Hamilton, Mean, The Lion King and Canadian musical Come from afar said they would resume performances in the fall, after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the lifting of public health restrictions in the state on September 14. The shows will be allowed to reopen at 100% capacity, Cuomo said, and tickets are on sale now.
This rare alliance between three of Broadway fan favorites sends the message that Broadway is united in its commitment to end a time of devastating distress for the tens of thousands who live directly on Broadway shows and the dozens of thousands in dependent industries, ”reads a press release from producers of Hamilton, Mean and Lion King.
All three shows are among the biggest on Broadway, but other productions have resumed ticket sales as well. Musicals that have confirmed races in September include Chicago, Aladdin and the new show Six. The Phantom of the Opera previously announced that it would return in October, while the shows Mean girls, frosts and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had previously said they weren’t planning to revive performances in New York City despite Broadway’s fall reopening.
WATCH | Broadway shows will reopen this fall:
Cher Evan Hansen, Diane and Mme Doubtfire plan to host audiences for their official openings in December.
Ticket sales now allow producers to gauge interest in their shows. Is there a thunderous demand or is it more lukewarm? How long is the interest? Once producers have the answers – and the money that interested viewers desperately need – they can plan. Shows that receive a lukewarm response may need to invest in or edit more advertising.
Broadway shows thrive on tourists. They made up about two-thirds of the people in the seats before the pandemic hit. Producers predict that the number of visitors will increase by the fall. The hope is that theatergoers, tourists and New Yorkers alike, are eager to see Broadway return.
“The moment those theater lights go out and the stage lights come on will probably be one of the most emotional moments in theater in New York City. And I can’t wait to be in my place at the back of the theater, “said Stacey Mindich, lead producer of Cher Evan Hansen.
Canadian show dates are still tentative
The situation in Canada is much less certain. In Toronto, the Ed Mirvish Theater announced in early May that it was hoping Hamilton, which was interrupted during previews in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, would resume in about 18 months. When Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was first postponed, organizers said it would be delayed until 2021, but there have been no official updates and tickets are currently not on sale.
And while Come from afar has announced its broadcast on Broadway, Toronto production currently has no scheduled date to resume.
Elsewhere, Jesus Christ Superstar has shows scheduled for fall in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, while Anastasia is scheduled to begin its tour in Ottawa in November.
In an email to CBC News, Mirvish Productions sales manager John Karastamatis said it was currently “impossible to make an accurate prediction” of when broadcasts might resume in the city.
But the fact that theater is picking up in other places, like New York and the UK, is helpful, as it allows Canadian theatergoers to observe what the industry will look like after the pandemic.
“We can learn from them, and we can report their (hopefully) successful reopening so that our audiences are even more confident about the safety of returning to shows here,” Karastamatis wrote.
He also said that while the “vast majority of adults” in Ontario are vaccinated in early June, with a second vaccine soon after, there is a chance that some shows will hit the stage in Toronto in November or December. Even if it were possible, the theaters would not be at full capacity initially and the audience would be masked.
Restarting a show isn’t like flipping a light switch, especially when it’s a big musical. Cast members may be gone, requiring a new hire. Orchestras and ensembles need to relearn their parts, choreographers need the cast in the room to synchronize, and clients need to check fittings. The producers say the task is like opening a show from scratch.
The pandemic has also added new safety concerns for everything from handling props to cleaning the theater. The Broadway seats are very close together, and the halls are not particularly airy or spacious. Just getting inside before the pandemic meant standing in a long queue and cramming into the entrances.
The public must adapt
The public will also have to adapt. Actor Katharine McPhee wondered about little things like people coughing on a show. It used to be boring; now that can trigger.
“I have a feeling it’s going to take a long time for people not to have the trauma of all of us being scared,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Another challenge is the fact that physical distancing is not really economically feasible for the 41 Broadway theaters. Financial demands are simply not conducive to keeping many seats empty on purpose.
Average operating costs for a play are approximately US $ 300,000 per week, while weekly costs are US $ 600,000 for musicals. Conventional wisdom is that many shows must sell at least 80% of the tickets just to break even.
Determining ticket prices will also be tricky. Should there be regular prices initially, then steep discounts later in the fall to attract more suspicious customers? Disney is trying to entice customers by promising to pay all Ticketmaster fees and giving nervous ticket buyers the freedom to exchange or even cancel tickets at no cost.
There are going to be a lot of numbers problems by the fall.