Hale Centre Theatre — the first live theater troupe in Salt Lake County to start packing in audiences since the COVID-19 pandemic began — is suspending performances of the musical “Mary Poppins,” after a second cast member tested positive for the disease, the company announced Thursday.

© Gage Peterson
(Photo courtesy of Hale Centre Theatre) The ensemble of Hale Centre Theatre’s production of the musical “Mary Poppins” performs. The production, which debuted July 1, 2020, was suspended because a second cast member tested positive for COVID-19, the company announced Thursday, July 16, 2020.

Performances are “temporarily suspended,” the company announced in a Facebook post, and are scheduled to resume on Tuesday, July 28.

“We appreciate your patience while we try to bring happiness to families and keep artisans employed in an unprecedented time,” the company’s statement read.

The company is helping the Salt Lake County Health Department with contact tracing of people who might have been exposed to the two symptomatic cast members.

The first case of a Hale cast member contracting COVID-19 was announced July 9, in a comment to another post on the theater’s Facebook page.

The first performance of “Mary Poppins” was on July 1 in Hale’s 911-seat Centre Stage theater-in-the-round, in the massive theater complex that opened in November 2017, facing Interstate 15 in Sandy. The musical “Bright Star” opened June 26 in the complex’s 467-seat Jewel Box Stage theater, and will continue to run while “Mary Poppins” is closed.

Hale Centre Theatre CEO and co-founder Mark Dietlein said in late June, just before “Mary Poppins” opened, that the company was “following what the state guidelines allowed us to do,” both backstage and in the audience.

Hale has been seating patrons shoulder-to-shoulder, much as they did before the pandemic, though all theatergoers have been required to wear masks. The plan differs from what other venues have done; for example, the Megaplex Theaters movie houses have left alternate rows empty, and put a three-seat buffer between family groups.

Hale’s ticket plan was acceptable to the Salt Lake County Health Department. Under the state’s color-coded safety guidelines, an indoor gathering of fewer than 3,000 people is allowed in a “yellow” zone — which covers Salt Lake County, except for Salt Lake City, which is still in the more-restricted “orange” category — if everyone is wearing a face covering, a department spokesman said.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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