As ‘Joyful! Joyful!’ Surges, So Does Omicron

Arts & Culture

Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

The run of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s (WBTT) “Joyful! Joyful!” had found a groove in its final weeks as it sold out most of its shows. Unlike “Eubie,” which only saw the second half of its run sold out as many of WBTT’s ticketholders remained up North, “Joyful! Joyful!” surged almost immediately when it opened on December 1st. Unfortunately, yet another variant of COVID-19 was also surging and continues to temper the optimism of the return of theatre.

On Tuesday, WBTT announced that the final three performances of “Joyful! Joyful!” were cancelled following three positive COVID-19 tests from members of the production team. All three shows were sold out.

“We got through ‘Eubie’ without any outbreaks because it was before the Omicron variant started surging in the state,” says WBTT executive director, Julie Leach. “We also had a very successful gala with 400+ people and nobody got sick; so, things were going really well for us.”

The news of the positive cases comes as Broadway experiences its own high-profile cancellations, including “Music Man” in the wake of Hugh Jackman’s positive test. “And he’s boosted,” says Leach, “along with everyone in our company too. But this just goes to show that even with a vaccination and our #SafeArtsSarasota protocols, breakthrough infections can still derail things.”

Fortunately, none of the production team that tested positive are experiencing serious symptoms, a sign that vaccines, combined with the reportedly less severe effects of the Omicron variant, are an effective measure against severe illness. It’s a silver lining on a gray cloud of disappointment, but for Leach and WBTT, the message of hope in “Joyful! Joyful” has been adopted within the organization as it closes out 2021 and moves into 2022 armed with optimism and preparedness.

“Nate wrote ‘Joyful! Joyful!’ because he wanted to celebrate that we’re still here, that it’s a privilege to have made it and to be able to continue to share live theatre with each other. And I think moving forward we just have to remain flexible. We all need to be able to see our families and find ways to be together, so we’re going to keep our #SafeArtsSarasota protocols and do what we can to keep putting on shows. This was a setback for sure, but we’re still excited about 2022 and we think we’re ready for whatever it brings.”

WBTT’s box office will issue automatic refunds for those who purchased tickets to the final three “Joyful! Joyful!” shows. The next run of shows begins January 12th with the world premiere of the musical “Ruby,” written by Nate and Michael Jacobs.

Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

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