As of May 12th, all Broadway productions will stay closed until September 6th, extending an already long temporary closure of the shows that began on March 12th, or the day the theaters went dark. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused all forms of entertainment to be shut down until an unknown date, forcing many actors and other stage crew to go on-to unemployment. However Broadway is not the only theater platform in the world that has temporarily closed its doors. While some are guaranteed to reopen, other theaters’ futures are beginning to look grim.
In terms of Broadway shows, two productions began shortly before the pandemic for previews: Martin McDonagh’s Hangman and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Both productions have already annoounced that they will not reopen when Broadway resumes. Other shows such as Disney’s Frozen, which has been on Broadway since 2018, have announced that the beloved Disney film-turned-musical will not return either when the lights come back to Broadway. The show marks the first fully-running production to be closed due to the Coronavirus, but will most likely not be the last.
Disney Theatricals chose to pull the plug in order to cut costs, as the company has three shows on Broadway currently, including Frozen. This show in particular was closed as it was the least popular of the three, citing The Lion King and Aladdin as forerunners on the New York strip. While I am an avid theater-goer and have seen the show, thinking it was brilliantly produced, compared to that of Aladdin, it is nowhere near the same quality.
Across the pond in London, West End theaters see no end in sight to the restrictions, with no set date declared to reopen productions. According to ExpressNews, “Live theater in the land of William Shakespeare faces a crisis from which many in the business fear it might not fully recover.” This is true for not only Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre’s production of the William Shakespeare play Coriolanus, but for the Shakespeare Globe Theatre as well. U.K. Legislators warm that the Globe could permanently close due to the pandemic. The closure of such an important theatre, which opened its doors in 1997, would be a blow and a tragedy to the national identity that has formed from Shakespeare. While the Globe has free filmed productions, this does not even begin to replicate funds from theatre-goers.
However, not all is lost in the theater world as many shows which had planned to open are pushed back to next year. In addition, Broadway performers will begin to debut new music inspired by the events unfolding for a Songs for Our City concert series. Twenty-seven artists, such as Ethan Slater, Anthony Norman, Leslie Becker, and many more are set to share their own songs. Each concert will also act as a charity to the BC/EFA’s Covid-19 Emergency Assistance Fund as well as provide a stipend for all participants. The concerts will be live streamed for free every Tuesday and Wednesday throughout June until the 21st of the month.
While Broadway and the rest of the theater world might stay dark for the foreseeable future, there are options for people to get their daily dose of musicals. In addition to the Songs for Our City concert series, Hamilton is premiering on Disney+ on July 3rd.
Theater has become such an ingrained part of our culture and society that although it might be awhile until all normalcy returns to Broadway, we must remember this change is only temporary; one day soon, the lights will still return to the City that Never Sleeps.