Back to the theatre

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Gateway Theatre’s first major production in almost two years will be something of a homecoming for theatre lovers.

A Broadway Holiday, running Dec. 16 to 23, will welcome audiences back to Gateway’s MainStage for a unique holiday concert featuring seven singer-musicians. Gateway’s director of artistic programs Barbara Tomasic co-created the show with Chris King. Initially the two had intended to present it last December, but due to increased pandemic restrictions it had to be postponed for a year.

“We got together in August, took a week and played through all the songs, arranged all the songs,” says Tomasic. “It was a really amazing process. We hadn’t been together creating for so long because of the pandemic.”

King transcribed the song arrangements and Tomasic put together a script of sorts, which links the songs through their backstories as well as stories of holiday traditions. 

“It’s a really nice mix of what this season is about—things like food, being together, generosity and kindness, but also celebrating the music from these Broadway shows.”

While there will not be a sing-along, audiences will be engaged in other ways. And Gateway has gone to great lengths to ensure people feel safe, putting in place protocols like mandatory masking at all times—even while seated—and spacing between groups of seats.

“What we’ve learned in the last year is that we have been very successful at taking care of our audiences, ushering them forward and allowing them to feel really safe while experiencing the performing arts,” says Tomasic. “We didn’t feel like we could all of a sudden lift all restrictions. It didn’t feel in line with how we’ve been operating thus far. If you’re sitting there thinking about someone sitting too close to you, you’re not going to be present and enjoying the show.”

Performers and crew members must be vaccinated, and audience members aged 12-plus must also present proof of vaccination. The concession will not be open.

For audience members who don’t feel able to attend an in-person performance, the show will be filmed on its opening night and made available for online viewing several days later. Whether in-person or virtually, Tomasic says audiences can expect a moving show with familiar, nostalgic music.

“I hope we make people feel safe so that they can come and feel the holiday joy, that would be nice I think for all of us.”

Making his Gateway debut, Sean Hara is one of the performers. A graduate of McRoberts secondary and Capilano University’s musical theatre program, Hara aspires to be a voice actor—a passion partly spurred by growing up watching Disney movies.

“I grew up in the 1990s so watching those kind of movies with a song and telling a story through song was really captivating,” he says.

Hara is a self-taught guitar and ukulele player, and auditioned for Gateway’s show as he was completing the three-year Capilano program. Although the pandemic caused some necessary changes to the productions that are integral to the curriculum, Hara says it was still a great learning experience and presented some opportunities for unique interpretations. 

“I went through school for half of COVID. After graduating, I definitely felt really lost. I feel bad spending so much time not working. Writing things and going through the creative process, you’re not getting paid for that,” says Hara. “I’m really fortunate that I did book (the Gateway holiday show) right out of school.”

A lover of Christmas music, Hara’s favourite song from A Broadway Holiday is a mash-up of “Home,” from Broadway musical The Wiz, and holiday favourite “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

“I had never met the other people in the cast before. We got really close and talked about our family traditions. A lot of times our traditions would line up—it’s one of those things where you think your family is so weird, and someone else says ‘me too.’ The last few years is a blur. I don’t remember doing a lot during the holidays because of COVID. This will be a special one, because people can feel joy and it’ll be a really reviving story.”

For more information or to buy tickets, go to www.gatewaytheatre.com/broadway-holiday

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel

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