When Will Local Live Entertainment Return?

Photo by Matthew Murphy
THE TEMPTATIONS: “Ain’t Too Proud–The Life and Times of The Temptations” will replace “Mean Girls” on Celebrity Attractions’ 2020-21 season.

I’ve been singing the praises of live entertainment in this column for a while now. What happens to that live experience when venues are shuttered, and audience gatherings are aligned with COVID-19’s “Serious Seven?” What do the months ahead offer to quell our doomscrolling and bring us back to life?
New York theaters have dimmed their lights until Jan. 2021. Theatrical unions, government officials and health experts all have to concur on the health-safety behind and in front of the curtain before a show can open. When Broadway was suspended in March 2020, 31 Broadway productions were running, including eight shows in previews. Another eight were planning to open last spring. Think of all the lives currently on hold in the entertainment sector and in all the feeder industries. Japan and Korea have successfully restarted Broadway performances with “Mama Mia” in Yokohama and “The Phantom of the Opera” in Seoul. London’s West End will raise its curtains beginning Sept. 7. American theaters will be watching and learning.
Touring Broadway is especially difficult to postpone and reintegrate when you consider the many moving parts that have to mesh to make a production possible during a lockdown. To remount its season of shows, Tulsa’s family-owned Celebrity Attractions worked with a myriad of Broadway presenters who had to shuffle schedules, tour routing and dates that would coincide with open slots at the PAC. Keep in mind that not every show tours every year. The good news is that Disney’s “Frozen,” Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Come From Away” and “Anastasia” will be rescheduled for 2021. Added shows for Celebrity’s 2021-22 season are “Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville” and the Tony Award-winning “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.” The latter will replace the previously scheduled “Mean Girls,” which will appear on Celebrity’s 2021-22 Broadway season. Disney’s “The Lion King” will be moved to a future season. The first Celebrity Attractions’ show on tap will be Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” March 2-7, 2021. Detailed information is available at celebrityattractions.com.
Tulsa Town Hall announced that it plans to “take an intermission” in 2020-21. Town Hall will move its current lineup of speakers to the following season. Subscribers have the option to roll their subscription over to 2021-22, receive a refund, or have their current subscription become a donation.
Town Hall is one of several organizations that have offered virtual engagement through their website, Facebook or YouTube. Tulsa Symphony is currently presenting “Musician Moment” featuring its players on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. TSO’s “Symphony in the Park” will take place Sept. 4 on the Guthrie Green.
“Tulsa Opera at Home — Staying Alive” is an online series featuring performers who sing opera, popular music, musical theatre and more. You can be entertained by their performances at tulsaopera.com. Tobias Picker’s “Emmeline,” that would have played at the PAC in May 2020, will be rescheduled for the 2021-22 season. The Opera’s “Rigoletto” is slated for Oct. 9 and Oct. 11, 2020.
Both Chamber Music Tulsa and Tulsa Ballet have offered virtual events over the summer months. I regretted that CMT’s Miró Quartet concerts and Tulsa Ballet’s “Vendetta, A Mafia Story” had to be postponed last spring. Tulsa Ballet moved their “Vendetta” American premiere to Oct. 20 through Nov. 1 at the Tulsa PAC. Other dates for CMT and Ballet events are listed on their websites.
Also providing virtual entertainment is the new Blackjack Rewrite Company, a band of artists who are presenting staged readings via live sharing on Facebook. Like them on Facebook and look for their upcoming presentations.
The Tulsa theatre scene will be altered in the coming months by the absence of Theatre Tulsa performances. I can’t imagine the frustrations caused by acquiring costumes and sets and a cast months ahead, rehearsing and publicizing only to have to rein it all in, reschedule and have to postpone again or ultimately cancel. American Theatre Company had “The Humans” all set to go last spring. I hope we can see it at some point. In many instances, the timing for the re-opening of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center plays heavily into plans, and that date depends on several unknowns. In a letter to attendees, CEO Mark Frie emphasized that the facility would be operational before 2021.
Tulsa-area casinos, while not having to follow City of Tulsa ordinances related to COVID, are playing it safe when it comes to social distancing. The Hard Rock is requiring masks and temperature checks before entering. Masks also are required at the River Spirit Casino and Resort. Most theatre entertainment has been put on hold, but tickets to Boyz II Men at the River Spirit in October are on sale now.
Large arenas popping with party-happy audiences are, of course, a risky situation during a pandemic. The BOK Center has postponed its scheduled July and August events. KISS was supposed to play there last spring and is now slated for Oct. 4. For that show and other events, we can remain hopeful that community health trends go in our favor and medical science comes to the rescue soon.
I miss hearing live jazz. If you are up to restaurant dining, please support restaurants who hire jazz musicians, such as the Polo Grill, Bull in the Alley, the Chalkboard and the Bistro at Seville. The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame continues Eicher Wednesdays. Tickets are required in advance to help ensure social distancing.
In this most tenuous time for live entertainment, I close with words from Tulsa Ballet’s Executive Director Marcello Angelini to that organization’s ticket buyers and supporters: “This crisis will define who we are as people, organizations, local communities and as a global society. We will be back stronger, more focused, more creative, more entertaining and more alive than ever!”