Virus Cases Delay Musical Opening, Leaving Company on Edge

A Footloose cast list with the names of infected actors crossed out, seen on April 26. Photo by Reid Alexander.

Footloose, the spring musical, was delayed nine days from its original opening night due to several COVID cases among cast and crew members.

On Thursday, April 28, the production’s director, Laura Rosberg, announced in an email to the high school that the musical had been postponed to a three-show run on May 6 and 7. The Footloose company is on edge, but, in interviews with the Bit, members of it were tentatively hopeful that the show will be able to premiere without further roadblocks.

In an interview with the Bit on April 28, freshman Henry Cohen, a member of the cast, estimated that over 20 cast and crew members, including him, had tested positive in the last two weeks. The Augur Bit verified 13 COVID cases in the Footloose company.

When asked about the emotions of cast and crew members as the blizzard of new COVID cases emerged, Cohen said that “everyone was honestly really upset about it. It was a mess.”

Per an announcement by Rosberg on April 28, Footloose is scheduled to open on May 6, allowing the cast members with COVID to quarantine for the required seven days before the first show. It had already been delayed twice from the original opening night, Wednesday, April 27.

Senior and cast member Luke Flyer told the Bit that he feared that if more cast and crew members were to test positive “we probably won’t have a show.” He added, “We can’t postpone it more than we already have.”

Rosberg wrote in an all-school email on April 26 that the weekend beginning on Friday, May 6, “is our last chance.” She praised the show’s “huge and truly wonderful company,” adding that “everyone deserves a chance to show off the months and months of hard work they’ve done.” 

Rosberg closed the email by saying, “I’m an eternal optimist. If this works out, it will be all the sweeter.”

Assistant Principal for School Life Quinn Killy said in an interview with the Bit that he and Chief of Staff Lauren Dickert advised Rosberg about when the show could open based on “what was on the calendar, what was available, what was realistic in terms of space and timing, and events that were already taking place—what things could be shifted, what things couldn’t be.”

For example, according to Rosberg’s April 28 email, the high school cabaret, which was supposed to take place on Friday, May 6, was moved to a new date.

Senior Pallavi Bhargava, a co-head of the cabaret, told the Bit via text that the plan is to perform on Saturday, May 21, though nothing is set in stone yet.

Students who test positive must isolate for at least seven days, school nurse Connie Crowley told the Bit. A return on the eighth day is allowed with a negative test result on the sixth and seventh days.

Actors in Footloose rehearse with choreographer Maria Watson and director Laura Rosberg. Photo by Olivia Brown.

Senior Eli Faber, who plays the lead role, Ren McCormack, contracted the virus the week before the show was initially scheduled to open, amid an uptick in COVID cases at GDS, especially among seniors. “There’s so many people I could have gotten it from,” he told the Bit in a phone interview from quarantine. 

On April 20, with four COVID cases among cast and crew, Rosberg delayed opening night by one day, to Thursday, April 28. 

But Cohen said that by Monday, April 25, it was “clear we couldn’t really do a show” on Thursday, April 28.

On the afternoon of April 26, following several more COVID cases, Rosberg emailed the school, saying, “Yes, we’ve got the plague.” Rosberg said that the new plan was to open a week later, on May 5, “assuming it can be OK’d by the school.”

Two days later, after having met with administrators, Rosberg sent an email to the high school and all Footloose families moving the show back by one day to May 6.

Cohen said he was thankful for Rosberg’s decision to postpone the show rather than canceling it entirely. “It would suck to have to cancel the show after all the time and effort and money that has been put into it,” he said.

Jason Strunk, the chair of the performing arts department and Footloose’s musical director, said in an interview on April 22 that the GDS theater community “is filled with resilient individuals.” He added that two years ago, when the pandemic hit, the GDS theater program “pivoted, and we did things the best we could.”

Strunk said he firmly believes the theater program will “figure this out, because we’ve figured it out before.”

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