Exit stage bereft for production company

A THEATRE producer has been left devastated after her industry closed down due to Coronavirus.

Mancunian Katy Lipson's Aria Entertainment has had to cancel four shows, as well as a summer tour of the musical Hair.

The Last Five Years, at London's Southwark Playhouse, and Zorro: The Musical, at Manchester's Hope Mill Theatre, have had their runs cut short, while Elton John: It's A Little Bit Funny and Jewish Hollywood, which were due to be performed at Hope Mill in April and June respectively, are off, too.

Katy told me: "What is happening is extremely scary and devastating. We'd only had two performances of Zorro - our press night was due to take place on Wednesday. We had two hours' notice that we were having to close the production.

"In theatre, there are astronomical start up costs to make a show possible - if it is a limited run, you only have a limited time to cover those costs.

"Something like Zorro was never going to recoup all its costs, so the whole thing has been really draining."

Katy said that she is monitoring the news daily, as the West End and Broadway have both closed down until further notice.

She is also waiting for news from the various unions which represent actors and the theatre industry.

"The theatre industry is worth hundreds of millions and around 300,000 people work in the theatre," Katy explained. "They are under huge risk.

"It is not such a problem for long-running shows like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked.

"That's not to say they won't take a big hit, but they made their money back years ago and will have funds in reserve."

She is hopeful, however, that her production of The Addams Family, which is due to begin its tour on July 30 at the Newcastle Theatre Royal, will go ahead.

"It is a fun-spirited show, so hopefully people will come back to the theatre and support us because they will want to be uplifted," Katy added.

There has been controversy over Prime Minister Boris Johnson only "advising" people not to visit theatres, pubs, clubs and restaurants.

That means, as long as it is not legally enforced, if theatres, pubs, clubs and restaurants do close, it is on a voluntary basis - meaning they may not be entitled to an insurance pay-out.

"It has to be seen as enforcement because I doubt many theatre producers have insurance against infectious diseases," Katy said.

Katy also appealed for anyone who had tickets to see her shows to donate their refund towards the production costs "so we can deal with the astronomical costs facing us from building a show".

Zorro's Jewish stars Emma Kingston and Antony Costa took to Twitter after the show was cancelled.

"Absolutely heartbroken! @ZorroMusicalUK took me out of quite a dark place. I'm not ready to leave this wonderful company, we only just started! @AriaEnts you're a gem! We will still try and make music, our company are too talented for their work not to be shown!" Emma tweeted.

Antony wrote: "Thank you for the opportunity and it's definitely not 'goodbye' we will be back. #vivaelzorro."

Emma will be performing in a live-streamed event on Tuesday (2.30pm) as part of the 'Leave a Light On' week. Viewers will be able to pay for online access to live performances by a number of West End stars, who currently can't perform due to the closure of theatres.

The week of events will help raise much-needed money for the performers, with some also going to charity.

Follow Emma on Twitter, @emkingston, for details.


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