Broadway Will Reopen… Once the Details Get Worked Out

By Kurt Stolz on 6 May 2021
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“Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch – Again!”

The iconic opening from “A Chorus Line,” which opened in 1975 and was once Broadway’s longest running show, is familiar to anyone who has worked on the stage.

Now, after Broadway’s dark winter, theater fans can take heart: the lights o Broadway are being rekindled, but before the first kick, there’s much work to be done.  The 41 shows in New York City’s theaters are among the Big Apple’s leading tourist attractions, having drawn 14.6 million people in the season that ended in 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic forced a shutdown of all theaters on March 12, 2020 and they haven’t reopened since.

Reopening, however, will be far more complicated than the shutdown, which took many shows by surprise.

Some 30 shows were slated to reopen by the end of 2021, including “The Phantom of the Opera,” Broadway’s longest running show, which now plans to reopen on October 22.

Three major hits, namely “Lion King,” “Hamilton,” and “Wicked,” will reopen in September, while “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which takes place over two performances, will likely not reopen until next year in a slimmed down, one-performance version.

Not only must shows reassemble their casts and begin rehearsals, but contracts, which largely expired over the past 14 months, must be renegotiated.

Stars and chorus boys alike must get into shape, voice coaches will likely be in demand, and replacements must be found for those who have found life outside of the footlights preferable to eight performances a week.

There are myriad reasons some stars can’t or won’t be returning: Elizabeth Stanley, a star of “Jagged Little Pill,” is pregnant, and Karen Olivio, who plays Saline in “Moulin Rouge,” said she won’t return , citing reports of abusive behavior by producer Scott Rudin, even though Rudin isn’t affiliated with that particular show.

A key question that theater owners have to wrestle with is safety protocols.  Not only has it yet to be determined whether vaccinations will be required (Governor Cuomo has spoken out in favor of this, but said he would leave the final decision to theater owners), but the challenges of funneling theatergoers in and out of theaters, especially for older ones with narrow hallways and stairs, not to mention tiny lounges, are legion.

Finally, another key question is whether drinks and snacks be offered, a problem if theatergoers are going to be asked to remain masked during shows.  Alcohol sales contribute greatly to a theater’s bottom line and their impact on a theater’s and on a show’s profitability cannot be overlooked.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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