Last spring, in the early days of Broadway’s Covid-19 pandemic shutdown, news reports and industry chatter referred to an eventual (and, it seemed, imminent) reopening as if a light switch would be flipped and the marquees of all 41 theaters would light up the Midtown night. Actors had left their dressing rooms full of the usual personal stuff — street clothes, photos, charms — as if they’d soon be back from a long holiday weekend.
The optimism was short lived, as the shutdown was extended time and again — April, June, September, January, June again. News got grim, and then more grim. The National Endowment for the Arts recently released figures indicating that while the overall unemployment rate has averaged 8.5 percent, the average among actors was 52 percent.
But the arrival of two Covid-19 vaccines this fall has reignited at least some of that optimism, with Broadway insiders now expressing confidence that at least some productions will open in fall 2021. Think rollout rather than all-at-once resurrection.
So what will Broadway’s reopening look like? Who will take the stage? Who will sit in the seats? What needs to be done before that first light switch clicks, and what remnants and lessons will be left by the greatest disaster in Broadway history?