Broad­way won’t try to re­open this year

The Washington Post - - STYLE - BY PETER MARKS

The shut­down of Broad­way’s 41 the­aters will con­tinue at least un­til Jan. 3, the in­dus­try’s lead­ing trade group an­nounced Mon­day. The ac­tion fur­ther ex­tends the dark­en­ing of Broad­way’s mar­quees that be­gan March 12, as the covid-19 pan­demic spread in hard-hit New York.

Though some new pro­duc­tions have re­vealed plans for April and May 2021 open­ings — in­clud­ing re­vivals of Neil Si­mon’s “Plaza Suite,” with Sarah Jes­sica Parker and Matthew Brod­er­ick, and “The Mu­sic Man,” with Hugh Jack­man and Sut­ton Foster — few de­tails have been made avail­able about safety pre­cau­tions that would make th­ese events pos­si­ble. In May, Ac­tors’ Equity, the union for 51,000 pro­fes­sional ac­tors and stage man­agers, said it is ad­vis­ing its mem­bers not to re­turn to the stage un­til its own health and safety guide­lines are met.

The Broad­way League, which rep­re­sents the­ater own­ers and pro­duc­ers, said on Mon­day that it was work­ing with the the­atri­cal unions and “key ex­perts and some of the great­est minds in­side and out­side of the in­dus­try” on pro­to­cols that might aid the re­open­ing ef­fort.

“The Broad­way ex­pe­ri­ence can be deeply per­sonal but it is also, cru­cially, com­mu­nal,” Thomas Schu­macher, pres­i­dent and pro­ducer of Dis­ney The­atri­cal Pro­duc­tions and chair­man of the Broad­way League, said in a state­ment. “The alchemy of 1,000 strangers bond­ing into a sin­gle au­di­ence, fu­el­ing each performer

on stage and be­hind the scenes, will be pos­si­ble again when Broad­way the­aters can safely host full houses.”

The ref­er­ence to safely host­ing “full houses” in­di­cates the cur­rent think­ing on Broad­way, that so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures re­duc­ing the num­ber of pa­trons is prob­a­bly not con­ducive to eco­nomic suc­cess. Commercial pro­duc­tions in 1,000- to 2,000-seat the­aters usu­ally need to sell 90 per­cent of their tick­ets to be prof­itable.

Four non­prof­its — Round­about The­atre, Lin­coln Cen­ter The­ater, Man­hat­tan The­atre Club and Sec­ond Stage The­atre — also main­tain Broad­way houses. While they, too, re­main shut­tered, they may have slightly more flex­i­bil­ity in au­di­ence size, given that part of their in­come comes from pri­vate donors.

The league has as­sem­bled sev­eral task forces to work out pan­demic-re­lated is­sues, in­clud­ing how to co­or­di­nate with city, state and fed­eral of­fi­cials over the health pro­to­cols for re­open­ing. A Washington lob­by­ist has been re­tained by the league to act on Broad­way’s be­half with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to a league mem­ber who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to talk pub­licly.

The pro­tracted shut­down most di­rectly af­fects the ap­prox­i­mately 87,000 jobs Broad­way sup­ports, ac­cord­ing to the league. As a busi­ness that does $2 bil­lion a year in ticket sales, and con­trib­utes about $575 mil­lion in tax rev­enue, Broad­way is a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to New York’s eco­nomic health. About two-thirds of its pa­trons are tourists.

A shaky con­sen­sus has been build­ing over the past few weeks that Broad­way might be able to re­sume in the spring. But some in­dus­try in­sid­ers think that, with­out a vac­cine for the novel coro­n­avirus, that timetable might be overly op­ti­mistic. None of the long-run­ning pow­er­house pro­duc­tions have yet to say when they might start up again. In ad­di­tion to “Plaza Suite,” which had a try­out run in Bos­ton last win­ter and was to open in the spring, and “The Mu­sic Man” — orig­i­nally sched­uled to be­gin this fall — a few other post­poned shows have an­nounced new start-up dates.

“The Min­utes,” a new play by Tracy Letts, a Pulitzer win­ner for “Au­gust: Osage County,” and a re­vival of David Mamet’s “Amer­i­can Buf­falo” were sched­uled for open­ings this past spring. Their pro­duc­ers re­cently an­nounced ten­ta­tive open­ing nights next March and April, re­spec­tively. Two of the non­prof­its, Round­about and Lin­coln Cen­ter The­ater, also re­vealed ten­ta­tive plans: Round­about has resched­uled its re­vival of Jea­nine Te­sori and Tony Kush­ner’s mu­si­cal, “Caro­line, or Change,” for spring 2021, and says it will pro­ceed with di­rec­tor Diane Paulus’s new gen­der-in­clu­sive re­vival of “1776” in the spring, as well. Lin­coln Cen­ter The­ater has re­set the un­veil­ing of a new mu­si­cal, “Fly­ing Over Sun­set,” by Tom Kitt, Michael Korie and James Lap­ine, for spring 2021.

The league’s Mon­day an­nounce­ment means any­one hold­ing tick­ets to shows up to and in­clud­ing Jan. 3, 2021, will be en­ti­tled to a re­fund or ex­change for a later date. Ac­cord­ing to the league, ticket hold­ers will be re­ceiv­ing an email from “their point of pur­chase” with ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion. Any­one who does not re­ceive an email by July 13 is ad­vised to contact the ticket provider, the league added.


An empty Broad­way is seen in Man­hat­tan in March. The shut­down of its 41 the­aters will con­tinue at least un­til Jan. 3, the in­dus­try’s lead­ing trade group an­nounced Mon­day. The busi­ness nor­mally does $2 bil­lion a year in ticket sales.

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