NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than 12 months after Broadway went dark, there is finally a plan to turn the lights back on.

New York City is opening COVID vaccine eligibility to theater workers starting in April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

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The city will set up dedicated vaccination sites in the heart of the Theater District for on and off-Broadway stage crews, production teams and performers.

“The show must go on, and the show will go in,” de Blasio said. “So, the next four weeks, we’ll be setting up dedicated vaccination sites specifically for the theater community, the theater industry.”

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It’s the moment Broadway stars like Grammy, Tony and Emmy-award winner Andre De Shields have been waiting for.

“We are ready, we’re staying in shape. Our voices are strong. All we need is a stage,” De Shields said.

The goal is to reopen theaters in September.

“The lead time to bring back a show is really extensive. That’s one of the things we’ve heard most from the Broadway leadership… they need answers now to be able to get the shows back as early as September,” de Blasio said.

Telly Leung, the Brooklyn-born star of “Aladdin,” has been waiting patiently in the wings.

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“This pandemic has hit our industry particularly hard,” Leung said. “I think it’s time for all of us to heal from the trauma… That is where artists come in, we help heal the soul.”

Broadway accounts for 100,000 jobs and has an economic impact of $15 billion a year.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“Broadway and the theater contribute more to New York’s economy than all of the sports teams combined,” said Kate Shindle, president of the Actors’ Equity Association.

Unlike sports arenas, theaters are extremely intimate. Producers say it’s not financially feasible to open unless seats are filled to at least 75% capacity.

That’s why city officials will also be working closely to ensure theaters can safely accommodate audience members and control crowds.

“We would love things like the idea of a passport or a certificate that says you’ve been tested in the last 42 hours and you’re COVID free, or that you’ve had the vaccination,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League.

The mayor said there will be pop-up testing sites for patrons.

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Before the lights come on, the theater community says they need six months to rehearse, get sets and costumes ready and orchestras tuned up under new guidelines that are still being set.

Natalie Duddridge