A month after Disney's "Aladdin" shut down on Broadway because of breakthrough COVID-19 infections, two Twin Cities playhouses have canceled performances because of the pandemic.
Artistry in Bloomington announced Thursday that it has scotched a week of performances and pushed back its opening of "Little Women: The Broadway Musical," initially scheduled for Thursday, to Nov. 11 because of COVID-19.
An actor in the cast tested positive Wednesday for a breakthrough case of the coronavirus.
"The good news is because we're so vigilant with testing and protocols, we found out early and it's just the one person — we think," Artistry Executive Director Kevin Ramach said. "Everyone was tested and our staff did a whole bunch of cleaning to be as thorough as possible."
Those with tickets to the canceled performances of "Little Women" can exchange them for a future performance, get a full refund or get a credit toward a future purchase.
On Wednesday, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres canceled its evening performance of "Music Man" because an actor was unwell. Performances resumed Thursday.
"We had a two-show day and around 6:05 p.m., one of our cast members was feeling a bit ill," Chanhassen spokeswoman Kris Howland said. "Our protocol is to send everyone home and test everyone, which we did out of an abundance of caution. At this point, the tests are inconclusive, but we're treating it seriously because we don't want any illness."
Chanhassen comped its patrons — picking up the tab for their dinners and drinks — and offered vouchers to see the show at a future date of their choosing. It's the first time that Chanhassen, the nation's largest dinner theater, has missed a "Music Man" performance since the show reopened in early July after nearly a year and a half.
"When we came back, we knew it would not be normal so we're all trying to be flexible," Chanhassen co-owner and resident choreographer Tamara Kangas Erickson said. She is directing "Little Women," which has a cast of 10 plus four understudies. It's her first full-scale musical.
"It's really disappointing because everyone was excited to open this weekend but we can't, so we won't," Kangas Erickson said, adding that she's not superstitious and is not taking it personally, even though she is a hinge connecting both theaters.
"My daughter's at Children's Theatre right now in 'Annie' and I'm crossing my fingers that nothing happens to their show," she said.
Both Artistry and Chanhassen, like many professional theaters that adhere to rules set by the Actors' Equity union, test their casts and crews three times a week. The numbers go up when there's a suspected case.
Artistry's Ramach said the company's aggressive protocols should give patrons confidence about the measures the company is taking to ensure safety when "Little Women" opens next Thursday.
"We're testing the cast, orchestra and crew, and we're asking people who come to the show to show a negative test and vaccination," Ramach said. "It's a challenge for all of us, but we're not alone and we all have to do our parts to keep going."
Howland, at Chanhassen, said that the hope for her company, and the field at large, is for everyone to be able to see shows with the knowledge that they will be safe.
"We were closed down for 479 days," Howland said. "We don't want to go back there. We appreciate the audience members who are wearing masks and providing negative tests and vaccinations. Our health, livelihoods, everything depend on us all being safe."