‘The Lion King’ at the Morris canceled nearly one year ago

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 5:09 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The show must NOT go on.

The old theatrical saying was dramatically revised and reversed about a year ago in South Bend and elsewhere.

March of 2020 came in like a lion. It was one year ago tomorrow that the scheduled three-week run of “The Lion King’s” at the Morris Performing Arts Center was cancelled due to the looming COVID crisis.

Every scheduled show has since met the same fate.

“This was going to be the longest running show, the largest show we had ever had in the City of South Bend. We had to refund, ultimately, thousands and thousands of tickets,” said Aaron Perri, Executive Director of South Bend’s Venues Parks and Arts. “I remember being in a meeting with the mayor and other folks, other city leaders, and saying ‘hey Broadway shut down. We really need to take a look at this. It’s getting serious.’”

Only now is the Morris on the verge of reopening with the definition of what makes for a good show expanded to include the performance of the climate control system.

“Down to specific, like how many, how much cubic feet of air flow per second, per square foot is going through the building.” Perri said. “There’s just going to be new standards employed. We’re pursuing, you know, a level of care and cleanliness that we hadn’t in the past.”

While the shutdown was abrupt and immediate, the restart will be gradual, starting with a crowd cap of 25-percent of capacity.

“For our first shows, the symphony is coming in on April 10th, followed shortly by ‘The Color Purple’ and then again the symphony.

The loss of the Morris has been costly in ways well beyond the obvious lack of ticket and t-shirt sales.

Take the city’s downtown parking garages for instance: in 2020, the average number of daily customers (those who do not have a monthly pass) numbered 3,116—a drop of 53 percent compared to 2019.

People who aren’t going to the Morris for a show, aren’t in need of a downtown parking space.

Altogether, the city calculates that the closing of the Morris, the Palais Royale, and the Century Center has resulted in a negative economic impact of $34.2 million.

“When that’s absent, hotel rooms are empty. Restaurant seats are empty, and that’s not good for our community. When we bring these things back online, that is extremely critical, far above and beyond the artistic value,” Perri concluded.

The Century Center got back to business last weekend by hosting a bridal fair. On the third weekend in March, it is scheduled to host a boat show.

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