For the first time in more than 60 years, there will be no spring musical at Woodrow Wilson High School. Director John Beaird canceled the school’s production of “Mamma Mia!” this week after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that schools would remain closed until May 4 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The musical started in 1957 with a performance of “Oklahoma.” Since then, it has become a beloved East Dallas tradition that students, parents and community members look forward to every year. We talked with Beaird about the difficult decision to cancel the show.
What finally made you decide to cancel?
When this first started, I learned quickly we’d be out of school for a while. I just tried to keep hope alive. I refused to actually cancel this thing until this week, even though it looked like it would be canceled. It wasn’t until the governor said schools statewide would be closed until May. Well, OK, you’re hitting a bottom line. There’s no more hope.
How did the students handle the news?
It has been very, very difficult on all of us — the teachers, kids and parents involved. This was the largest cast that we’ve ever had in the show. Close to 150 kids were participating. Everyone was looking forward to it. Seniors had been waiting for their big break, and they’re not going to get a chance to perform. They’ve worked hard to get to this moment, and by their senior year, they are good. Prior to spring break, we were working really hard on this show. It was going to be such a good show.
How does the cancellation affect the community?
This program has such an impact on the community. The community was excited. It was one of the most eagerly anticipated shows I’ve done since I got here 18 years ago.
Are you working on any alternatives?
We’re in the process of talking with kids about a way to do something. We can’t do the whole show, but we may do some numbers from the show. There’s a fair amount of solos, but also small ensembles. If we manage to do that, we want to do it justice. We really want it to be good. We don’t want to put anything out that’s not up to the standards we’re used to doing. It is really difficult not having any idea of timelines. Doing it in the summer would be difficult. People have mentioned doing it in the fall, but my cast is in college. Everyone keep your ears and eyes open to see what we’re going to do.
Did any other shows get canceled?
We had an extremely successful one-act play that was expected to go far [in the UIL state competition for theater]. It was a district champ with a ton of awards. We had a beautiful show. The UIL may try to revive that.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.