By Dave Carlin

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s a big day for the Big Apple. Broadway returns after 18 months of darkness in the Theater District.

The curtain rises Tuesday on five of the most popular shows on stage.

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As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, they’re picking up tickets, showing proof of vaccination, and — after shuffling through security — they settle in their theater seats.

That includes Carole Bell, from Columbus, Ohio, who said for her no trip to New York City is complete without seeing a Broadway show.

“I’m just thrilled that New York is back,” Bell said. “I’ll always come back.”

“I was just so happy having this experience again,” said Upper West Side resident Talia Ruiz.

The play “Pass Over” and the musical “Waitress” are among a handful of shows that are already open.

Web Extra: Reopening Dates For Various Broadway Shows

Now, these Broadway productions get added in a single night: The blockbuster musicals “Hamilton,” “Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Chicago” and a play with music “Lackawanna Blues.”

“When Broadway returns, New York returns,” said Charlotte St. Martin of the Broadway League.

Cast members from “The Lion King” showed up in costume to roar through Times Square. The family favorite is rising again.

These shows bring the magic, the razzle dazzle, and fresh takes on history.

Facing live audiences in the weeks to the come are big stars: Jackman, Foster, Lupone, Rashad, and Byrne.

Helping them get their shoes ready are production families, heroes behind the scenes, including creative teams with techs and designers, and box office workers, security personnel and many more.

“I knew it would be back,” said Alyce Gilbert, wardrobe supervisor for “Wicked.”

“This gift … to do this on this level. Not everybody gets to do this on this level,” said Gregory Butler, assistant choreographer for “Chicago.”

“It’s amazing to be back home,” said Ryan McWilliams, assistant hair supervisor at “Wicked.”

New to the scene are new kinds of workers at every single show: COVID safety managers.

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“You know this is happening because of vaccination,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

After a long 18 months, look for the pace to pick up, with about 35 Broadway shows open by the end of the year.

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Transit officials encourage spectators to ride the rails to the shows, saying they are cleaner than ever.

“Public transportation is the best way to make sure you don’t miss the opening curtain,” one official said.

Times Square is already abuzz.

“That’s amazing. I love theater,” said Natalia Cruz, from Mexico City.

“There’s a lot of pageantry involved in Broadway,” Brendan White, from Los Angeles, said.

White and his family hope to get their hands on tickets for any show available.

“I think if you’re a Broadway person, then you’re really excited that it’s back,” he said.

But for the short while, they may be the only few tourists in the crowd.

“Shows are going to have a slow build,” said David LeShay, director of marketing and public relations for TKTS.

LeShay says tourist demand still isn’t quite as high as it used to be. So now is a great time for locals to see a show.

“About 60% of the people that used to come here were tourists,” he said.

Speaking of vaccines, crowds must be vaccinated and wear masks.

To celebrate the return, public service announcements across the subway stations will be the voice of the star of the “Lion King” all week long.

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John Dias contributed to this report. 

Dave Carlin