Harry Potter sets Melbourne reopening date

Producers decided to risk the announcement of what they are calling an “anticipated” return date before the state government could confirm they will be allowed to seat enough audience members to make the show viable.

Under NSW’s reopening plan shows could seat up to 75 per cent capacity – Hamilton returned to the Sydney Lyric on Tuesday at that level. But Victoria’s current plan allows just 150 theatre patrons at the next step of opening up in early November, with potential higher numbers for unspecified “significant venues”.

Moulin Rouge actor Andy Cook at the Regent Theatre in July.Credit:Luis Ascui

A government spokesman would say only “we’ll keep working with the industry to help theatres open up as soon and as safely as possible”.

The industry expects big commercial shows will be able to open by mid-November with either a 50 per cent or 65 per cent capacity cap – just enough to afford to mount a big production in the short term – scaling up quickly to 75 per cent (close to breaking even) and then to full capacity some time down the track.

On Tuesday, Moulin Rouge! rescheduled the first 12 planned performances in November, to add to a tally of 86 cancelled or rescheduled performances.

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Producer Carmen Pavlovic said they hope to open the Australian version of the show, that recently swept the Tony Awards, “mid-November”.

“The incredible vaccination rates in Victoria have given us the confidence to recall our cast and crew to start rehearsals again [next] Monday, and we’re hopeful for the green light to open,” she said.

“Victorians have been incredibly loyal in their support for the show… we intend to repay that loyalty with a spectacular that will lift everyone’s spirits and be a reminder of how precious it is to be able to share live theatre together.”

The state government included the big commercial theatres in new rules, issued 10 days ago, allowing rehearsals to start. The exemptions also apply to companies including Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Circus Oz and the Australian Ballet.

Melbourne Theatre Company has pencilled in a November 8 opening date for its long-awaited new production of Shakespeare comedy As You Like it, with music by Kate Miller-Heidke, but can’t yet guarantee it.

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Reeves said the gap between shows had been so long his body will remember more of the script than his brain – last year when Potter returned from lockdown he would find himself racing backstage to the changing rooms before he even remembered why.

He put the break to good use: “my bread baking has gone up to the next level, my vegetable garden looks great and I got my tax return done”, but more recently he has focused on the physical fitness required to return to the demanding role.

He’s signed up for a half-marathon, along with a couple of other production members, and joined Instagram kettlebell challenges “to piggyback off other people’s motivation”.

And he can’t wait to see his fellow cast members: “We’ve got a real family here. The idea of being able to get together as a group and share this, it’s even more precious”.

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