St. Charles resident Julie Saviano has been waiting for the return of live shows.
On Wednesday, Saviano and her son, Alex, were among 600 people taking in “Kinky Boots,” Paramount Theatre’s first production in 17 months. The show is set to run through Oct. 17.
Alex Saviano, a theater major at Millikin University in Decatur, also missed live shows.
“It’s an outing,” he said. “It’s a chance for us to go out and do something together and not plan anything. You sit back and enjoy other people creating art. That’s how I think about it.”
They were also happy with the Paramount Theatre’s decision to require patrons to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and to wear masks.
“I feel safer. and I want to be able to come back again,” Julie Saviano said.
Jennifer Aguilar of Oak Park was also excited to be back at the theater.
“It was something that I would do every weekend that I didn’t work,” she said. “Through the whole pandemic, it’s been like I’m living a different life than I lived before. I love music and love theater.”
Jim Jarvis, vice president of programming and sales for the Paramount Theatre, said that overall, people have been supportive of the Paramount’s mitigation measures.
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“Overall, the reaction’s been really positive,” Jarvis said. “We keep explaining to people that it’s the best way we know how to keep everybody safe, or as safe as we can.”
He noted that Paramount Theatre was one of the first theaters in the area to announce its COVID-19 protocols and now other theaters are following basically the same protocols.
“It’s become commonplace,” Jarvis said. “And, hopefully, by the time we do our next show, “Cinderella,” maybe we can relax it a little bit. You never know. But we’re going to keep doing as much as we can to keep everybody safe.”
“Cinderella” is set to start on Nov. 10. Jarvis believes that “Kinky Boots” is the perfect musical for the Paramount Theatre to be putting on after 17 months of being closed.
“What could have a better message?” he asked. “The biggest message from ‘Kinky Boots’ is accepting people for who they are and accepting their opinions and outlooks.”‘
Maureen Morrison, director of front of house operations at the Paramount Theatre, was happy to be greeting patrons again.
“This is a huge day to make it to this point,” she said. “It’s a huge moment. It feels good to be back.”
She noted the importance of live entertainment.
“Live entertainment is so important to our culture,” Morrison said. “It takes people out of their everyday routine. When you come to a show, hopefully, it gives you an escape from what’s happening out in the real world.”
About 20 people were in front of the Paramount Theatre to protest the theater’s decision to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Leading the protest was Jennifer Nevins, of Aurora, who was holding up a sign stating “End Discrimination Now.”
“To us, it’s discrimination against people for making medical choices,” Nevins said. “So when you are denied entry — as a paying customer — into a restaurant or a movie or a show, even though you are voluntarily going in there, they’re discriminating against people for making their own independent health choices.”