Dinner theatre transforms performances to reopen during COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video 'COVID-19 pushes Edmonton theatre to reinvent shows' COVID-19 pushes Edmonton theatre to reinvent shows
WATCH: Live dinner theatre is back in Alberta, but the pandemic has forced one Edmonton business to reinvent some of its key components. Morgan Black explains – Sep 4, 2020

Live dinner theatre is back in Alberta, but it’s going to look a lot different.

Jubilations Dinner Theatre will reopen to guests on Saturday, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff members say they feel confident that they have created a strategy that will work for guests and staff.

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Artistic director Bob Cunningham said there was extensive planning to comply with Alberta Health Services safety protocols, because the business fits into both the “restaurant” and “theatre” category.

“When you cover multiple different columns on the ‘what-to-do’ list, there’s some different aspects to it,” he said. “We were pretty diligent in going through it and making sure we saw all the things we could and could not do.”

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A big change — there will no longer be live singing. Cunningham said for the first time in more than 20 years, the cast is lip syncing.

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“It’s completely against our instincts and unprecedented, it’s an unprecedented time, it’s what has to be done if we want to be open,” he said. “That was the final and biggest stumbling block for us.”

Guests will sit at tables spaced two metres apart, will be asked to do a temperature check and to sanitize their hands and will have to wear masks when not seated at their table. They will also be welcomed back in a staggered entry.

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Six cast members are in a cohort, who perform on stage without masks. They keep away from other staff and the audience.

“Typically, our cast members come off stage during the meal breaks and become very interactive,” Cunningham said. “Unfortunately, interactive is sort of a no-go these days, so they are going to be staying away from everybody else.”

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Though COVID-19 is a key topic behind the scenes, Cunningham said the audience won’t hear it mentioned in a performance.

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“I want people to be able to come here and just forget about it for a while and lose themselves in the show.”