RETAKING THE STAGE

Live the­ater re­turns to Chicago as ‘Judy and Liza’ re­opens, con­fig­ured for safety

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY CATEY SUL­LI­VAN Catey Sul­li­van is a Chicago free­lance writer.

For the Sun-Times

With Phase Four of Illi­nois’ coro­n­avirus re­cov­ery plan al­low­ing for in­door gath­er­ings of 50 or fewer, Lin­coln Park’s Green­house The­ater Cen­ter will re-open its doors Fri­day with a live, two-wo­man mu­si­cal.

Green­house The­ater Cen­ter own­ers Wil­liam and Wendy Spatz, in a co-pro­duc­tion with The Green­house The­ater Cen­ter and Nancy Hays En­ter­tain­ment Inc., will re­mount “Judy & Liza, Once in a Life­time: The Lon­don Pal­la­dium Con­cert — A Tribute.”

“We’re not the first in­door event to hap­pen [in Chicago]. Za­nies [com­edy club] is open,” Wil­liam Spatz said from Florida. “But I think we’re the first in­door the­ater pro­duc­tion since the shut­down.”

The two-wo­man, three-mu­si­cian non-union mu­si­cal — in­spired by a 1964 con­cert Judy Gar­land and her daugh­ter Liza gave at Lon­don’s Pal­la­dium — first opened at the Green­house on March 7. It closed within a week due to COVID-19 re­stric­tions.

While the Spatzes are on a Florida trip that was pro­longed by

COVID-19 and don’t feel safe trav­el­ing to Chicago, they stress that they would feel safe at­tend­ing their show.

Wil­liam Spatz says the safety pre­cau­tions he’s putting in place at the the­ater ei­ther meet or ex­ceed the Illi­nois Health De­part­ment’s Phase Four Guide­lines. Au­di­ence ca­pac­ity is capped at 36 peo­ple (to­tal space ca­pac­ity, 44) for the Cen­ter’s 200seat main­stage.

For au­di­ences, at­tend­ing the show works like this: All tick­ets must be pur­chased in ad­vance and all at­ten­dees must wear masks the en­tire time they’re in the the­ater (in­clud­ing dur­ing the show). There will be no ticket or con­ces­sion sales in­side the the­ater. There will be no pro­grams or ush­ers. Ticket hold­ers will give their name to the sole box of­fice at­ten­dant (shielded by plex­i­glass) on ar­rival, and will then be es­corted by the house man­ager di­rectly to their seats. The box of­fice will open 45 min­utes be­fore show­time.

Ev­ery other row in the the­ater will be left empty, and each ticket holder will be at least six feet away from other au­di­ence mem­bers and at least 15 feet away from the ac­tors singing on stage, Spatz said. The 25-foot-wide stage will al­low the ac­tors to re­main at least 15 feet from each other while singing.

The box of­fice rep is re­spon­si­ble for clean­ing and dis­in­fect­ing the the­ater and the lobby be­fore ev­ery per­for­mance, Spatz said. A sep­a­rate clean­ing crew will clean the dress­ing rooms.

The house man­ager is re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing mask and so­cial dis­tanc­ing com­pli­ance be­fore, dur­ing and after the show, Spatz said. If au­di­ence mem­bers fail to com­ply, “there’s a sim­ple so­lu­tion. We call the police,” he said. “Or, if some­one in the au­di­ence takes their mask off dur­ing the show and the house man­ager sees it? We’ll stop the show.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Spatz said he has equipped the ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem with roughly $300 worth of MERV 13 fil­ters, which he said “fil­ter out vir­tu­ally 100% of all viruses and bac­te­ria.”

Co-pro­ducer/star Nancy Hays (Judy) and ac­tor Alexa Castelvec­chi (Liza) will not be masked. They will be at least 15 feet from the au­di­ence and each other while singing, Spatz said. The orches­tra will be masked, save the reed player, who will be seated apart from the other mu­si­cians and the ac­tors and at least 15 feet from the au­di­ence, Spatz said.

Sets and cos­tumes had been com­pleted ahead of the March open­ing, mak­ing fit­tings a moot is­sue. The ac­tresses will do their own hair and makeup, he said, and will share a dress­ing room.

Spatz said he wouldn’t have been able to pro­duce the show un­der Ac­tors’ Eq­uity COVID-19 safety guide­lines. “They’re ab­so­lutely pro­hib­i­tive,” he said of the union re­quire­ments.

If more than roughly 20 tick­ets are sold for each per­for­mance, he said, an ex­ten­sion be­yond the lim­ited three-week run is pos­si­ble.

TYLER CORE Nancy Hays (left, as Judy Gar­land) and Alexa Castelvec­chi (as Liza Min­nelli) star in “Judy & Liza.”

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