By Kristina Rex

BEVERLY (CBS) – The opening night performance of ‘Mamma Mia’ at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly was abruptly canceled 25 minutes before the curtains were scheduled to go up Wednesday evening.

That’s because the theater’s stagehands — the people who work behind the scenes to make a show happen — went on strike two hours before the performance.

“No contract, no show!” they chanted.

The backstage employees unionized early in the pandemic, joining IATSE Local 11. Since then, they have not reached a contract agreement with North Shore Music Theatre owner and producer Bill Hanney.

“They basically walked away from the negotiation table and said ‘we’re done,’” Colleen Glynn of IATSE Local 11 told WBZ-TV.

The union is demanding better wages and wants the theater to bring back all the employees sent home because of the pandemic.

A few dozen union members walked out of the theater shortly after 5 p.m., after the final dress rehearsal for Mamma Mia. As they protested, cars of patrons drove in for the 7:30 p.m. performance.

Soon after, those same cars drove out. Patrons told WBZ that a box office representative came to tell them the show was canceled because of the strike. “I think people were just disappointed,” one woman said on her drive out. “Yeah and confused.”

Others on the drive out of the theater were more than disappointed by the canceled show. Tasia Kendall, an employee of the theater, was angry. “It is so disrespectful and I could not be more angry right now,” she told WBZ. “Everybody has been fighting to get theater back for two years, and they choose opening night when they know there is the most people here…and they have the audacity to sit out here and strike against the one place in the world that is bringing some sort of normalcy to the community.”

The union members told WBZ that canceling the show saddened them, too, but they felt it was the only way to get the owner’s attention. “It’s a little bit saddening because we put so much work into the show and we take pride in everything we do, but it’s also empowering because it shows that we need to get what we want,” said Emily O’Sullivan, the props manager.

WBZ reached out to Bill Hanney and North Shore Music Theatre for comment but did not hear back.

Kristina Rex