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Broadway Back In Action In September 2021

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After closing their doors in March 2020 due to the global COVID-19 crisis, theatergoers will be excited to hear that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Broadway is set to return on Sept. 14. Tickets began selling on May 6 and will continue throughout the entire month of May. With available seats covering 100% of the theater’s capacity, native New Yorkers and tourists can experience the world of plays and musicals again.  

“Broadway is at the core of our New York identity, and a big part of our economy which employs countless performers and show creators, and beginning this September, the show will go on,” Cuomo said. “Thankfully, as we continue to monitor the data and reopen our economy, we are now on track to allow full capacity performances on Broadway to resume.”

When it comes time to reopen, Broadway will have been closed for nearly a year and a half, with what was supposed to be a 32-day shutdown. The global pandemic forced an end to 31 musicals and plays directly after earning $1.757 billion in 2019, the year before its closure. Popular productions such as “Wicked,” “Hamilton,” “Moulin Rouge” and new musicals, such as “Six,” came to an unforeseeable end. 

Certain shows that were scheduled to appear spring of 2020 — Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen” — are ditching their revival plans while others like Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” pushed their initial production to spring of 2021. However, “Plaza Suite,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, is still waiting to be announced for this year’s reopening.  

Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio saying New York City will fully reopen July 1, Cuomo said that large-scale event venues will slowly increase capacity over the course of the month. This explains the four-month wait for Broadway. With as many as five to nine shows a week and the highly anticipated high volume tourist attraction, productions need time to prepare for a safe reopening and reconnect with their artistic roots. 

Broadway serves as both entertainment and inspiration for all theatergoers and will be resuming with approximately 30 shows, all delivered before the end of 2021. According to Broadway’s official website, tickets have already gone on sale for 15 performances, with more shows being announced within the next couple of days. The first week will open with five shows — “Chicago,” a 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins based on the actual criminals and crimes she reported on; “Aladdin,” based on the Disney animated film; as well as three musicals that grossed the highest revenue before the pandemic, “Hamilton,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King.” 

The following weeks will include a variety of different plays and musicals, including “Come From Away,” “Caroline, or Change,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Company,” “Diana: The Musical” and Broadway’s longest running show “Phantom of the Opera.”

The opening of theaters will work to bring greater diversity into the world of Broadway. Three nonprofit plays by Black writers will be incorporated: Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s,” Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s “Lackawanna Blues” and Alice Childress’s “Trouble in Mind.” Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s “Pass Over” and Keenan Scott II’s “Thoughts of a Colored Man” will also be included — two commercial productions by Black writers. 

With theaters reopening, what protocols will be enacted to ensure the safety of all audiences and performers? “Hamilton” theatrical producer Jeffrey Seller is making vaccinations mandatory for all of his show’s cast and crew members. Patrons, however, will not be required to receive the vaccine. 

Regardless of Seller, there is no official news that indicates any other production will require its performers or audiences to be vaccinated. Cuomo said that vaccine mandates will be left in the hands of theater protocols. The question left to ask is simple: will you attend a Broadway show and sit indoors next to a person you don’t know is vaccinated? 

“Every Broadway show operates with 14 different unions and 16 contracts within those 14 unions, and the labor is divided between those who work for the producer and those whose payroll comes through the theater owners,” Kevin McCollum told Variety. 

Ticket buyers are being told upon checkout that a mask will be required to enter any of the 41 operating theaters. However, it’s unknown if the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will change the mask mandate by September. 

Restarting Broadway is a complex and long process, and it requires an immense amount of time dedicated to reinstating the world of theatre to crew members and actors/actresses. Performers will need to reconnect with the audience, their work on-stage and adjust to normalcy after the lingering effects of COVID-19. 

If for any reason productions need to be rescheduled due to health concerns, theaters have offered to refund all customers who have or will have purchased a ticket. As of now, however, New Yorkers and tourists can expect Broadway to be back in action this coming September — reintroducing the world to the beloved attraction of theater. 

McKenzie Boney is an Entertainment Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at mboney@uci.edu