In less than a month, the folks at the Maltz Jupiter Theater and untold numbers of performance fans were planning to celebrate the “Grand Reopening” of the north county venue that’s about to complete a $36 million renovation and kick off its 2021-22 season with main stage shows and other productions to mark the milestone event.
COVID-19, the world-halting ailment that forced the Maltz to redline its entire 2020-21 production season, has returned with a vengeance. The highly infectious Omicron variant has forced officials to postpone the completion of its major facelift and cancel at least two of the four productions scheduled this season.
“With immense disappointment, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre has been forced to make significant changes to the ‘Grand Reopening’ season due to the recent surge of Omicron,” said a news release issued from the performance center that was founded, paid for, opened and operated beginning in the late 1970s by actor Burt Reynolds.
“Sweet Charity, the first season production scheduled to be performed in the newly renovated facility Feb. 19 through March 9, unfortunately will be cancelled,” said the missive from the office of Andrew Kato, producing artistic director and chief executive officer at the Maltz Jupiter Theater.
“The limited engagement shows, The McCartney Years (Feb. 11) and the 5 p.m. performance of Destination Motown (Feb. 13) will also be cancelled while three other limited engagement performances, Live at the Garden: The Music of Billy Joel (Feb. 10), Top of the World: A Carpenters Tribute (Feb. 12) and Destination Motown (7:30 p.m. performance on Feb. 13) will be rescheduled for a later date.”
“As many can imagine, these cancellations are devastating for cultural not-for-profit organizations like ours, so donations are important as we continue to struggle through this shifting landscape,” said Kato. “As we cancel Sweet Charity and some of our limited engagement productions, we will be communicating with subscribers and individual ticket holders directly regarding their purchase.”
“Despite the devastating news of having to cancel the first few shows scheduled to be performed in the newly renovated theatre, the production, I Hate Hamlet, will still take place at The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, Feb. 8-20,” the performance center executive said.
“In March, the theatre looks forward to welcoming patrons back to the brand-new building on Indiantown Road for the performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels taking place March 22 – April 10, as well as the remaining six limited engagement shows and two benefit concerts.”
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre conducted the multi-million-dollar facelift during the months without performances. Originally set to begin in April 2021, the project was fast-tracked, compressing two stages of construction into 13 months.
The expansion included a new Broadway-scale stage that qualifies the theater for pre-Broadway and national tour-development productions, and a 199-seat second theater space. Maltz also expanded its Goldner Conservatory, home to its youth arts education program, and redesigned its entrance and lobby.
“Finalizing such an expansive construction site during a pandemic has had its challenges, including supply chain and labor shortages,” said Kato.
“While the construction teams have been working tirelessly to make significant progress to hand over the building, the latest variant outbreak has officially pushed back their ability to complete the project on time. This will impact the first few weeks of performances scheduled in the building.”
The Maltz Theatre will take many precautions at upcoming performances to protect patrons, actors, and volunteers, including routine cleaning and disinfecting; the use of UV sanitizing wands; the vaccination of all staff, volunteers, cast and crew; multiple hands-free hand sanitizer stations; and the use of hands-free ticket scanning and digital programs.
All guests aged 2 and over are required to wear a mask and guests aged 5 and over are required to present documentation (printed or digital) of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken no more than 72 hours prior to the performance date or a negative Covid-19 Antigen test result taken no more than 24 hours prior to the performance date.
“Theatre has historically brought together a group of resourceful, creative thinkers who know how to pivot,” said Kato. “The age-old saying, ‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and we are doing everything in our power to move forward in a careful, mindful and responsible way.”
History of Maltz Jupiter Theatre
Once one of the most renowned cultural centers in South Florida, the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre operated as a local landmark and arts institution from 1979 to 1996. More celebrities performed on its stage than any other arts venue in Palm Beach County at that time.
Hollywood’s top box-office draw at the movies from 1978 to 1982, Jupiter resident Burt Reynolds performed in three of the theater’s 116 shows and frequently directed.
The building (eventually renamed the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre) also housed the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training, where more than 100 apprentices took classes from stars such as Liza Minnelli, Martin Sheen, Charles Nelson Reilly, Dom DeLuise and Reynolds.
Burt operated the theater until 1989, when he leased the 440-seat performance facility to executive producer Richard Atkins, who continued running the establishment until 1996. Financial problems eventually forced its closure, and Reynolds sold the closed theater for $2 million to local residential real estate developer Otto “Buzz” Divosta.
Divosta leased the property to Akron, Ohio-based Carousel Dinner Theatre, which reopened it as the Carousel Dinner Theater in late 1996. When the theatre struggled, Divosta sold the property to media kingpin Lowell “Bud” Paxson, who donated it to Christ Fellowship Church in 1999.
In 2001, a group of citizens formed the non-profit Palm Beach Playhouse Inc. and purchased the building for $2.67 million. Following a successful capital campaign, the 28,000-square-foot theatre was renovated in February 2003 and re-named the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in recognition of major benefactors Milton and Tamar Maltz. On Feb. 29, 2004, the theatre opened up as a 554-seat, state-of-the-art regional performance site.
A Massachusetts native who moved to Florida in 2000, he is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, with honors degrees in English and Journalism. In New England, he worked for the Attleboro (Mass.) Sun Chronicle and the Pawtucket (R.I.) Times, the latter for 28 years. After moving to Florida, he worked as a copy editor at the Palm Beach Daily News, and, in 2001, became a reporter and later, city editor, at the Boca
Raton News where he worked for eight years.