The lights went dark on Broadway all the way back on March 12th in the early days of the pandemic, after ushers at multiple theaters had tested positive for COVID-19. Initially, it was announced productions would shut down until at least April 13th; then they pushed it back to June 7th; then they said the earliest would be September. All those tentative start dates were wishful thinking, because today, Broadway has officially announced that all performances will be cancelled through at least the rest of the year.
The Broadway League, the trade group representing theater owners and producers, made the announcement on Monday, saying theatres are now offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for all performances through January 3rd, 2021.
“The Broadway experience can be deeply personal but it is also, crucially, communal,” Thomas Schumacher, Chairman of the Board of The Broadway League, said in a statement. “The alchemy of 1000 strangers bonding into a single audience fueling each performer on stage and behind the scenes will be possible again when Broadway theaters can safely host full houses. Every single member of our community is eager to get back to work sharing stories that inspire our audience through the transformative power of a shared live experience. The safety of our cast, crew, orchestra and audience is our highest priority and we look forward to returning to our stages only when it’s safe to do so. One thing is for sure, when we return we will be stronger and more needed than ever.”
There were 31 shows in production, including eight new shows in previews, when Broadway shut down in March. Some of those, including the Disney musical Frozen, a new Martin McDonagh play called Hangmen, and a revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, have announced that they will not reopen. Others have already announced tentative new start dates in the spring of 2021, including Tracy Letts’ The Minutes (March 15th), a revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo (April 14th), and The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster (May 20th).
Broadway has gone dark before, but never for this long a period of time. After September 11th, theaters were shut for 48 hours before reopening. In 2007, there was an 18-day stagehands strike against the Shubert, Jujamcyn, and Nederlander Theaters, and in 2003 there was a four-day Broadway musicians strike that impacted many musicals.
Early in March, the industry was initially reluctant to shutter both because of a desire to keep people employed with their productions, and also because if a Broadway production cancels shows voluntarily, it will not receive insurance coverage for loss of income. Once there was a government mandate to close, losses incurred after two closed shows were covered.