The industry brings in $15 billion a year, and New York City’s economy took a big hit.READ MORE: Coronavirus Buzzkill: Broadway Shows, Music Tours Closed During Outbreak
CBS2’s Dana Tyler takes a look at what it will take to reopen.
The pop musical Six tells the story of the six wives of King Henry the 8th. Opening night was March 12, 2020. The production was put on pause just 90 minutes before showtime.
Kevin McCollum has produced more than two dozen Broadway shows. He and others thought this unprecedented shutdown would be temporary. We met up with him when he went back to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where Six is staged, for the first time in a year.
“We did three-and-a-half weeks of previews, where the theater was filled and it was very exciting. We had a very nice, large advance, and we were getting ready to put a whole ‘nother block of tickets on sale,” McCollum said. “And I think it was proper, we had to close because the cases started to spike.”
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The Broadway League says 97,000 people rely on the industry for their livelihoods and each show lost at least a year of revenue.
“Which is why we’ve been working with the federal government with the shuttered venues legislation, because we’re going to need money to restart,” said McCollum.
But before anything happens, producers and theater owners need the green light from the city and state.
“So, if we’re told that we can put tickets on sale, let’s say today, great. But when can we open? Can put on sale on the 12th, then you can start opening in, hopefully, September,” McCollum said. “We need to be on sale at least six months before we do our first show.”
And that’s not all. McCollum says health and safety protocols me be center stage.
“We’re not going to let anyone in this theater, on stage or backstage, if we feel there’s any risk of putting them in any peril,” he said. “Everyone’s going to wear a mask, whether you’re vaccinated or not.”
Tyler asked if theatergoers will practice social distancing in the audience.
“I don’t think it’s practical,” McCollum said.
He said it’s just not financially feasible in this 1,100 seat theater to restart at reduced capacity.READ MORE: Broadway Trombonist Leads Dozens In Virtual Performance To Inspire Young Performers On International Women’s Day
McCollum is also a producer of Mrs. Doubtfire. After the rehearsals and only three shows at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, the lights went out on Broadway.
Starting again is a challenge in every way.
“Let’s say we have some new cast members. That fabric that we did that whole scene in might not be available because supply chains. We won’t know until we come back,” McCollum said.
For example, redoing costumes on a big-budget musical could cost between $75,000-$100,000.
“Everyone needs new shoes and they have to be made specifically for you, but the costumers might have left the city because they let their rent go or they moved back home,” McCollum said.
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Zane Mark is the dance arranger for Mrs. Doubtfire and had other shows on the horizon when the pandemic hit.
“We were just starting rehearsals on Aida. I had two other projects that we were supposed to be doing. So I went from four shows to no shows,” Mark said.
And then there was COVID-19.
“My wife and I are coronavirus survivors,” said Mark. “That was about four weeks of hell.”
Mark’s wife is Tony Award-winning actress Adriane Lenox. Their daughter Crystal also works in theater. Their family is part of the Broadway community.
“We check in on our people. We look in on our people and we support our people,” said Mark. “So many of my peers have all their eggs in the one basket, and this shutdown, it was not good. And then if you were, like, say, mid-40s and under, you couldn’t even get, like, your back-up waitress gig.”
Like many shows, the cast of Mrs. Doubtfire used the downtime to continue to entertain theater fans.
Despite the challenges, Mark said, “If there’s anything that good has come out of this, I think we’re a little tighter and a little stronger because of it.”
“I’m very bullish on the future for Broadway. When Broadway is back, New York is back and America is back,” McCollum said.
Until then, everyone is waiting in the wings.MORE NEWS: 1 Year After Great White Way Went Dark, Pop-Up Performances Breathing New Life Into Broadway
Broadway performances are currently suspended through May 30, 2021. The Broadway League is hopeful theaters can reopen by fall.