UPDATE: At lunchtime on Thursday the “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club” team confirmed performances would be cancelled for the rest of the week after “members of the company” tested positive. The show’s Twitter account said it would provide an update as to whether shows would resume the following week, commencing Dec. 20, as soon as possible.
UPDATE 2: The West End production of “Hamilton” has confirmed performances won’t go ahead on Friday Dec. 17. The announcement followed the news that the show’s lead actor, Karl Queensborough, who plays Alexander Hamilton, tested positive for COVID-19.
“So unfortunately I’ve tested positive for Covid again, via a PCR test (twice in 5 months),” Queensborough tweeted. “So won’t be back at ‘Hamilton’ until December 29th. This thing is crazy. Stay safe everyone.”
Less than a month after opening, the West End production of “Cabaret” starring Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley has been forced to postpone at least two performances.
On Wednesday, the production canceled showings of its matinee and evening shows after a member of the backstage company tested positive for COVID-19.
“Despite extremely robust measures being in place, a member of the backstage company tested positive for COVID-19 this morning,” the production posted on Twitter. “In order to complete testing on the wider company, we are sorry to have to cancel tonight’s performance of ‘Cabaret at the Kit Club [sic]. Your point of purchase will be in touch very shortly with alternative options.
“We will provide an update on performances for the remainder of the week as quickly as we can. The safety of our audiences, cast and company is our priority and we are very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. We look forward to welcoming you to the Kit Kat Club very soon.”
It remains unclear whether Thursday’s performance will go ahead. According to sources, as of Thursday morning no decision had yet been taken.
Just days before Wednesday’s cancelations, rave reviews were flooding in for the show – Variety’s critic called it “electrifying” – with the initial booking period reportedly entirely sold out.
Part of the show’s selling point has been the “intimacy” of the venue, with tickets selling for record prices of £325 ($430), which includes dinner and champagne. (Slightly cheaper tickets, priced at £250 ($332), are also available.)
For the show’s run, the Playhouse Theatre has been reconfigured into the real-life Kit Kat Club from the musical itself, with capacity reduced to 590 seats and new bars built throughout the labyrinthine venue, in which the audience can also enjoy dancing and pre- and post-show drinks.
All attendees, even those who are fully vaccinated, have been required to show a negative Lateral Flow or PCR test before entering performances of “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club,” except where exempt.
“Cabaret’s” cancellations come amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and the new Omicron variant in the U.K., with the highest number of cases – 78,610 – on record since the start of the pandemic.
This has led to a glut of theater performances being postponed or canceled, including “Hamilton” at the Victoria Palace Theatre, “The Lion King” at the Lyceum Theatre and two National Theatre plays, “Hex” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.”
Hamilton canceled its Wednesday evening performance followed by two performances on Thursday Dec. 16, due to “ongoing Covid-enforced absences.” A message from the show’s Twitter account said they would update as soon as possible whether Friday’s performance of the show would go ahead.
Meanwhile “The Lion King” has also canceled all performances until its matinee on Dec 21., again citing “ongoing Covid-enforced absences within our cast and crew.”
Both “Hex,” which is based on the fairytale “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Curious Incident” have been canceled until after Christmas, with the former due to recommence on Dec. 28 and the latter on Dec. 29.
The Donmar Warehouse’s show “Force Majeur” also shut down on Wednesday and hopes to restart performances on Dec. 29.
“It is sadly ironic that we must cancel performances of this brilliantly funny show titled ‘Force Majeure’ because of a … force majeure event,” Donmar Warehouse artistic director Michael Longhurst said in a statement.
“We were so excited to begin previewing this brand new stage adaptation and cannot wait to reopen the production as soon as possible. The safety of our performers, staff and audiences is our priority and we look forward to welcoming you back after Christmas. We send solidarity to everyone in our industry at this time.”
Meanwhile “The Matrix Reloaded” star Monica Bellucci has had her West End stage debut, originally scheduled to take place at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Dec. 20, pushed back to April 2022.
The West End has also witnessed its first permanent casualty as “The Rhythmics” at the Southwark Playhouse has been canceled indefinitely. Described as “Calendar Girls meets The Full Monty,” the show has been shut down following a combination of positive COVID-19 cases and the knock on effects of self-isolation, which impacted its “viability.”
Over at the Barbican in London’s east, performances “The Comedy of Errors” by the Royal Shakespeare Company have been postponed until Dec. 23.
Two shows that were forced to postpone performances earlier in the month due to Covid cases – “Life of Pi” and “Moulin Rouge!” – returned this week, however.
“Life of Pi,” based on the Booker prize-winning novel of the same name (which has also been turned into an Ang Lee film), reportedly canceled five shows before returning on Wednesday night while “Moulin Rouge!” re-opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in London on Monday Dec. 13 following a 10 day break due to Covid.
“The current rise in Covid cases is creating a challenging situation for theaters U.K.-wide during the sector’s most important time of year,” said a spokesperson for the Society of London Theatres and U.K. Theatres. “While ticket sales remain strong for the Christmas period, show cancellations due to cast and crew illness – compounded by Covid-related audience refund and exchange requests – are creating an increasingly bleak outlook for venues over the next few crucial weeks.”
“The majority of theaters remain open, however, with producers doing everything they can to offer much-needed entertainment while prioritising the safety and confidence of audiences, staff and performers, in accordance with official guidance and our industry-wide ‘See it Safely’ measures. We are hugely grateful to the audiences which continue to support us.”
“We call on Government to recognise that, while our sector understands and welcomes many of the Plan B measures, imposing any further restrictions without targeted financial support for theaters, and individuals that work in the sector, would be a devastating blow to an industry which has already suffered an incredibly difficult 20 months.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport declined to say whether theaters will be given any more help during what is a crucial time of year for the industry, instead citing the government’s Culture Recovery Fund, which has so far allocated “more than £1.3 billion [$1.7 billion] has been allocated to around 5,000 individual organisations and sites.”
“Under current plans, the additional £300 million [$400 million] announced in the Spring Budget is the final allocation of the Culture Recovery Fund and will support organisations through to spring 2022,” the spokesperson continued. “The fund is currently open for applications, and we will keep the delivery of the programme under active review and consider how best to adapt it in line with the needs of the sector.”