Virtual rehearsals are under way for one of the first productions at the newly refurbished Grand Opera House in Belfast.
The Belfast Operatic Company (BOC) is gearing up for a hugely anticipated comeback in November with its musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
For the members of the company, 70 of whom will appear in the Dickens classic, the show cannot come soon enough.
The troupe had planned to stage a production of Titanic: The Musical at the Titanic Exhibition Centre (TEC) for its 60th anniversary last year, but the pandemic forced the closure of performance venues.
Putting the Christmas show together has not been without its challenges, but the BOC’s Lauren McRoberts said performers were "buzzing with excitement" to get back on the stage.
"Titanic: The Musical was due to run at the TEC last April, but when Covid hit, we had to pull the plug on it," she added.
"So much work had gone on behind the scenes for months to get it ready to mark our 60th anniversary, so we were all really disappointed.
"But to be one of the first companies, and the first local one, to take to the stage when the newly renovated Grand Opera House reopens is just fantastic.
"We’ve done the show before and it works well for us, given it’s a big chorus show. Also, it has an uplifting message.
"We’ve all missed performing together so much, so we cannot wait to get back out there."
A Christmas Carol is brought to life with music by Disney composer Alan Menken, the man behind shows such as Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Sister Act and Little Shop of Horrors.
The BOC previously staged a number of these productions at the Opera House, which closed its doors in January last year and is due to reopen later this year.
While refurbishment on the Frank Matcham Auditorium continues, the BOC team has been rehearsing over Zoom.
Not only have its members been learning music from the comfort of their own living rooms, but they have also been taking online masterclasses in acting with director Wilfie Pyper and dance lessons with choreographer Timothy Bell.
"Once a week, we’ve been learning music on Zoom — rich choruses with lots of harmonies," Lauren said.
"It’s a different way of doing things. It’s not the easiest trying to sing songs in our living rooms. We can’t hear each other because everyone is muted, but our musical director takes us through the songs and sessions recorded for all the different sections.
"We are looking forward to the time when we can sing together. We all miss each other terribly."
With the BOC unable to rehearse or physically perform as one unit for a year now, members have been coming up with novel ways to stay engaged, including bake-off contests, open mic nights and online shows.
But for Colin Boyd, chairman of the company, nothing compares to the excitement of being together on stage.
"The BOC is a like a family. Like-minded individuals come together from all walks of life on a Monday night to create music," he said.
"During the last year, this type of outlet has proved beneficial to the mental health of our members. It is important that we continue to provide this to our members through all the various lockdowns.
"Of course, virtual events cannot replace the thrill of performing to a live audience.
"We are hugely excited to be coming back home to the Grand Opera House."
Theatres are due to reopen in the final stages of the roadmap out of lockdown.
In London, theatres are scheduled to open their doors from the summer. Performers hope the Executive will follow Westminster’s example.
Continuing their long-standing relationship with the Opera House, the BOC is looking to the future, having just secured the rights to bring another Menken title, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The company will also return to the Ulster Hall for its annual Night of Christmas Music and Song in December.
The BOC will take to the stage of the Grand Opera House from November 16 to 20. Tickets available from goh.co.uk or by calling the box office on 028 9024 1919