COVID-19 outbreak shuts down local musical days before opening night

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Instead of cast getting ready for opening night, Opera House Theater Company is filled with empty chairs and empty tables after a COVID-19 outbreak postponed Footloose the musical.

“It was a difficult decision in one hand but it was an easy decision on the other,” said Footloose director, Ray Kennedy. “We all felt that the safety of our cast had to come first as well as the audience.”

Slated to open to sold out shows December 30th, the cast and crew of about 45 had rehearsed since November, taking precautions and preparing for the first big musical since early 2020.

“We had done everything we could at rehearsals to keep safe,” said cast member Sydney Short. “We wore masks. We tried to distance ourselves when we weren’t onstage. So we were pretty confident we would be ok.”

Just days before tech week, the cast began to get phone calls. One person had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Within the next three to four days, it was popping up everywhere,” Mathis Turner, another cast member remembered. “I think we had close to 22 to 25 people test positive.”

With about half the cast out of commission by the day after Christmas, Footloose actors and crew members were stunned by how contagious the new variant was.

“We had worked so, so, so hard for so long,” Short said, “and we finally thought that we were back to some form of normal post-pandemic. I think getting to literally the finish line, getting ready to open the show, and then it all being taken, it was pretty hard.”

However, according to Kennedy, the sun will come out tomorrow. Instead of adding Footloose to the growing list of musicals cancelled due to COVID-19, it will be postponed to February 18.

“We’ve made lemonade out of lemons. And we’re going to have a glorious show, we have a fantastic cast and we’re going to be back stronger than ever.”

Cast and crew say the show must go on, just in a way that will keep everyone safe.

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