By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was another step in New York’s reopening Friday as the New York Philharmonic returned to the stage for the first time in more than 500 days.

After an 18-month intermission, the Philharmonic finally played for an audience once again.

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“Boy, this last year has been death, practically, you know? No theater, no dance, no concerts,” Upper West Side resident Virginia Chakejian told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

“This is just a part of the vitality of New York City, and it’s just great to have it back,” Upper West Side resident Frank Newman said.

Music aficionados filled the Alice Tully Center for the orchestra’s opening night while their usual stage is under construction.

“Just to be out with people and to enjoy the city again. I mean, this is what New York is about,” said Ed Freeman, of Manhattan.

This season, the audience is required to wear a mask while inside and show proof of vaccination.

“I don’t mind. I’ll show my vaccination anywhere and wear a mask. I just love being around everybody,” Chakejian said.

The musicians have not only missed their fans; they’ve also missed each other.

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“One of the biggest challenges in the pandemic was that a lot of the orchestra members sort of scattered around the country. A lot of people went back with their parents or moved away temporarily, and so it just feels great to have everybody back in New York and on stage,” said Ryan Roberts, who plays English horn and oboe.

CBS2 caught up with musicians for their final rehearsal Friday afternoon.

No such words can describe my feeling. It’s been a long waiting for 18 months,” cellist Qiang Tu said.

“The New York Philharmonic does not get nervous, but you can feel a special sizzle in the air,” Philharmonic President and CEO Deborah Borda said.

From Lincoln Center to Times Square, where performers are celebrating Broadway’s reopening with the “Curtain Up!” festival.

Stars Michael Urie and Norm Lewis kicked off the free three-day festival Friday, celebrating a return to the Great White Way.

“Is there anything better than a performer getting to like, do what they love so much? My brain is exploding. I didn’t think that it would hit me this hard, but it really has,” performer Jessica Vosk said.

There was a standing ovation Friday for “Six: The Musical” on its return to Broadway, along with “American Utopia,” days after the curtains went up for five blockbuster Broadway shows.

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After a long year in solitude, the arts are once again bringing New Yorkers together.

Ali Bauman