A Somerset theater says it expects a bumper 2022 season – after an impressive post-pandemic rebound.
Weston-super-Mare Playhouse bosses say they have a “strong” schedule for next year, with tickets to shows selling out quickly.
The Playhouse was forced to lower the curtain in March 2020 due to the pandemic and remained in the dark until May of this year.
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Initially, with social distancing restrictions still in place, the theater could only accommodate 200 people when it reopened – a third of their normal 664 seats.
“We were operating at a third of our normal capacity,” said manager Mark Thompson, “but it was so wonderful to have people back.
“It was commercially difficult for The Playhouse to operate with that capability. “
Next year’s shows are already starting to sell.
“As we headed towards the end of this year, we saw the 2022 shows start to sell,” Mark said.
“I think that aside from the fact that we have a very solid program for next year, people are starting to feel more reassured that going back to the theater is safe.
“Our 2022 shows have sold much faster than our shows this year.”
This year’s panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, opened on December 11 and will run through January 2.
“It was fantastic to see the building really alive again and full of families and children,” said Mark.
“We have a generation of children for whom this is the first time they have enjoyed live theater, due to the pandemic.
“It was so wonderful to see them interact and really get involved.”
The Pantomime is The Playhouse’s premiere since 2019.
The in-house production stars Derek Moran of Channel 5’s Milkshake, West End Hairspray actress Imogen Bailey and Playhouse favorite Michael Goble.
And Weston gets many mentions in the production.
“It’s on the theme of local life in Weston-super-Mare,” said Mark,
“And it also pays homage to what we’ve all been through over the past two years and the experiences everyone has had.”
The public must now wear masks at all times when in theater – a move introduced as part of the government’s Plan B.
“One of the things people have the most difficulty entering the theater with is wearing masks,” said Mark.
“But by the end of the show, most say they forgot they were wearing them because they enjoyed seeing the shows live so much and had a great time.”
While some people may be concerned about attending the theater due to the current increase in covid cases in the local community, Mark said this has not affected the number of audiences.
The theater has a number of measures in place to keep its audience safe, including an air management system, carbon monoxide monitors, and hand sanitizing stations.
“The current covid situation has not impacted us right now,” he said.
“I understand that some people are always nervous about being somewhere with a lot of other people.
“Theaters across the country have done so much work to make their theaters as safe as possible.
“The fact that theaters have been excluded from covid passport requirements shows that they are safe places.”
Next year’s program features musical legends such as Tony Christie, Marti Wilde and American crooner Curtis Stigers.
Comedians Paul Merton, Joel Dommett and Ed Burne will also be on stage.
The panto runs until January 2 and tickets are still available.
“The whole story of Jack and the Beanstalk is about planting a seed that gives hope,” said Mark.
“It’s similar to the trip we took to the Playhouse.
“We climb onto our beanstalk and slowly return to where we want to be. ”
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