'It was just too much': North Shore theater finally cancels its show

After delaying their production of "Junie B. Jones: The Musical" twice, the Lake Superior Community Theater officially canceled the show.

The set was painted, the actors were prepared and the curtain was waiting to be raised on the Lake Superior Community Theatre's production of "Junie B. Jones: The Musical" at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay. The musical was set to open on Thursday, March 19, the first day of spring. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. School was canceled two days before the premiere, and director Paul Deaner went into strategy mode.

"We decided we could just push it back to May," Deaner said. "Then the stay-at-home order was extended, and we decided to push it to September, when the kids should be going back to school."

Recently, Deaner decided to pull the plug on the production. It's partially due to the pandemic, but also due to some adult members of the cast of 26 having to pull out.

"It's understandable. One started a new job, another had a vulnerable family member they had to care for," Deaner said. "But after the third one pulled out, and I realized how many replacements I'd have to find and train in, I realized the handwriting was on the wall. It was just too much."

With the cancellation, Deaner had to assemble a crew to strike the set. The large set had been in place ever since school was canceled in March. Deaner said it's very unusual for a set to be allowed to remain in place for such a long stretch of time.


"Normally, you'd be lucky to get an extra day of time on a stage, since there are so many programs that happen in the theater, but with so many cancellations, it's just sat there since we finished building it," Deaner said.

It has been a difficult year for the arts at William Kelley Schools. Back in December, winter music programs had to be canceled when the school was closed due to a water main leak. The band and choir concerts were canceled again this spring because of the pandemic.

"It's like a slow-moving funeral right now, and there's no end in sight," Deaner said. "I don't know what's next for us. I'm mostly interested in producing full-on theater productions, and we just don't know when we'll be able to do that again."

In the meantime, Deaner said he has been spending more time with his family and at home, reading plays and waiting to be allowed back onstage.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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