the stage running for 2021 in January with Calendar Girls featuring friends producing an alternative calendar as a fundraiser. The playhouse follows up with a variety show in February, a great three-week tribute to Carol Burnett in March, a concert – Great American Songbook — featuring Randy Earll with a live band in April, and the comedy The Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon in May.
The Barn Theatre in Stuart, celebrating its 50th anniversary, hosts The Cemetery Club in November, a comedy-drama featuring three friends who recently became widows and are considering dating. The theater kicks off 2021 in January with the mega Tony Award winning hit musical A Chorus Line followed by Neil Simon’s classic comedy Rumors in March, and another Tony Award-winning musical, Little Shop of Horrors, in May.
Like many theaters, the pandemic caused The Barn to lose money due to show cancellations, reduced attendance and reduced demand for season tickets. Theater president Dennis McGeady said several fundraisers are planned starting in December and continuing through April. Go to barn-theatre.com for details.
LYRIC TENTATIVE LINEUP
The historical 1926 Lyric Theatre in Stuart is ready to roll with performances in November and December. Due to the pandemic, executive director Kia Fontaine recommends calling the box office at 286.7827 before attending any November or December shows.
John Mayall, the godfather of British blues, may be coming to town Dec. 18 with a sound that has evolved over five decades. Check out this rare opportunity to hear one of the greats. Be sure to check the theater’s website at lyrictheatre.com to see if the date has changed.
Johnny Cash’s daughter, Rosanne Cash, comes to the theater in January with her husband, John Leventhal, to create magic. “The love flowing between the two of them comes right off the stage and into the audience,” Fontaine said.
Violinist Joshua Bell is at the top of his game and he returns to the Lyric in February with pianist Peter Dugan. Bell has performed for three American presidents and the sitting justices of the Supreme Court in a career that spans more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, conductor and director. He has performed with virtually every major orchestra in the world. This is a great chance to see him locally.
Adapting to the pandemic for the safety of guests “is something we take very seriously,” Fontaine said. “We want our audiences to be safe.” Guidelines can be found on the theater’s website by clicking FAQ at the top of the page.
MUSIC AT THE SUNRISE
The venerable 1923 Sunrise Theatre in downtown Fort Pierce is moving ahead with a great season, said spokeswoman Anne Satterlee. Dazzling trumpeter Chris Botti performs in January. In February, country music lovers will want to see the Sawyer Brown band. It’s the first time scheduling has worked out to allow the popular group to perform at the Sunrise, Satterlee said.
Grammy winner saxophonist Kenny G returns to the Sunrise Theatre on March 24. In a recording career spanning three decades and 23 albums, he has woven elements of rhythm and blues, pop and Latin music into his signature smooth sound. He has collaborated with superstars including Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Natalie Cole.
Michael Feinstein, appearing at the Sunrise March 26, has built a dazzling career over the last three decades bringing the music of the Great American songbook to the world. His recordings earned him five Grammy nominations.
As always, One Night of Queen wraps up the Sunrise season. “They always sell out,” Satterlee said. The band actually books for the following year before they leave, according to Satterlee.
The Atlantic Classical Orchestra is hoping to start its chamber music at the Vero Beach Museum of Art in January starting with Game of Pairs on Jan. 17 at 3 p.m. Check atlanticclassicalorchestra.com for updates on chamber music and other concerts.
The Space Coast Symphony Orchestra plays at several venues from Melbourne to Stuart. Visit spacecoastsymphony.org for schedule details.
Despite the pandemic, Treasure Coast theaters and orchestras are adapting and moving forward. Audiences can make sure they are able to continue by strictly following the guidelines at each venue. A great season awaits.