Will The Virus Collaborate With Broadway’s Spring Rebound?

later gloomy winter At a time when the Omicron variant is drying up Broadway’s lucrative holiday season, New York’s lauded theater industry is betting on a big spring and nearly doubling the number of shows offered as the pandemic-battered business is thirsty for a rebound.

Adding all those plays and musicals – 16 new productions plus three coming back from hiatus in a five-week period – would always be a gamble, because in this era that isn’t yet post-pandemic, no one knows if that’s the case. enough tourists and theater-going locals to sustain so many shows.

And now the stubborn persistence of the coronavirus complicates things even more. Increasing number of cases in New Yorkcoincides with the arrival of the virus BA. Its 2 sub-variants rocked Broadway once again, infecting some of its biggest stars, including. Daniel Craig, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderickand forcing four shows to temporarily cancel performances.

“What we thought we’d entered this spring, which was always going to be busy and crowded over the last week, has changed dramatically,” said Greg Nobile, executive producer of a new charade.POTUSWhile still in rehearsals, she had to adapt as four of her seven actresses tested positive for the coronavirus. “Somehow, ‘Again?’ The answer is yes, but this time we have to ask the question, how can we really keep the show going and what are our ways of adapting to the new normal?

Broadway’s big spring kicked off on a cold night in late March with the remake of “Plaza Suite,” a Neil Simon comedy starring Parker and Broderick that was originally scheduled to begin performances on March 13, 2020. Broadway shut down the day before this show for the pandemic and the Hudson Theater was empty, married co-stars‘ names on the marquee and on the stage, they returned to try again two full years ago.

“Our hope is not this moment, but rather the way we see it now,” Parker said on opening night at the end of an 80-meter race, in a pink satin gown with a beaded tulle sheath. The pre-show red carpet. “We still have restaurants waiting to open, we have hotel staff waiting to come back, we have delis that got hit, we have contractors who want to work in front of the house.”

The crowd, who came to cheer him on, was enthusiastic, among them Mikhail Baryshnikov, Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon and Martin Short.

Finishing off with the gloves of the camera crew lined up inside a translucent tent, Broderick said how much he enjoyed returning to the theater as a spectator and now as an actor. “We are learning to live with the epidemic or endemic – whatever you call it now – so the stronger the theater and New York, the more normal life becomes,” he said. “It’s a returning part of the world.”

But eight days later he tested positive, and two days later he did too.

“Plaza Suite” has been closed since Thursday and “Paradise Square”, a new musical that is already struggling at the box office and unable to make up for the lost revenue. Craig’s schedule, a remake of “Macbeth,” has canceled 10-day previews. And “A Strange Loop” a new musical Won Pulitzer Prizeto you Based on its Off Broadway run, it shelved its first five-day previews. All positive coronavirus tests stated among company members as grounds; they all hope to continue their performances this week.

All of the latest virus-related cancellations were on new shows; longer-running series had more time to prepare for those who were not drafted and were able to enlist as a backup. Most notably, the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” which opened last December, temporarily lost six of its directors, including lead actress Katrina Lenk, to positive coronavirus tests in April, but the show continued. (Best known artist, Patti LuPone, was not among those who contracted the disease, probably because she tested positive in late February and missed 10 days at the time.)

The effects are not limited to Broadway: Off-Broadway shows such as “Suffs” at the Public Theater and “At the Wedding” at the Lincoln Center Theater have also temporarily canceled shows.

The industry is undergoing a kind of stress test as the crush of annual Broadway openings, which tend to come together just before the end of April to qualify for Tony Awards, is even bigger than usual as some productions have delayed start dates. Hoping to avoid the peak of the Omicron variant. This month hosts the most Broadway openings of any April in over a decade.

Broadway is always a risky business, and it’s where shows fail more than succeed. Some producers admit that so many new shows vying for both interest and viewership at the same time are less than ideal, but they tend to be optimistic and each seem to believe they are the show audiences have been waiting for.

“You can play some chicken and eggs,” said Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theatres, which runs five Broadway houses. “Should we wait until every tourist comes to the city? But if we wait, why will every tourist be in the city? At some point we have to decide where we’re going to live.”

This is actually Broadway’s second attempt at recovery. First slowly started last June, with the return of Bruce Springsteen’s night of wildly popular songs and storytelling. The first game started showings last augustwith and in September a moment of hope and celebrationThe greatest musicals are back.

Early box office revenue and turnout were encouragingly strong. But then the Omicron variant arrived in New York, contributing to nine shows closing early and crushing attendance at the worst time of the year: In the week ending January 9, only 62 percent of Broadway’s seats were occupied.

By the end of winter, only 19 shows had aired in Broadway’s 41 theatres. With little competition, most of the survivors – mostly famous-name hits or shows – have been quite successful. In the week ending March 20, 92 percent of the seats were occupied.

Now, as the number of shows increases and untested games join hits, average attendance is falling, with 85 percent of seats filled in the week ending April 3. There were a total of 224,053 people at the 31 demonstrations held that week. This is the year’s highest number of ticket holders, but significantly lower than the 315,320 people who attended the 38 shows during the comparable week in 2019.

“The reopening of these shows is a true celebration of progress,” said Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance, who celebrated this busy spring with the display of 10-foot Playbill monoliths erected on a theater district pedestrian. plaza. While Times Square is getting busier, it’s quieter than before: He said in March, about 255,000 people passed through the neighborhood on an average day, up from about 365,000 daily visitors before the pandemic.

By the time of the pandemic, Broadway was booming, with 14.8 million ticket holders spending $1.8 billion at the box office in 2018-19, the last full season before the coronavirus. But travelers to New York City, who accounted for two-thirds of Broadway audiences before the pandemic, did not return with pre-pandemic numbers; city’s tourist agency projection The number of visitors, which was 66.6 million in 2019, dropped to 56.4 million this year.

This helps explain why Mayor Eric Adams celebrates Broadway at every opportunity – appearing at the openings of “The Music Man” and “Paradise Square” and attending a student performance for “Hamilton” in recent weeks.

“Every time I can walk the red carpet,” Adams said in an interview at the “Plaza Suite” opening, “I know this will bring green money to our city.”

Now, as the city removes the requirement for vaccinations in restaurants and other public places, Broadway must decide whether to do the same. Current security protocols that require all ticket holders to show proof of vaccination to enter theaters and to remain masked except when eating or drinking inside are in place until April 30. would have extended these rules, but as the number of cases increased, they postponed this decision to April 15.

At the same time, new series keep coming. So many are opening this month that “POTUS,” including Julianne Hough and Vanessa Williams, rehearsed at the Daryl Roth Theater in Union Square after the production couldn’t find a suitable space in the theater district.

Last Saturday, the cast gathered to work on scenes from a makeshift White House set. One of the stars, Rachel Dratch, still has the coronavirus, so her role is rehearsed by a backup Anita Abdinezhad, while another star, Julie White, is back for the first time after finishing her isolation. Watching the rehearsals on video as he recovers, White was still coughing under a mask, but his lines were cold and he turned to comedy.

When he arrived, he was visibly happy to be back at work. He finally noted the comfort of seeing negative results in the daily coronavirus test, and said, “It was so good to see that single line this morning.”

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