By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4)– As COVID-19 cases rise, a historic Denver theater is doing whatever it takes to ensure the show goes on. Guests who plan to attend certain performances at the Oriental Theater will need more than a ticket to gain entry — they’ll need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours to attend the performance. Leaders of the venue say they value safety over sales.

(credit: CBS)

“Some regular audience members expressed concerns and interest in us making things a little stricter. It made sense to me, so I decided to give it a try,” said Scott Happel, co-owner of The Oriental Theater.

Happel is also the owner, producer and emcee of the act performing Saturday –Carnivale De Sensuale. He describes it as a modern twist on carnivals of the 20s and 30s, featuring burlesque, magic, aerialists and singing.

Carnivale De Sensuale is a risqué show, but they’re not taking any risks when it comes to COVID-19.

“One of the performers traveling with the show is a legend of burlesque, Bic Carroll. He’s in his 80s. His safety was a major concern to the venue and other cast members,” said Happel.

Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test is not required for every show at the venue. The theater follows local guidelines, but anything more is up to the people on stage.

(credit: Sacred Chao Productions)

“We have a few more events coming up in September that have already let us know they’re going to want some stricter things,” said Happel. “We allow the productions themselves to decide and we do our best to enforce it for them.”

Respecting the production’s wishes has come at a price.

Happel says he expected a few guests to disagree with the show’s policy, but not nearly as many as he’s heard from. Since announcing the show’s protocols, 15% of ticketholders asked for their money back.

“Every refund request we’ve had has been from people who don’t want to comply with showing a negative COVID test or vaccination,” said Happel.

The venue is refunding all of their requests.

(credit: CBS)

The Oriental Theater says in no way are they forcing people to get vaccinated. Despite reactions from some guests, Happel says he’s happy and comfortable with the fact he made the best decision for the show, even if it means fewer dollars.

“All of the performers in this cast have expressed a lot of gratitude. It’s nice to see the safety of the people in the show get put first over trying to get an extra buck or two,” said Happel.

Tori Mason