Cost of Covid: Civic Club show cancelled but the dough must go on

Dr.+Matthew+Jerles+performs+in+the+2019+Macon+Civic+Club+show+at+the+Grand+Opera+House.+This+year%27s+production+was+canceled+due+to+COVID-19.

Beau Cabell

Dr. Matthew Jerles performs in the 2019 Macon Civic Club show at the Grand Opera House. This year’s production was canceled due to COVID-19.

Theatre enthusiasts who coined the phrase “the show must go on” likely had not run into a global pandemic.

Like many other festivals and functions, the Macon Civic Club’s late January annual review fell victim to the COVID-19 virus this year. Organizers were not quite ready to take a full sabbatical from the annual tradition that began shortly after the club was formed in 1959.

The club is continuing to raise money for charity even without selling tickets or printing programs.

Todd Mitchell, the 2021 show chairman who is now known as the “no show chairman,” said pandemic restrictions limited the amount of people permitted in the Grand Opera House to 150 people.

Typically, that’s about as many performers, crew members and volunteers who work on the show.

They considered options but reluctantly pulled the plug in October and cancelled.

“It was going to be complicated,” Mitchell said. “Not to mention the orchestra with the instruments would not be able to social distance.”

Mitchell started working on his 2021 show theme and choosing songs in March when things began to shut down due to the new coronavirus sweeping the world.

The musical revues are a vehicle to raise up to $200,000 a year that is distributed to 60 or more local charities.

Unfortunately, the money is needed more than ever as the closures, cancellations and resulting reduction in tax revenues hit some organizations particularly hard.

The show chairman directs money to charities of his choice and this year Mitchell wants to maintain the club’s civic philanthropy by calling on donors to contribute to the cause.

“My goal is to really sponsor the arts,” Mitchell said.

For veterans of the show, the cancellation left a gaping hole in their January calendar.

Steve Solomon has been a part of the Civic Club extravaganza since he was toddler backstage while his parents performed in the first productions. He has been onstage himself for decades.

“I’ve been doing it since the mid-80s,” Solomon said. “It’s been a lonely January for me after 34 years in a row.”

Even if the show had gone on, it might have happened without Solomon, who came down with COVID-19 after the first of the year.

Not only were the charities going to lose out, but so were the professional musicians, director and choreographer.

“It was a rippling effect as far as other people that didn’t get the normal business. Krystal on Spring Street probably suffered the biggest loss,” Solomon joked.

A family pack of the square hamburgers was typically present in the green room, he said.

Through the generosity of sponsors and club members, the Civic Club has made its pandemic goal of raising $100,000 to pass along to those in need.

“Our membership understands how many charities rely on the club. The members unanimously agreed that this year is critical to the many charities in need during this pandemic,” fund raising chairman Jef Flournoy wrote in the donation solicitation.

Due to the generosity of club members and regular sponsors they hope to distribute funds next month.

“I think we’re going to make some significant impact on charities hit hard this year,” Flournoy said Wednesday.

Anyone interested in donating to the cause can email Flournoy at [email protected]

Typically the chairmen rotate every year but due to the cancellation Flournoy and Mitchell will continue in their roles for the 2022 show.

“I hope things get back to normal as soon as possible,” Mitchell said. “I just look forward to putting a show together and hope we come back stronger than ever and have a show the community is proud of.”

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or email [email protected]