Ontario theatres cancel shows as new restrictions to combat Omicron variant take effect

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COVID-19: Ontario reintroducing capacity limits for large indoor venues amid Omicron spread
WATCH ABOVE: COVID-19: Ontario reintroducing capacity limits for large indoor venues amid Omicron spread – Dec 15, 2021

TORONTO — A wave of show cancellations is rippling through Toronto’s theatre district and beyond as Ontario production companies contend with a rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant.

Mirvish Productions announced Sunday that the North American premiere of its eagerly anticipated Tom Stoppard play “Leopoldstadt” in early 2022 was being pulled from the schedule at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Performances were slated to begin Jan. 22 and run until March 13.

In Ottawa, plans to bring the acclaimed “Hamilton” musical to the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall on Jan. 4 have been postponed until July 12.

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The touring company Broadway Across Canada said the move was a response to stricter capacity limits and that it hoped all ticket holders could keep their seats by planning the shows for next summer.

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The cancellations add to a growing number of live theatre and concert shows that have opted to pull their upcoming dates out of an abundance of caution, rather than adhere to the capacity restrictions found in the latest health guidelines.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday that large indoor venues, including live theatres and concert halls, would be subject to capacity limits of 50 per cent to help slow the spread of Omicron.

The decision left the province’s venues scrambling to make changes to ticketed events that had been sold at full capacity. Some chose to refund some ticketholders while others decided to cancel all shows, saying it was impossible to break even with the new requirements.

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David Mirvish issued a statement on the cancellation of “Leopoldstadt” saying he always knew there were financial risks of bringing the show to Toronto, but that the “sudden arrival” of the variant “made it impossible” to move forward.

“I was happy to take them if it meant that `Leopoldstadt’ could be seen by Toronto audiences. That’s how much I believe in the power of this very special play,” he said.

“By programming it in 2022, almost two years from the start of the pandemic, we thought we would be protected from the vagaries of COVID-19 and would be able to present the play in Toronto in a relatively safe environment.”

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But he said capacity restrictions, as well the non-essential travel advisory from the federal government with looming border closings and quarantines expected, have complicated logistics.

“More importantly, the health risks involved in bringing a company of more than 30 artists from the U.K. are too enormous at a time when there is more uncertainty than ever before in this pandemic,” Mirvish said.

“But I’m not giving up on `Leopoldstadt.’ I’m determined to present this magnificent play in Toronto sometime in the future when it is safe to do so.”

Meanwhile, the Shaw Festival scrapped all remaining performances of the musical “Holiday Inn” after a member of the company tested positive for COVID-19.

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“Our thoughts are with everyone involved in `Holiday Inn,’ especially those that are now required to isolate while awaiting clearance from Niagara Region Public Health,” the theatre company said in a statement.

Among the other cancellations, the Barenaked Ladies announced Friday that all remaining performances of “Hometown Holidays with Barenaked Ladies” at the Mirvish-operated CAA Theatre in Toronto were off the calendar.

“In talking to doctors, friends and experts, we feel like it would be irresponsible for us to play these shows at a time when we should all be limiting our gatherings and exposure,” said lead singer Ed Robertson.

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“I hate this, I bet you hate this too,” he added.

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