New York’s famous Broadway theater district will resume shows for the first time in 20 months Tuesday, with big hitters Hamilton, The Lion King and Wicked all back on stage.
The Midtown Manhattan’s theater district’s 41 theaters are welcoming guests again, after intensive rehearsals and tests on equipment as well as costumes left untouched for close to two years during COVID-closures.
Theatergoers and performers alike will be required to be fully vaccinated to attend, with everyone also required to be in masks unless they’re eating or drinking.
But the road to getting back on stage has been long and hard.
Theaters shut down on March 12, 2020, leaving its sets, costumes, and performers untouched for 18 months.
Hamilton which opened six years ago, Wicked, which opened 17 years ago, and The Lion King, which opened 23 years ago, form the bedrock of modern Broadway, virtually immune to downturns, shifts in tourism and rivals.
They are slatted to return to the stage today with a full audience.
The Broadway show Waitress, featuring Sara Bareilles (pictured in a yellow apron) is one of the shows back on stage as Broadway reopens this month
Performers on the stage of Pass Over (now playing) prepped had to get the show on the road. Many Broadway performers had to work hard to get their bodies, stamina, and voices back in shape after 18 months off
Another big step for Broadway is the reopening of TKTS booths in Time Square, where visitors can get same-day or next-day discounted tickets on shows.
‘It’s such a big step forward,” said Victoria Bailey, executive director of the nonprofit Theatre Development Fund, which runs the booth. ‘To get it open and such a symbol to people that theater is coming back.’
De Blasio also called tonight a ‘big night for New York City’s comeback.’
Despite the comeback, shows like Six – a reimagining of Henry VIII’s six wives as popstars – had to completely redo their costumes, despite being wrapped in blankets for preservation, according to The New York Times. The show’s plastic-and-foil costumes were destroyed and the bright and beautiful shades faded into dingy pastel colors from sitting locked away for so long.
Other shows like Hamilton took the time off to upgrade lights and technology, while also deep cleaning the theater.
American Utopia moved to a new theater, causing the show to completely rebuild the set and curtains to fit the new stage; and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child condensed its two-part show into one sitting.
Crews are testing every light, firing up all the equipment, and praying it works before audiences fill the seats again.
‘We didn’t want to be in a situation where we start finding problems after audiences come back,’ Guy Kwan, who works for Juniper Street Productions, told The New York Times.
‘If you turn off your car or computer for 18 months and then turn it back on, you don’t know what problems you might come across.’
A costume shop worker had to repair one of the outfits seen in The Phantom of the Opera. Other shows like Six – a reimagining of Henry VII’s six wives as popstars – found their customers dingy and unusable after being wrapped in blankets for so long
An actor stands in an empty theater with a mask on as performers prepared for reopening. It cost shows between $1.4million and $4million to re-rehearse
However, the biggest obstacles theaters face in the reopening is its performers.
Untrained and out-of-shape, performers have been offered limited time to get back into eight-shows-a-week-six-nights-a-week condition.
Many shows have opted into vocal training classes for their performers through Columbia University and New York University.
Performer Kevin Clay, who worked on various productions of The Book Of Mormon before settling into a Trader Joe’s job when the shutdown happened, was used to the grind of pushing himself physically and mentally to be show-ready.
‘I had been doing the show eight times a week, and working out five days a week, and then I went from that to nothing,” Kevin Clay told The New York Times.
He, like many performers, are worried they could get back into pre-lockdown shape and it’s been an uphill battle to do so, especially as he has continued to avoid the gym over COVID fears.
‘I was way more nervous than excited, because I couldn’t shake the thought that I’ll never get back to where I was. It wasn’t until we ran the whole show from beginning to end and I felt good that I was like, “OK, now I can see it, and I’m excited to keep pushing until we get there.”‘
Performers smiled on opening night as theaters reopened in the beginning of September. Many had to retrain their voices and bodies to ready for the shows
However, just as the excitement settles in, so does the fear of another lockdown.
With the Delta variant running its course throughout the US, many performers are worried the theaters will face another lockdown as the colder months creep in.
‘Every day I’m just waiting for an email or a phone call or some big shutdown again,’ Samantha Pauly, who plays Katherine Howard in Six, told The New York Times. ‘I think a lot of people are feeling that way, unfortunately.’
Another lockdown could send thousands of performers out of work again. Not to mention the estimated $1.4million to $4million it cost shows re-rehearse, according to the Broadway League.
That in itself was a struggle, with rehearsal facilities accustomed to welcoming just a few soon-to-open shows at a time suddenly confronted with every play on Broadway looking for space.
Audience members, as well as actors, will be required to be fully vaccinated to attend shows, in accordance with NYC guidelines
Theatergoers packed in as the theaters reopened. Audiences can expect a more diverse collection of shows – including seven new pieces by Black playwrights
In addition to the expensive cost of retraining everyone, Broadway has lost five shows, including Frozen and Mean Girls, both opting for touring.
Despite losing big numbers, blockbusters Hamilton, Hadestown, and new show Six are reportedly selling strongly, despite Broadway League opting to avoid disclosing ticket sale numbers this year.
Regular plays which don’t have musical numbers are said to be faring less well. Two thirds of people who come to see shows are usually tourists, but ongoing travel bans have dramatically lessened visitors to New York from abroad, forcing theater promoters to advertise to seasoned theater-goers in the North Eastr.
As audience members pack into the theaters, they’ll notice more than just new stages, but a more diversified cast and crew.
The Hadestown band has made a public pledge to diversify its band, with members pledging to have two of their five substitutes being people of color.
In addition, seven new works are making it’s way to Broadway that were written by black playwrights and some theaters are even being renamed after black artists.
Broadway is back up and running and here’s the list of showings joining its lineup
Broadway is back and geared up to perform 44 shows between now and March 2022.
Here’s the list of what’s coming to Broadway through October.
- Pass Over – Through October 10
- The Lion King
- Lackawanna Blues – Opening Night: September 28
- Six – Previews Begin: September 17, Opening Night: October 3
- American Utopia – September 17
- Come From Away – September 21
- Chicken & Biscuits – Previews Begin: September 23, Opening Night: October 10
- Moulin Rouge – September 24
- Is This A Room – Previews Begin: September 24, Opening Night: October 1
- The Lehman Trilogy – Previews Begin: September 25, Opening Night: October 14
- Aladdin – September 28
- Thoughts of a Colored Man – Previews Begin: October 1, Opening Night: October 31
- Dana H. – Previews Begin: October 1, Opening Night: October 17
- To Kill a Mockingbird – October 5
- Freestyle Love Supreme – October 7
- Tina – October 8
- Caroline, or Change – Previews Begin: October 8, Opening Night: October 27
- Girl From the North Country – October 13
- Ain’t Too Proud – October 16
- Jagged Little Pill – October 21
- Mrs. Doubtfire – Previews Begin: October 21, Opening Night: December 5
- The Phantom of the Opera – October 22
- Trouble in Mind – Previews Begin: October 29, Opening Night: November 8