A tale of two cities: Sydney shows prepare to reopen as Melbourne theaters sit on the back burner | To organise

A tale of two cities: Sydney shows prepare to reopen as Melbourne theaters sit on the back burner |  To organise

Mother shows including Hamilton and Come from Away are set to reopen in Sydney when NSW state’s 70% double-dose vaccination target is met in October, but more stringent requirements in Melbourne mean that the road to recovery in Australia’s performing arts sector is likely to be bumpy.

On Wednesday morning, the Australian production of Hamilton confirmed that it will be back on stage at the Sydney Lyric Theater from Tuesday, October 19, with tickets already on sale.

In Sydney, the musical Come from Away has announced its reopening from October 20 at the Capitol Theater. Both productions will operate under the rules set by New South Wales Health. They allow 75% capacity in seated rooms with mandatory proof of vaccination and mask wear, once 70% of full vaccination is achieved statewide for those over 16 years of age. The Sydney Theater Company productions of Death of a Salesman and Julius Caesar may also be able to proceed if the current downward trend in infection continues.

The Australian cast of Come From Away. Photography: Jeff Busby

In Melbourne, however, theaters will only be allowed to reopen when 80% of the population over 16 is fully vaccinated, and only for an audience of up to 150 – an unprofitable crowd for large productions, which typically budget. for a minimal house. above 85%.

This means major Melbourne productions – which include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Disney’s Frozen and Moulin Rouge! The Musical – will remain dormant for a few weeks.

“We are on two different paths”

“As far as we’re concerned, in Victoria at the moment there is no roadmap for reopening,” said Evelyn Richardson, CEO of Melbourne-based Live Performance Australia. “NSW is taking a very aggressive approach to reopen with 75% capacity. Victoria takes a very slow and conservative approach. We are on two different paths.

“At 150 people, you might have a weird show opening, but nothing on a commercial scale. It is extremely disappointing. The latest roadmap gives us nothing – not even the rules for rehearsals. We need to know when we can open to 50% and when we can go from 75 to 100%.

Producer Carmen Pavlovic says she felt a “great burden of responsibility” towards the cast and crew at Moulin Rouge! The Musical and the wider Melbourne CBD hospitality and retail sector, which are counting on the hit musical to open at the Regent Theater this year. “We will do everything in our power to make sure this happens – and to help us make it happen, we ask the Victorians to consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Actors perform during a media call for Moulin Rouge!  The Musical at the Regent Theater, Melbourne in May 2021
Producers are planning to open Moulin Rouge! The musical in Melbourne when theaters are allowed to seat 50% spectators. Photograph: Daniel Pockett / AAP

Pavlovic plans to open Moulin Rouge! The musical when theaters are allowed to accommodate 50% of their capacity. “But we cannot maintain this low capacity beyond a few weeks,” she told Guardian Australia.

Although NSW’s “aggressive approach” worries some epidemiologists, it has broad support within the entertainment industry, which has been shut down since the end of June.

“We are just one of the thousands of companies looking to reopen in the new Covid-normal,” said Rodney Rigby, producer of Come from Away. “Seventy percent of double vaccination is not too far away and we are ready to start reconnecting with the community. “

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In some ways, the reopening of shows in Sydney will mirror the one that followed the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic at the end of 2019, when the musicals Pippin and Disney’s Frozen served as guinea pigs seen around the world playing. 75% capacity.

Rigby says he’s more than happy to play the role of “guinea pig” this time around.

As it stands, NSW Health’s regulations on audience capacity and mask warrants are neither new nor particularly onerous, he says.

“Once the [NSW Health] the app is sorted and the public can quickly show their immunization status on their phone with a QR code, this should be a relatively straightforward process as far as we’re concerned.

“We want to show the community that it is safe”

Getting the show to open on time was not easy.

While the entire Come from Away cast, team and office staff are fully vaccinated within days, some are currently stranded in Victoria unable to travel due to border closures. “We are working on protocols to get them into NSW as soon as possible and are getting ready for rehearsals to start on October 4,” Rigby said.

Rigby has also increased the number of artists on hold from six to eight to fill any sudden gaps in distribution caused by a stay-at-home order.

The Australian cast of Come from Away
The entire Come from Away cast, team and office staff will be fully immunized in a few days, but some are stranded in Victoria. Photography: Jeff Busby

“We can have a missing person in every department – on stage and backstage – and still keep the show running,” says Rigby. “We want to lead by example and show the community that it is safe and this is how we take care of our loved ones, our employees and our public.”

Sydneysiders can expect more announcements in the coming days.

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From November, tickets go on sale for Romeo and Juliet and Harlequinade by the Australian Ballet at the Sydney Opera House. In the coming weeks, Opera Australia is expected to announce the postponement of the dates of its postponement of the Phantom of the Opera (Sydney and Melbourne) and its upcoming Handa opera on Sydney Harbor (which is strongly said to be about of a different production of the Phantom of the Opera designed for the outdoor stage).

Victoria will closely monitor the reopening process in NSW, Richardson said.

“Melbourne will learn from the Sydney experience. But at some point, states have to realign themselves so that by January we are all 100% functioning. Theaters are open in New York, open in London, and they live with Delta. We are confident that we will have all the necessary tools to mitigate the risks.

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