NEW YORK – A digital marquee in Times Square says it all: “The wait is over.”
Eighteen months after the global pandemic closed live theater in March 2020, Broadway It takes a big step forward on Tuesday when three strong shows – ‘The Lion King’, ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Villain’ – rev their engines once again with new safety protocols.
“I think we’re all really excited,” said Julie Taymour, director of The Lion King. “We’re back. I think we can breathe easy even if it’s behind a mask. We can take comfort in the fact that it’s working.”
“The Lion King,” “Hamilton,” and “Wicked” all came out Tuesday to reopen together in early May after then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo chose September 14 when Broadway could begin to welcome back to full-capacity audiences.
All three performances were beaten at a Bruce Springsteen concert in June and the opening of the new Bass Over on August 22, as well as the reopenings of two major musicals – “Hudstown” and “Waitress”.
But the return of the three musicals–the spiritual anchors of modern Broadway success–as well as the long-running “Chicago” and the reopening of the iconic TKTS booth on Tuesday are important signs of the return of Broadway’s most prized offering, despite the pressure and uncertainty from the spread of the variable Delta.
“We go to a theater to breathe,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton. “This is literally what we strive for: to be in touch with one another, to hear a story told in the dark, and to experience catharsis.” “For a while, it wasn’t safe to do that. It’s safe to go back now with the protocols we have in place.”
Marie Altaver / AFP
Ticket holders for all three mega hits must demonstrate that they have been fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO licensed vaccine and masks must be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking in designated areas.
Stephen Taylor, who plays Mufasa in The Lion King: “I think it’s actually not going to feel real to me until we have an audience in front of us.” “It’s an important component of this, I think in particular, after all we’ve been through.”
Actors all over Broadway say they are eager to return to the stage after more than a year of waiting, and they trust health experts to make the process safe.
“It’s a bit like when you’re on a plane and there’s turbulence,” said Sharon Wheatley, the veteran actor on “Come From Away,” which resumes on Broadway on September 21. I have to trust the air traffic controllers. I get nervous, but I have to understand that I don’t know as much as these people know.”
Marie Altaver / AFP
“Hamilton,” which opened six years ago, “Wicked” that opened 17 years ago, and “The Lion King” that opened 23 years ago form the cornerstones of modern Broadway, which is almost immune to downturns and shifts in tourism and competition.
On Tuesday, they planned staggered openings – 7 p.m. for “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theater and 7:30 p.m. for “The Lion King” at Minskop Theater. “Hamilton” at 8 pm on Richard Rodgers’ stage, all three at full capacity.
Another sign of Broadway’s return to normalcy is the reopening of the iconic TKTS booth in the heart of Times Square, where visitors can receive same-day and some-day discounts on Broadway and off-Broadway tickets.
“It’s a huge step forward,” said Victoria Bailey, executive director of the nonprofit Theater Development Trust that runs the kiosk. “To open it and such a symbol to the people that the theater is back.”
Marie Altaver / AFP
Bailey says a Broadway comeback will be less like a flick of a light switch and more like a dimmer, with a slow build-up to regular attendance. “We’ll know a lot in two or three weeks, but you can’t swim unless you start canoeing.”
For Miranda, his fictional rerun in front of a live audience 18 months later will help the cast and crew, as well as businesses around Times Square that rely on theaters, like his favorite pizza shop. He said there is no such thing as living.
“It’s one thing to see something on screen. And I’m glad that ‘Hamilton’ was available on screen at a time when we couldn’t go to the theatre. But I’m even happier now that I’ve experienced the way you were meant to live in front of the audience, the collaborator.” Final every night.