Theatre in Covid Times – Grand Un-Opening Night

Written on October 23rd, 2020

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow at the Grand Theatre

The evening of October 23, 2020, would have been the grand opening of the 20-21 season, their fiftieth, at the Grand Theatre, London. Due to COVID-19, they’ve had to rebrand it as their intermission year.

To celebrate this milestone, they’ve put their Grand Un-Opening Night online, available at grandtheatre.com until midnight, November 7.  It’s free to anyone who registers and local viewers are encouraged to enjoy a take-out meal from one of their dining partners, listed on the website.

Missing are several things that make live theatre so exciting: the big curtain and bright lights, laughter and applause.  But the Grand is making the best of the situation: besides building excitement with this Un-Opening, they have a Grand Walks podcast which you can listen to on its own or follow the map and walk through London neighbourhoods.  They are carrying on with a specialized version of their high school project on Zoom, and they are holding auditions through video submissions.

The Un-Opening begins on a high note with Tess Benger, who had the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret, performing the title song.  Cabaret was a sell-out extended hit in the McManus Theatre downstairs at the Grand in spring 2019.  Due to the extensive renovations occurring at the theatre, her outfit includes hardhat and boots.

Tess Benger opened the Unopening Night reprising her role in Cabaret .

Seeing the beloved theatre torn apart creates such a sense of excitement and anticipation for better times.  Executive Director Deb Harvey walks us through the nine million dollar changes, repairs and improvements being made.

Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum invites us to join several zoom meetings where we learn about how the Grand is alive and well through this intermission period.  We meet some of the team from Grow, a musical that was halted before it even reached the Grand stage.  Team members include Matt Murray, originally from Sarnia (book writer), as well as Akiva Romer-Segal and Colleen Dauncey, a contemporary musical theatre songwriting team.  Colleen Dauncey delights us with a performance from the musical.

The cast of Neptune Theatre’s Argyle Street Kitchen Party also joins in on the celebration, treating us to a sample of some east coast sounds.

The final treat of this Grand hour is a lovely performance by the incredible Alexis Gordon, who starred in Room before it was abruptly shut down.  Accompanied by Matthew Atkins of London, Alexis performs a poignantly appropriate “Tomorrow” from Annie.

Alexis Gordon closed the Unopening Night with “Tomorrow” from Annie.

The sun will come out tomorrow for the Grand Theatre, better than ever post-renovations and post-COVID-19.

Grand Un-Opening Night
Hosts Dennis Garnhum, Artistic Director and Deb Harvey, Executive Director
Guests: Matthew Atkins, Tess Benger, Cameron Carver, Alexis Gordon, Wayne Gwillim, Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane, and the Creative Team for Grow
Available Free October 22 to November 7, 2020 – Click here
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

A Note for Grand Bend area readers:  You may remember Tess Benger from her performance in Broadway on the Beach  on the outdoor stage during the summer of 2018, and Alexis Gordon who performed at a Rotary Conference hosted by Grand Bend Rotary Club at Oakwood Resort in May 2018.  Ms. Gordon returned in November 2018 to perform at a concert at Huron Shores United Church, on Grand Bend’s Main Street.

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