‘Nutcracker,’ Kurt Bestor, Utah Symphony cancel Christmas shows after COVID-19 closes venues

(Luke Isley | File photo courtesy of Ballet West) Artists of Ballet West perform in "The Waltz of the Flowers," from "The Nutcracker." The 2020 edition of the holiday classic has been canceled, after Salt Lake County closed Capitol Theatre and three other venues for the Christmas season. A recording of Ballet West's 2019 production will air Dec. 24 and 25, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, on KSL-TV.

Christmas isn’t canceled, but several of the live events Utahns associate with the holiday are — after Salt Lake County closed its four downtown Salt Lake City arts venues because of the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases.

The four venues — Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theatre, Eccles Theater and Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center — will close starting Monday through Dec. 31, the county announced Wednesday.

Mayor Jenny Wilson and the Salt Lake County Health Department directed the closure “to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of the community.”

(Tribune file photo) Utah musician and composer Kurt Bestor says he will find a new venue for his 2020 Christmas shows, or present them virtually, after Salt Lake County announced it would close the Eccles Theater and three other venues because of Utah's surge in COVID-19 cases.

Eccles’ closure leaves Utah composer and musician Kurt Bestor without a home for his annual Christmas concerts, which were scheduled for Dec. 9-12.

Bestor, in a statement, said Wednesday he “was shocked but not totally surprised” by Wilson’s decision, and the cancellation is “a real punch to the gut” — even though “it’s obvious that the coronavirus is getting the best of our community and so more drastic measures have to be taken.”

Bestor added, “just like Cindy Lou Who, who decided to sing carols of joy when the Grinch stole Christmas from Whoville, I am determined to bring my show to the people of Utah — one way or another.” Bestor said he is looking to “make egg nog out of rotten eggs,” either by performing the shows virtually or at another venue. Once a decision is made, Bestor said, he will email ticket buyers directly.

In a statement Wednesday, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera said it “asks for your patience as we explore all options, including online streaming or rescheduling, for performances currently scheduled in December. … We look forward to resuming live, in person performances when the facilities reopen for audiences and appreciate the support of our community during this time.”

The symphony’s performances this weekend, featuring violinist Pinchas Zukerman, will continue, with the limited seating capacity that has been in place at Abravanel Hall since September.

Other Utah Symphony concerts won’t happen in front of an audience, but may be recorded for later use. They include Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the “Eroica,” on Dec. 3-5, Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony on Dec. 10-12, “A Merry Little Christmas” with jazz singer Tony DeSare on Dec. 17-20, and the Holiday Brass concerts on Dec. 22-23.

The symphony is offering its “Messiah” singalong as a virtual event, starting Thanksgiving Day through Dec. 26, on its on-demand streaming format.

Utah Opera had no performances scheduled during the holiday season, so none of its shows have been canceled.

Ballet West has pulled the plug on its annual holiday show, “The Nutcracker,” which artistic director Adam Sklute had been laboring to modify to a format that would allow dancers to keep their distance onstage.

Ballet West instead has made a deal with KSL-TV to air a recording of its 2019 production of “The Nutcracker.” The recording, made by Kaleidoscope Pictures for BYUtv, will air from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Carole Mikita, KSL’s longtime arts and religion reporter, will play host for the broadcast.

“While we are not able to perform Mr. C’s ‘Nutcracker’ live this year,” Sklute said in a statement, referring to the troupe’s founder, Willam Christensen, “we will continue its historical unbroken run by offering our community this beautiful broadcast.”

The show will run without commercials — except for a fundraising pitch for Ballet West, which relies on the Christmas show to generate a large portion of its annual revenue.

“As families enjoy ‘The Nutcracker’ from the comfort and safety of their homes, we hope they will be compelled to make a gift, small or large, so we may continue this beloved holiday tradition for years to come,” said Sarah West, Ballet West’s chief development officer.

Ballet West is offering three options to patrons who already had their “Nutcracker” tickets: Request a refund, receive a gift certificate good for a performance in 2021, or donate the value of a ticket to the troupe as a charitable contribution.