BY WAYNE HARADA
Broadway theaters could open in May, July or September, depending on protocols of the pandemic: cast and show readiness, social distancing, marketing and vaccinations
On April 30, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an iffy reopening plan, hoping that some smaller shows could open as early as late May, with others sequentially resuming shows in July, though realistically, the major productions would arrive between September through December.
It’s been a while, but eagerness is shadowed by preparedness. With the infrastructure be in place, cast and backstage hands fully vaxxed, and hotels, restaurants and other allied infrastructure resources on the same page?
De Blasio was interviewed by MSNBC on the “Morning Joe”, and immediately, several theater-focused websites wrestled with how and when the lights of Broadway could safely reopen after a devastating shutdown more than a year ago.
CDC precautions would likely be in play – handwashing, face mask wearing, limited seating in the initial stages – to make safety part of the requisites for the relaunch. You can’t reopen and then shut down, if all facets of Broadway biz are not in place.
“We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters, full strength,” de Blasio said. Indeed, allied services in the city would be the key factor in the reopening of New York and the Broadway priorities are far worse than, say, restaurants.
Clearly, not all closed shows will reopen, but NewYorkCityTheatre.com said few have announced plans to return:
• “Chicago,” at the Ambassador Theatre, Sept. 13.
• “Company,” at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, firm dates not listed.
• “Jagged Little Pill,” at the Broadhurst Theatre, Sept. 7.
• “Six,” at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, dates TBA.
• “Ain’t Too Proud,” at the Imperial Theatre, Sept. 7.
• “Diana: The Musical,” at the Longacre Theatre, Dec. 1.
• “The Music Man,” at the Winter Garden Theatre, Dec. 20 (with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster starring).
• Months ago, “Hamilton” had announced a July 4 reopening at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, but has not been confirmed since the De Blasio decision to reopen most of New York.
A few hit shows, which have had solid fan bases, are not yet among those announcing a comeback . These include “The Lion King,” at the Minskoff Theatre, “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre, and “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theatre. Cameron Macintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the one-two punch of “Phantom,” have indicated from London that Broadway will welcome back the production, the longest-running musical ever.
A logical indicator of when any show is opening would be the ticket-selling websites, including Ticketmaster.com and Broadway.org.
Not only are theaters scurrying to reopen; the Broadway League also is planning a very tardy Tony Awards for 2020, despite a dismal season of limited qualifiers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio expects New York to be fully “back,” but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the final say on whether everything can safely reopen with proper sanitation issues are met. And before theaters can welcome ticket-buyers to book seats, they have to determine what kind of social distancing will work, at what level of capacity – 25 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent, for example – would make sense. For consumers, ticket costs will matter, too, since “retail” seating often carry “premium” status which translates to astronomical costs. For example, orchestra seats for “Hamilton” pre-pandemic were $189, but has spiral up to $5,000 because of demand. These tariffs are not likely at least for most shows, hopefully.
So, if you’re planning a visit in the months ahead, you need to strategize. Do you make reservations for shows you want to see, with the assurance that the dates are secure? Do you make airline and hotel reservations, so you have a fixed date to fly and sleep? While airlines — and logically hotels are on the same airwaves – might waive rebooking fees now, you may want to be confirm if penalties will prevail if your plans change.