"Always ... Patsy Cline"

Caitlan Leblo, right, as “Pasty” and Shauna Seger as “Louise” in Plaza’s production of “Always ... Patsy Cline.”

Plaza Theatre Co.’s final drive-up performance debuts Saturday followed by the playhouse’s return to live indoor theater for the first time in three months on Friday.

Plaza, like many area businesses, temporarily shut down in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The theater troupe, however, continued to bring new performances to the public throughout the shutdown by staging weekly outdoor performances that delivered musical performances from ’50’s rock ‘n’ roll to country to gospel. Online performances and other content on Plaza’s Facebook page, some of which will continue, also kept the Plaza players in touch with area theatergoers. 

Saturday’s show, “Plaza’s Greatest Hits,” promises an array of memorable musical performances selected from the most popular of Plaza’s 135 and counting productions.

“We call them the crowd pleasers,” Plaza Artistic Director JaceSon Barrus said. “Those moments from our past productions that audiences really responded to and loved.”

As with previous drive-up productions, Saturday’s show is free, although donations toward Plaza operating expenses are welcome, but parking is first come, first served. Parking begins at 7 p.m. with the show kicking off at 8:30 p.m.

Plaza Theatre Dudley Hall is at 305 S. Anglin St.

Attendees must remain in their vehicles with the windows up — audio will transmit via their radio — but food will be available for purchase and delivery from Black Sheep Baa & Grill.

Wrapping up the outdoor performance series on a greatest hits high note seemed the obvious choice, Barrus said.

“The week before we did ‘Spectacular Broadway,’ which were favorite numbers from hit Broadway shows,” Barrus said. “It made us all think, ‘You know, we really loved getting back to what Plaza does best, musical theater.’ 

“That’s what inspired the thought of finishing with a greatest hits show.”

Whether outdoor performances — outside Plaza’s annual Shakespeare in the Park productions — will someday return remains to be seen.

“It’s certainly been a unique, wonderful experience we’ll never forget,” Barrus said. “When we came up with the idea we weren’t sure how well it would work. Weren’t sure how interested people would be in watching our performers on an outdoor stage from inside their cars. What surprised us was how resilient and supportive people have been throughout the pandemic. 

“But we’re excited about getting back to what we do best, which is performing live theater inside our theater albeit in the safest environment possible.”

Safety is key, Barrus said and Plaza staff have been working to cover every base for a safe environment for patrons, staff and actors.

“We’ve been working with local officials, the mayor, city manager, [Cleburne Fire Chief Scott Lail] for guidance so we’re not just throwing things out there,” Barrus said. “We’re following best practices and had our guidelines approved. For now we’re going to be seating at only 25 percent capacity. So that allows for selling 67 seats to each performance. Everyone will be comfortably seated and safely socially distanced.”

Friday brings the return of Plaza’s second most popular show, “Always ... Patsy Cline,” which saw its Plaza debut in 2018.

“A couple of reasons we chose that one,” Barrus said.  “One, it’s a show we love and one of our most successful crowd pleaser shows with audience members. 

“Two, there’s only two people in the cast, which makes it easier to keep our cast members safe and not have a lot of people gathering backstage.”

Both actresses from Plaza’s 2019 production have agreed to reprise their roles.

“Always ... Patsy Cline” runs Friday through July 4.

“Smoke on the Mountain” follows.

“That’s another one of our most beloved and requested shows,” Barrus said. “And that has a cast of only seven so we’re slowly want to work our way back to normal.”

For information,  call 817-202-0600 or visit plaza-theatre.com.

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