The pandemic brought down the curtain on theaters across the country, including local venues such as the Community Performance and Art Center, high school auditoriums and dance studios.
Some productions just missed the stay-at-home recommendations and were able to showcase their talents before the CDC warned the public about the dangers of large gatherings. Although most shows were canceled because of COVID fears, many organizations learned to adjust — “the show must go on” mantra remained vital. They found creative ways to perform using social distancing, performing outdoors or staging virtual performances online using platforms like Zoom.
THEATER: WHAT WE SAW
• “Over the River and Through the Woods,” by Joe DiPietro and directed by Susan Voorhees, opened Jan. 24, at CPAC and was a huge hit. This warm-hearted, boisterously funny and touching story about intergenerational relationships, deep family bonds and the inevitable little heartbreaks that occur as time passes and children grow resonated with local audiences. The Santa Cruz Shoestring Players brought humor and joy to their loyal audiences.
• Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” starred two casts of students from Great Expectations Academy and homes-educated children. Due to open in March, the pandemic put an end to the production after months of rehearsals and with only a couple of days until the curtain was to go up. The popular musical was produced by Hey Productions and directed by the production company’s co-owners/sisters, Cindy Robinson and Diana Prior. The two got creative, knowing the students would be disappointed after all the time they’d spent rehearsing. Using recorded rehearsal clips and shooting videos of specific scenes featuring the lead actors and various ensembles in costume, they created a DVD memento for the child actors and their families. The costumes and whimsical properties were professional quality and provided the students with the real theater experience. The actors also should be commended on their memorization, dancing, and vocal skills and their willingness to perform virtually.
• “Love Letters,” written by A.R. Gurney and produced by Santa Cruz Shoestring Players, opened outdoors at CPAC in November with more than 50 audience members physically distanced outside. Auditions were held virtually, and 48 actors from Rio Rico to Oro Valley auditioned for the two roles. Since the turnout and talent was so promising, the production team cast 24 actors for the 12 free performances, which run twice a month until March 2021. The play was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and written to be read aloud and with no movement on stage, making it ideal for social distancing. The play centers on two characters, Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, in which over nearly 50 years they discuss their hopes and ambitions, dreams and disappointments, victories and defeats that have passed between them throughout their separated lives.
• Walden Grove High School’s popular drama department headed by Ben Lebovitz performed shows virtually in fall 2020. The student actors recorded themselves for the performances. “Almost, Maine,” by John Mariani, and “Silent Sky,” by Lauren Gunderson were performed via Zoom or Google Meet. “The Tempest,” by William Shakespeare began rehearsals virtually.
THEATER: WHAT WE MISSED
• “The Good Doctor,” written and produced by the Santa Cruz Shoestring Players, was canceled twice at CPAC due to the pandemic. The original cast, with actors from Green Valley, Sahuarita, and Tucson, have agreed to hold onto their scripts and are eager to eventually perform in fall 2021.
• Neil Simon’s raucous comedy “Rumors,” produced by the Quail Creek Performing Arts Guild, was canceled in the spring due to COVID restrictions. The cast spent months in preparation for the performance rehearsing, constructing the set, finishing costumes and collecting props. The sold-out performances were a tribute to PAG’s popularity with audiences. The show will be rescheduled.
MUSIC & CPAC: WHAT WE SAW
• Green Valley’s Got Talent typically boasts full houses at the Community Performance and Art Center. Known for showcasing a variety of live music acts, poetry, readers theater performances and humor, the pandemic shut the talent shows down this past fall and possibly into 2021. Artistic Director Larry Worster and Hardscrabble Road, the house band, featured the talents of local artists for the first two months of 2020 including the Sahuarita High School Percussion Band under the direction of Christine Garcia, who also collected a $1,000 grant from GVGT. The band was a huge success and entertained the crowds as they warmed up on the CPAC grounds before the performance.
• The Green Valley Concert Band, directed by John Snavely, also felt the impact of COVID-19. The popular band featuring more than 80 musicians from Southern Arizona typically fills the Sahuarita Auditorium each season. Before canceling their spring concert as well as the remainder of their 2020 season, the musicians were able to present their “World Tour 2020” concert in January. Featuring musical genres from Ireland, Scotland and Spain, to Romania, Australia, Thailand and others, Snavely acted as tour guide and conducted the band as it performed lighter arrangements including “Colonel Bogey March,” “Waltzing Matilda,” “The Irish Washerwoman” and “Three Celtic Dances.” The concert also featured Liam Boyd, an 18-year old Celtic dancer from Tucson, to the delight of the audience.
• The Community Performance and Arts Center was able to entertain audiences with a rich and varied season including audience favorite, Joe Bourne and his band with an evening of blues, jazz, and American standards. As the pandemic closed in, CPAC shut its doors and audiences missed the opportunity to see more than 60 events that had to be canceled for the safety of the performers and patrons. CPAC’s fall season’s opener in October featured the Rob Boone Quartet. Staged outside on the CPAC patio with a physically distanced audience, Boone and his band entertained an enthusiastic crowd delighted to see a live show in person.
MUSIC & CPAC: WHAT WE MISSED
So many concerts and other acts were put on hold at CPAC, but ticket holders have been more than willing to wait until they feel comfortable returning to the theater. Some of the entertainment cancelled included: A Salute to Ricky Nelson and Teen Idols, Utah Dance Company, TSO Woodwinds, Rich Brennion’s Country Classics, Sheryl Ann Jazz Combo, Johnny Cash Roadshow, Diane Van Deurzen and Lisa Otey in concert, Amber Norgaard, Bad News Blues Band with Terry Hanck, CPAC’s summer camp’s musical “Seussical the Musical,” Shoestring Player’s entire season including “Pirates of Penzance” and “Harvey,” the Dixie Cats, Mamma Coal in “You’re Looking at Country,” the Green Valley Summer Chorus, and dozens more scheduled shows.
DANCE: WHAT WE SAW
• Walden Grove High School’s PAC Dance Team did it again. Under the direction of teacher Kristi Lopez, the PAC scored its sixth consecutive state championship. The team’s “Avengers: Endgame” debuted at Walden Grove’s homecoming assembly in September 2019, and immediately went viral.
• The students took the audience on an intergalactic trip by referencing both box office hit films “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” The president of Marvel praised the dance team and the PAC team was being featured in newspaper and magazine articles across the country and on TV news spots. The Avenger superheroes are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and considered icons by millions. PAC brought them to life with their own stellar moves as they faced one of the most iconic villains in the MCU, Thanos, and his minions.
• Songs like “Snap Yo Fingers” and Madonna’s “4 Minutes” played in the background. The PAC team was also invited to perform their Avengers routine during half-time at an Arizona Diamondbacks game, a University of Arizona women’s basketball game and at a pre-game show for the Phoenix Suns.
• The Sahuarita Dance Center instructors and dancers made a spectacular showing of talent when they joined the Town of Sahuarita’s Holiday Lights Parade on Dec.12. Staged outdoors as a drive through event at the town’s municipal complex, the young dancers arrived decked in a variety of Christmas-themed costumes embellished with tiny colored lights. Various ensembles performed enchanting (and many comical) dance routines accompanied by background seasonal music. A harp player was also featured in the event, all to the delight of the passengers in their cars slowly passing by to catch every dance step.
DANCE: WHAT WE MISSED
Ballet Continental traditionally rings in the holiday season with a performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice,” written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Performed every December at Sahuarita Auditorium, this much-loved Christmas pageant from Ballet Continental features more than 70 dancers and would have marked the ballet company’s 35th anniversary of this magical show.