We will be back! Performers vow Broadway will reopen
“We will be back!” a dozen singers proclaimed in the middle of New York’s Times Square, in a pop-up event commemorating the one-year anniversary of Broadway going dim.
A clear sense of optimism filled the air — despite the “Closed” signs still darkening the doors of nearby theaters.
With the latest wave of COVID-19 now under control, amid a massive vaccination program and as some theaters partially reopen, New York is “definitely starting to get some more life right now,” said Ryann Redmond, who performed in the musical “Frozen” before the pandemic forced Broadway’s closing on March 12, 2020.
“People need it more than I think the whole world understands,” Redmond said as she participated in the event alongside three or four dozen other actors and dancers.
Despite a decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow theaters to reopen at 33 percent capacity, with a maximum of 100 people indoors as of April 2, the hard reality is that Broadway, with its compact theaters and huge production costs, won’t be joining them right away.
“We’re thrilled that he’s doing it,” Charlotte St Martin, president of The Broadway League association of producers and theater managers, said of the governor’s plan, but “we’re still looking at the fall.”
Broadway theaters need to fill at least 75 percent of their seats if reopening is to make any economic sense, she said.
And despite the governor’s announcement, local authorities, she added, have yet to decide when, or under what conditions, theaters can reopen.
Everyone is counting on an indication from Anthony Fauci, the White House coronavirus adviser, who said in January that theaters should be able to reopen by “early to mid-fall” with an end to the pandemic finally in sight.
“There has to be a plan,” said Clayton Craddock, a drummer who was working with the musical “Ain’t Too Proud” until the theaters shut down.
Despite losing 12 months of revenue and probably six more to come, only a handful of productions — three musicals and two plays — have definitively thrown in the towel.
That leaves 31 shows positioned to start up again in the fall, along with a few new additions, including a revival of “The Music Man” and “MJ: The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Michael Jackson.
Musicians, actors and technicians are largely surviving on unemployment benefits, most with no health insurance, although the stimulus package passed this week by the US Congress might help, St Martin said.
But some performers or stage hands have given up for good. Craddock took some software classes, and he almost became an insurance agent.
“But I realized ... my talents are not in financial services, insurance and information technology,” he said.
“I have honed my skills, playing drums for the past 45 years. I’m not going to give this up. This is what I do best.”