WMCA to reopen with Mecca Productions performance

·4 min read

Theatre lights will once again brighten the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium stage Friday after 20 long months of COVID-19 restrictions.

The return to live theatre will feature performers from Mecca Productions — the same theatre group whose performance of “Spamalot” was cut short by the global health crisis.

Mecca will host the first performance at the auditorium since the facility closed owing to public health measures.

“I feel like it’s an honour to be there to reopen the [WMCA]. It’s special to us and it means something to each one of us,” Lisa Vasconcelos, Mecca Productions artistic director, said.

“It really does feel like a second home … This is our 20th year of doing shows at the WMCA; it’s an important place to us.”

Mecca Productions’ upcoming musical revue, “All Together Now,” will feature songs from a variety of Broadway shows, including “Guys and Dolls,” “Into the Woods,” “Godspell,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Rent” and “Les Misérables.” The show will spotlight over 15 bite-sized segments composed of different songs, some of which have been newly licensed for widespread use.

The show is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee performance on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

“All Together Now” is a fundraiser for the WMCA. Vasconcelos said the theatre has felt the economic impacts of COVID-19 closures, and Mecca performers appreciate being able to help raise funds for the beloved organization.

Mecca Productions was in the midst of its performance of the hit musical comedy “Spamalot” when the virus forced shutdowns in 2020.

It was a hectic time of frantic phone calls, crying and trying to figure out how to move forward, Vasconcelos said. Ultimately, the play was pulled from the theatre stage to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Being able to bring “All Together Now” to the WMCA stage next weekend is a hopeful sign that the pandemic will soon be in the rearview mirror, Vasconcelos said.

“It feels amazing, actually, to be together with people that I love and care about, to be singing these songs.”

“We’re used to having absolutely nothing in our calendars … Things are starting to kick up again,” Vasconcelos said. “We hope [people will] come out and see us.”

The production will take place under COVID-19 public health measures, including proof of full vaccination and mask-wearing for audience members and performers who aren’t on stage. Capacity is also limited for the event; only 190 seats (approximately 25 per cent of the venue’s capacity) will be available.

The building will also be sanitized before and after each performance.

Vasconcelos said she has been working with WMCA staff to ensure the production can be successful and safe.

The show will serve as an opportunity to test the waters as to what live theatre performances look like during the pandemic.

“There really can’t be a safer way to go,” Vasconcelos said.

Different from past performances, the show will not include an intermission and is expected to run about 90 minutes.

Tom Crook, WMCA general manager, said in a press release it has been exciting to once again partner with Mecca Productions and provide Westman residents with a live theatre performance.

“Attendance will be limited and distancing will be in effect because this is our first show and we want to keep everybody as safe as possible. As we move forward, we will increase capacity. Keep an eye on our website for changes as we adapt to the new protocols,” Crook said.

For Shaun Cameron, WMCA board of director’s chair, seeing the theatre reopen, in a modified fashion, has been one of the happiest moments of his tenure on city council.

“As someone who grew up on this stage and who now gets to watch my children do the same, I know the tremendous importance of live performance and feel the arts are integral to the fabric of thriving communities,” Cameron said in a press release.

“Being able to welcome a local group back as our first live show in almost 20 months makes it even more special. I want to thank Westman residents for their continued support, and give credit to the tremendous staff at the WMCA who have worked diligently so patrons can experience a safe and enjoyable time.”

Anyone looking to purchase a ticket for “All Together Now” can visit wmca.ca or call the venue’s box office at 204-728-9510.

For those who are unable to watch “All Together Now” in person, WCGtv will be featuring a video of the performance.

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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