Theatre By The Sea, among Rhode Island’s premier summer attractions, has cancelled its 2020 season, the latest victim of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Peter Hanney, owner/producer, made the announcement on the Wakefield theatre’s website and on social media. 

Founded by Alice Tyler during the Great Depression to give people work and provide an escape for the public, Theatre By The Sea has become a mainstay during Rhode Island’s summer season. It is located not far from South County beaches in a charming old building. Its adjacent bistro has become as popular as the theatre itself. 

“So, although all of our productions have been cast, our sets and costumes have been created, and we are ‘ready to go,’ it is unclear when the stay-at-home order will be lifted and organizations relying on large numbers of people will be allowed to reopen,” Hanney wrote.

“It is of utmost importance that you, our devoted audience members, feel comfortable gathering together to experience live theatre as it is meant to be,” Hanney said. “So, erring on the side of caution and safety, we are now planning to postpone Theatre By The Sea’s 2020 season until 2021.”

Hanney vowed that the theatre would return in 2021. “We are currently in communication with the publishing houses to secure the licensing rights for the same four musicals and the planned encore presentation of Mamma Mia!,” Hanney said.

Those four shows are the Tony Award nominated musical Million Dollar Quartet, classic musical Funny Girl, Footloose and its Tony nominated top 40 score, and Kinky Boots, winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical. 

“Although we are heartbroken that we will not be seeing you this summer at Theatre By The Sea, the health and safety of our audiences, performers, musicians, crew members, and staff is of the utmost importance,” Hanney said.

The statement did not offer refunds to ticket holders, but instead asked them to apply the tickets to the 2021 season.

“So, please help us by retaining your existing tickets, buying gift certificates, or purchasing subscriptions and additional tickets,” Hanney wrote. “You can also assist us by spreading the word among your family and friends that TBTS will be back. If you have any questions or concerns, while our box office window is currently closed, feel free to send an email to and someone will respond as soon as possible.”

Hanney said that over the years, Theatre By The Sea has endured other disruptions: 

• The Great New England Hurricane of 1938

• World War II, which closed the theatre for four years

• A property sale in 1958, utilized sporadically for several years

• Imminent demolition in 1966, (saved by Tommy Brent)

• Closed by FourQuest in 2003, (reopened four years later)

• Postponement due to Coronavirus/COVID-19