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NYC’s Heart and Soul – Broadway Is Back!

Dear Commons Community,

The longest shutdown in Broadway history is over.

Some of the biggest shows in musical theater, including “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Hamilton,” resumed performances last night, 18 months after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close.

They were not the first shows to restart, nor the only ones, but they are enormous theatrical powerhouses that have come to symbolize the industry’s strength and reach, and their return to the stage is a signal that theater is back.  As reported by The  New York Times.

“People are ready,” said Julie Taymor, the director of “The Lion King,” “and it’s time.”

Of course, this moment comes with substantial asterisks. The pandemic is not over. Tourists are not back. And no one knows how a long stretch without live theater might affect consumer behavior.

But theater owners, producers, nonprofits and labor unions have collectively decided that it’s time to move forward. And the crowds who packed into shows all over Broadway last night were grateful to be there. There were roaring ovations and, at times, tears.

“We were open to anything,” said Erica Chalmers, interviewed at the just reopened TKTS booth Tuesday afternoon, “just so I could have that experience of a Broadway show.” She opted for a play, “Lackawanna Blues,” that had its first Broadway performance Tuesday night.

The reopening of Broadway comes as a variety of other performing arts venues, in New York and around the country, are also resuming in-person, indoor performances: In the days and weeks to come the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet, Carnegie Hall and the Brooklyn Academy of Music will all start their new seasons.

“Broadway, and all of the arts and culture of the city, express the life, the energy, the diversity, the spirit of New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “It’s in our heart and soul. It’s also so much of what people do to make a living in this town. And that makes us great. So, this is a big night for New York City’s comeback.”

Those attending shows on Broadway are finding the experience changed: every show is requiring proof of vaccination (patrons under 12 can provide a negative coronavirus test) and every patron must be masked.

Even before tonight, four shows had begun: “Springsteen on Broadway,” which had 30 performances between June and September, as well as a new play, “Pass Over,” and two returning musicals, “Hadestown” and “Waitress,” all of which are still running. None has missed a performance; “Waitress” managed to keep going even after a cast member tested positive by deploying an understudy.

The returning blockbusters opening tonight were joined by “Chicago,” a beloved musical which this year marks 25 years on Broadway, and a new production of “Lackawanna Blues,” an autobiographical play by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. And more are on the way — more than two dozen more before the end of the year.

At stake is the health of an industry that, before the pandemic, had been enjoying a sustained boom. During the last full Broadway season before the outbreak, from 2018 to 2019, 14.8 million people attended a show.  And that attendance translated to real money — the industry grossed $1.83 billion that season.

Raise the curtains and let the shows begin!

Tony

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