On Theater: Venues cancel shows across Orange County as coronavirus takes a toll on the arts

South Coast Repertory
South Coast Repertory, along with many theaters across Orange County, announced cancelations amidst recommendations to close down large gatherings as an attempt to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
(File Photo)

Whoever coined the showbiz adage that “the show must go on” certainly couldn’t have predicted the month of March 2020, when most shows are definitely not going on, or going anywhere.

They’ve been hijacked by a malignant virus which has stretched its talons around the globe, closing theme parks, ball parks, schools and even Broadway’s famed Great White Way.

Orange County’s normally thriving live theater scene is far from exempt with the announcement of a series of postponements or outright cancellations. If you’re planning to see one of our local stage productions soon, prepare to be disappointed.

South Coast Repertory, which had scheduled a play called “Outside Mullingar” for a March 13 opening night, has pulled the plug on that one, but may make the show accessible for ticket holders.

“We are working to make the performance available to you online, so that you may view it from the safety of your own home,” said Tania Thompson, SCR’s public relations director.

Performances of “The Scarlet Letter” and “I Get Restless,” as well as their Pacific Playwrights Festival have also been canceled.

The Costa Mesa Playhouse had planned to open “Silent Sky” March 20, but that project also has fizzled.

“We are postponing ‘Silent Sky’ and have tentatively rescheduled it for May but are not confirming dates yet,” said Mike Brown, president of the playhouse. “ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ will be moved, too.”

Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two” had been slated to open March 28 at the Newport Theatre Arts Center, but those plans also have gone awry.

NTAC President Rae Cohen reported that her theater’s board favored moving the show to the May-June slot, replacing the musical “Working,”

Anaheim’s Chance Theater announced that the upcoming productions of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” and “Actually” (which had replaced “Yellowman”), will be canceled.

“The health and well-being of our patrons, artists, and volunteers is our top priority,” said Casey Long, managing director of the Chance. He added that the two shows may be rescheduled for future production.

Garden Grove’s GEM Theater was well into its production of the musical “Guys and Dolls” when the coronavirus hit the fan. The GEM promptly canceled the rest of its performances.

“We are heartbroken to have to temporarily close our doors, but the health and safety of all our patrons, artists, musicians and designers continues to remain our top priority.” said Damian Lorton, the theater’s artistic director.

UC Irvine’s New Swan Shakespeare Festival also is history for 2020. The outdoor venue had been scheduled to present “Julius Caesar” and “The Comedy of Errors” this summer.

“Given the coronavirus threat, the campus barring gatherings and the mandate of social distancing, there is no possible way to proceed,” explained festival director Eli Simon.

And, as of today, all of L.A.’s entertainment venues will close until March 31, due to an executive order by Mayor Garcetti.

So, fellow theatergoers, that’s the way things stand at the moment. When will this new version of March madness end? Who knows?

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