Covid is sweeping away castings for musical theater shows in Sydney and Melbourne, with major live productions being forced to cancel performances.
At least 90 artists have tested positive for the highly infectious virus and entire businesses have been forced to isolate themselves.
The Sydney Festival production of Qween Lear, a musical adaptation of King Lear which was scheduled to open at the Hordern Pavilion on January 7, has been canceled due to a Covid outbreak among the cast.
Frozen the Musical at Her Majesty’s Theater in Melbourne announced positive cases for Covid on Wednesday and canceled some performances.
Opera Australia, which canceled performances of Great Opera Hits at the Sydney Opera House this week, has confirmed “over 20 [Covid] case in the whole company interpreter â. However, he said he still plans to move forward with his production of La BohÃ¨me on New Years Eve at the Sydney Opera House. âWe juggle the cast. But it is still possible, âsaid a spokesperson for the company.
The Sydney productions of Come From Away and Hamilton have already canceled several performances ahead of the New Years.
Many other actors who were in rehearsals in Sydney this week – including the Sydney festival production of A Chorus Line – are now experiencing Covid outbreaks or are being forced to isolate themselves as close contacts.
“It’s sinister,” a Sydney-based musical theater artist told Guardian Australia on Tuesday. The artist, who wished to remain anonymous, painted a sobering picture of the scale of the problem, saying more than a dozen Hamilton cast members have been stricken with Covid along with significant proportions of the cast of Come From Away and the Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill.
Three other prominent musical theater insiders confirmed to Guardian Australia a specific number of infected cast members in each production on Wednesday, adding that there could be more cases since Tuesday.
One producer, who asked not to be named, said there have also been several cases among the cast of A Chorus Line and Qween Lear.
An artist who tested positive in Sydney this week, and who also preferred not to be named, told Guardian Australia: âAlmost every artist I know who is positive has only mild symptoms and we are optimistic as for our return on stage. We will have antibodies so hopefully that doesn’t happen again. It’s frustrating because we were so strict. We wore masks until we went on stage but it’s so contagious. “
Hamilton ticket holders are in the process of being contacted with offers for a full refund or to reserve their seats. Hamilton’s performances, suspended on December 22, are set to resume on January 5.
“We certainly intend to reopen the show as soon as possible,” said a spokesperson for the show’s producer, Michael Cassel.
Guardian Australia has reached out to producers of Jagged Little Pill, Hamilton, Come From Away, A Chorus Line and Sydney festival for comment and all have declined to give specific details on the number of positive Covid cases, citing privacy concerns.
“We must minimize the risks”
Meanwhile, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, another production by Michael Cassel – who is currently performing in Melbourne – is “business as usual”.
The producers of Jagged Little Pill, which wrapped up its Sydney tour on December 19, gathered on Wednesday ahead of the show’s scheduled opening in Melbourne on January 4. âWe’ll see where it is and how the performances go,â a company spokesperson said.
Frozen the Musical at Her Majesty’s Theater in Melbourne confirmed in an Instagram post on Wednesday that performances on December 29 and 30 have been canceled due to cases of Covid at the company.
Also in Melbourne, Moulin Rouge! The musical is proceeding as advertised.
The Covid is also hitting the independent theater sector. In Sydney, an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It has its Orlando isolated as close contact with a positive case. The show continues with a new actor in the role.
The 2022 Sydney Festival, which opens Jan.6, said it plans to continue despite the cancellation of Qween Lear as well as the “unforeseen disruption” of the musical theater show å®¿ (stay), the latter of which has seen two canceled performances but is now slated to go ahead starting Jan.12.
“Given the evolving nature of the current Covid-19 epidemic, changes to certain performance times are expected,” festival organizers said in a statement. âThe Covid remains a permanent challenge. However, this is a festival that the festival is prepared for, and the safety of the public, staff and performers is, and always will be, our number one priority.
âAny changes to the program will be implemented and announced as needed. We will monitor the situation, work closely with the government, and follow any advice or orders should these change. “
Festival producers are taking additional measures to ensure the continuity of their shows. The actors live in bubbles – in individual rooms in the same establishment if possible. Actors are reinforced with additional liners to cover sudden absences.
The State Theater Company of South Australia presents Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Sydney Opera House from January 13 and co-presents the Girl from the North Country musical at the Theater Royal from January 5.
âWe have liners for every role in Girl From the North Country and we bring in liners for Virginia Woolf. This is an additional cost of about $ 60,000 to $ 100,000 for theater companies, âsaid company artistic director Mitchell Butel.
âWe have all the cast members in a bubble in corporate housing in Adelaide and Sydney so they don’t stay with their family or friends. No one is meddling and they do quick antigen tests. “
Butel said audiences in theaters were still relatively safe compared to many other venues, adding that most theaters still require audiences to register, prove their dual vaccination status and wear masks throughout the show.
“A theater audience is not there to converse or mingle with the greatest number, it is there to attend a show”, he declared.
âAs far as we know, there has not been a single case of transmission inside a theater in Australia. But we must minimize the risks. People take off their masks to drink in the lobby. Industry may need to reinstate rules against eating or drinking in homes to keep everyone safe. “
The Covid epidemics are affecting musical theater productions around the world. Australian artist Hugh Jackman, who currently stars in the Broadway revival of The Music Man, announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for Covid in New York.
In a video posted on social media, the 53-year-old Hollywood star announced that he had mild symptoms “like a cold … a itchy throat and a bit of a runny nose, but it’s okay … As soon as I’m clear , I’ll be back on stage.