BEVERLY — After nearly two years in the dark, the lights are coming back on at North Shore Music Theatre.
The theatre announced Wednesday that it will reopen starting this month with an abbreviated schedule through the end of 2021, capped by the 30th anniversary production of "A Christmas Carol."
"We're excited," owner Bill Hanney said. "People are excited about theater coming back."
North Shore Music Theatre has been shut down since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Its last show was "A Christmas Carol" in December of 2019. The theater twice announced reopening plans before having to postpone those as well.
This time the reopening is a go, Hanney said. The theater will reopen on Sept. 17 with a concert by Foreigners Journey featuring Constantine Maroulis, followed by a comedy show on Sept. 18 by Peabody native Gary Gulman.
The theater will then host two musicals -- "Mamma Mia!" from Oct 5-17 and "A Christmas Carol" from Dec. 2-23.
Audiences will be required to wear masks, while theater staff, including the performers, are required to be fully vaccinated. Hanney said those policies have worked well so far at Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island, which he also owns and is wrapping up a three-week run of "Mamma Mia" on Sunday.
North Shore decided not to go the route of some theaters and require that patrons show proof of vaccination.
"Our world of patrons are smart people," Hanney said. "They've gotten vaccinations. It's worked at Theatre by the Sea and there's no reason it won't work at North Shore."
Hanney said North Shore will continue a practice at Theatre by the Sea of giving out $10 gift certificates to audience members who have the "most fun" masks.
"It just gets them excited," he said.
Hanney said North Shore Music Theatre customers have stuck with the theater through the long shutdown, with 98% of subscribers maintaining their subscriptions.
"They've lost their North Shore once already," Hanney said, referring to when the theater went out of business for a year before he purchased it in 2009. "They do not want to lose it twice."
Still, Hanney said the shutdown has been difficult financially. The theater's restaurant, the Backstage Bistro, will not reopen. Hanney said they used the restaurant for warehouse space during the shutdown and will continue to do that.
"The restaurant was never successful for us," he said.
Hanney said the theater is looking into the possibility of opening another food venue next year. The theater has already announced a full schedule for 2022, with the the slate of musicals that were originally scheduled for the 2020 season.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.