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WMPAC season kicks off Dec. 5

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Broadway star Bobby Conte Thornton will be kicking off WMPAC’s winter season on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7p.m. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARREN MILLER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

WARREN MILLER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

BIG SKY – While the annual winter season at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center will look and feel a little different this year, the caliber and quality of events offered hasn’t diminished at all. The Center’s eighth winter season will start a little earlier than usual this year, with Broadway star Bobby Conte Thornton taking the stage Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7p.m.

Thornton’s Broadway debut was as the star of the musical “A Bronx Tale,” which was directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks. Until Broadway shut its doors in March, he was performing in “Company.” Thornton, who has spent much of the pandemic quarantining in Big Sky, will appear in person to sing a selection of Broadway classics, accompanied by music director James Sampliner on piano and Michael Steele on bass.

As with virtually all WMPAC shows this season, audience members have the option to attend the performance in-person or to watch it virtually from home. The theater is filling only 25 percent of its seats, all of which have been socially distanced, ensuring that no groups are seated within six feet of each other. Masks are required for the duration of the performance, and all shows have been streamlined to eliminate an intermission, minimizing audience traffic in the lobby.

Over the summer, WMPAC has released a new, high-quality streaming platform, wmpac.live, for those who prefer to enjoy the performance live from home.

“It was important to us to ensure that everyone can stay engaged in the arts world this season, so we leaned into being flexible,” said John Zirkle, WMPAC’s executive director. “If you’re quarantining or don’t feel comfortable in a theater yet, you don’t have to give up on seeing the arts this year. In a funny way, the pandemic has actually made WMPAC more accessible, in that we’ve launched a service where you can tune in from anywhere.”

The following Saturday, Dec. 12, WMPAC will broadcast a performance of “A Christmas Carol,” performed live for us from their Chicago studio by the theater collective Manual Cinema. Audiences are again welcome to the theater to view the show on the big screen, or they can livestream it directly to their homes. This is a quirky, family-friendly, 2020 interpretation of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale, performed by the Emmy Award-winning group. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories designed for both stage and screen.

Dec. 19 at WMPAC brings a radio broadcast of “Hamlet,” performed live by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks at 7pm. The talented actors will undertake a dramatic reading of the play, which is often considered Shakespeare’s best and most emotionally complex. This performance will be livestreamed on wmpac.live for audience members to listen to at home, rather than attending in the theater.

“We envision this as a soundtrack to a classy evening at home,” Zirkle said. “The backdrop to your dinner is a professional Shakespearean theater group probing the same questions that have kept this play relevant for centuries.”

In-person and virtual tickets are on sale now at warrenmillerpac.org.

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