Cancelled by Covid: The JTD Story

Butch Jimenez and family with Gary V (foreground) before the canceled show


One of the most exciting parts of launching a musical theater show is opening night. That's where hours and hours of rehearsals, dance preparations, set construction, costume fittings and directors notes all converge in one visual spectacle.

If opening night is at the apex of any musical theater production's dream, then canceling opening night is its worst nightmare.

That's exactly what happened to the opening night of "Joseph The Dreamer" 2022. Three hours before the curtains rose, critical members of the cast started testing positive for covid. At  first, it was manageable since we made sure we had a swing cast for most of our characters. But one artist then became two, then three, then stagehands turned positive too. Two hours before the curtains rose, we had to make the tough call. Cancel opening night. God flipped our world upside down.

We have opened since then, exactly a week after. And what an opening weekend it was. The shows were sold out, and the audience rewarded the cast with standing ovations. In hindsight, we have all come to realize that the cancelled opening weekend  was really part of God's plan to prepare us for showtime. Not so much to give us more time to prepare our acting, singing or dancing, but to prepare our hearts to deliver the message of "Joseph The Dreamer". 

The story of Joseph is about a favored son who experienced the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. Growing up, he was the apple of his father's eyes, destined to inherit everything his family owned. Driven by greed and envy, his brothers sold him as a slave to an eccentric businessman. Joseph rose from slave to Potiphar's COO. But Potiphar had a  wife who made cougars look like kittens, and she pounced on Joseph, who rejected her advances. Being a woman scorned, she framed him for rape and threw him in jail. 

The high and low cycle repeated itself in the life of Joseph. Now at his lowest as an innocent man behind bars, he worked his way up from lowly prisoner to the trusted assistant of the warden. In jail, he met two servants of the Pharoah of Egypt who asked if he could interpret their dreams. The butler he predicted would be set free. The baker he said would be executed. Both came true. Years passed and Joseph started to sink towards depression in jail. But the high and low cycle repeated itself once again.

This time it was the Pharoah who had dreams which no one could interpret. As he was looking for someone who could interpret his dreams, his butler was reminded of Joseph, who was called out of prison to try and interpret the Pharoahs dreams. True to form, he interpreted the dreams with pinpoint accuracy and added a wise solution to the conundrum. From neglected prisoner, Joseph again rose to Pharoah's second in command.

There are many more subplots to the Joseph story, but then I would spoil it for those that want to watch the musical. The main lesson of Joseph's story was that through his lows, he never looked down. He always looked to God, whom he trusted would pull him through.

Now flashforward to our opening night. When we made the decision to cancel  the whole opening weekend run, we felt  like Joseph being beaten up and sold as a slave. We were ready to bring musical theater back live. Less than 24 hours before, we had our tech run, and it was near flawless. More importantly, everyone tested negative. But God had other plans. He didn't want us to experience the highs of opening night. He wanted us to feel the heartbreaking lows of closing the curtain before it even rose.

Inside the theater, it was a mad scramble as we turned from raising the curtain to crisis management. From announcing the decision to the cast to facing ticket holders trickling in, to explaining the situation to our sponsors, to ensuring we gave proper care and support to those that got hit by Covid. 

In the middle of all that chaos, it struck me that what God was doing was making all of us experience what Joseph experienced. He was testing us and now watching if we could really practice what we were preaching through the musical. To never look down. To trust. To believe He is in control. To have faith He has a better plan.

If we could not live in real life the message we were sharing on stage, then what's the use. We were just acting. And that was not God's main plan. While our ministry is to share the gospel through the magic of theater, God wanted to grip our hearts first before we could be channels for Him to grip the hearts of others. 

As heartbroken as the team was due to the cancellation, we reminded ourselves to "never look down". That the setback no matter how devastating was temporary and that God would pull us through. Now we were not just putting on a play, we were actually living it.

And God did pull us through. We were able to move show dates immediately. Our cast remained intact. Only a small percentage of ticket buyers asked for refunds, while our sponsors stood by us.

Seven days later, we opened to a full house with a much healthier covid free team. But this time, to all of us, the God of Joseph was not just some being written on a script. He was our Redeemer, written in our hearts.

Joseph The Dreamer runs till Aug. 7 at the Maybank Theater. Tickets available at Ticketworld.