Stage performances have been one of the fields of creative arts that has been hit the hardest by the global COVID-19 pandemic with no shows allowed for over a year. Thankfully, with vaccination campaigns underway, some theaters are planning to reopen, the biggest name being Live Broadway, where shows are set to return to the stage starting on Sept. 14 after an 18-month hiatus.
Tickets will go on sale beginning Thursday and theaters will be allowed to fill 100% of capacity, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday. Broadway theaters are among New York's biggest tourist attractions.
"Broadway is a major part of our state's identity and economy, and we are thrilled that the curtains will rise again," Cuomo said on Twitter.
Live theater is one of the last sectors to come back after the pandemic because of the challenges of social distancing for actors on stage, for crews backstage and for audiences in cramped seating in old buildings.
While New York plans to lift most pandemic restrictions in two weeks, Broadway theaters need more time for rehearsals, marketing to draw crowds and other steps.
"Restarting Broadway is a complex endeavor," said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, an industry group. "Today's green light by the governor to put our shows on sale now for the fall is vital to our success."
Producers will work with state authorities on what safety measures will be required. It is possible theaters will mandate proof of a coronavirus vaccination for audience members, New York budget director Robert Mujica said.
"Will people feel comfortable sitting right next to another individual without knowing their vaccination status?" Mujica said at a news conference. "What we do know from surveys is that the answer is no."
Thousands of actors, dancers, musicians and backstage crew were thrown out of work when Broadway theaters closed in March 2020. Some shows, including the hit musicals "Frozen" and "Mean Girls," have said they will not return.
Thirty-one Broadway shows were in production when the shutdown began, including hits such as "Hamilton," "The Lion King" and "Wicked."
Each returning show will announce its reopening date in the coming weeks, the Broadway League said.
More than 14.8 million tickets were sold for Broadway shows in the 2018-2019 season, bringing $1.8 billion in box office receipts, according to the Broadway League. Some 63% of those going to shows were tourists, from outside the United States or outside New York.
"It's time to get back to work, and I can't wait to be back on stage very soon," said Sara Bareilles, songwriter and star of the musical "Waitress."
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