Mother-daughter theatre duo Dori Berinstein and Sammi Cannold are in post-production for a new documentary examining the resilience of the theatre industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, titled The Show Must Go On. The new film will look specifically at the efforts of composer-producer Andrew Lloyd Webber, as productions of two of his musicals took the stage in South Korea while theatres worldwide were shuttered.
Cannold, who directed Lloyd Webber’s Evita at New York City Center, traveled to Seoul and London last summer and fall, respectively, for the project. While in South Korea, she examined the world tour of The Phantom of the Opera, which managed to play to full capacity audiences during the pandemic through the implementation of strict health and safety measures, as well as the South Korean tour of Cats, which opened with a reduced audience in September.
“The number one thing that was most exciting to me was learning that in the now 10 months that their industry has been running—for much of it at full capacity—there has been zero audience-to-audience transmission of COVID,” Cannold told Playbill in January, having returned from abroad. “A lot of people try to attribute that to the fact that South Korea has lower case numbers than most other places in the world, which they do, but there still has been traces to Starbucks, nightclubs, schools, churches. That is a really telling piece of information, not only in helping us feel secure in going back to the theatre, but also in terms of the public education campaign that we're going to need to wage.
“Theatres are uniquely controllable environments: Audiences go to one destination. If we can control the factors in that destination—which Korea has done beautifully. All their ventilation and filtration is up to date, they follow the protocol 100 percent of the time. So if we can follow suit, I think that will not only be wonderful for health and safety, but also for consumer confidence in the artform and getting people back.”
The documentary simultaneously follows Lloyd Webber as he built upon the practices in South Korea to push for a large-scale reopening in London. His efforts included a series of trials at the London Palladium, which led to a socially distanced concert at the venue in July. “One country learned from another country and added to the information,” Cannold explains. “There’s an opportunity for global exchange of ideas. We’re not alone in this. There are so many lessons we can learn from our colleagues around the world. Everybody is trying to get the industry back on its feet, so we have the benefit learning from what’s working and what's not.”
Berinstein (a Broadway producer and filmmaker whose previous documentaries include ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway) and Cannold co-direct and co-produce the Dramatic Forces production, with WYSIWYG Studios South Korea and Elizabeth Armstrong executive producing.
The project shares the same name as another recently announced documentary, which follows the Broadway Relief Project. A free virtual screening of the short film will take place on Playbill March 13.