By Naomi Serviss / New York City
Sixteen Broadway shows (out of 32 currently running) will literally go dark in the next two months. Not just because of Covid, although it played a significant role.
Some shows were only booked for limited runs, while others lost bank because soaring ticket costs resulted in half-filled theaters haunted by nervous producers.
Others were decked by Covid throughout performances, sometimes with standbys taking the reins.
Exorbitant ticket prices notwithstanding, who can blame folk avoiding the theater district like the plague?
Because it’s still in the air, people!
Covid-related illnesses have affected nearly every production. Cancellations of performances have taken their toll, exhausting all who have borne the short end of the stick.
Most theaters have dropped mask requirements, much to the dismay of most industry professionals.
Adding to further alarm, the World Health Organization warns that a new Covid-19 subvariant (XBB.1.5.) is the most transmissible yet! About 75 percent of new cases in the northeastern states are due to this latest iteration.
But wait, there’s more: this variant is immunity-resistant and highly contagious! Lose/Lose!
Still reluctant to wear a mask?
If you do choose to brave the midtown matinee madness to catch one more Phantom of the Opera or the brilliant (six-time) Tony winner Audra McDonald in Ohio State Murders, you will be rewarded by having witnessed a tour de force performance.
Dismal ticket sales for Ohio State Murders have forced a premature closing on January 15th.
The production, the first at the newly christened James Earl Jones Theatre,
earned stellar reviews as one of the finest Broadway dramas this year.
It previewed on November 11, opened on December 8 and was scheduled to run until February 12.
Too bad the production failed to find an audience. Two weeks ago, when tourists flooded Broadway at the peak of the holidays, Ohio State Murders filled less than 50 percent of the seats. Other weeks it fared worse.
No wonder many excellent plays have hit the skids. Reticent producers are skittish about risky theater business.
A hard lesson this past season, but an essential one for planning plan future seasons.
Musicals are better bets. Favored by tourists who splurge on big, splashy eye candy, rather
than “straight plays” (nonmusical).
Since the pandemic has plagued our country, theater costs have risen and attendance has plummeted.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Let’s say you’re on a Manhattan vacation (or live nearby) and plan to see a play or a musical (or both).
If you have decided to stop covering your face, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a mostly maskless crowd. Mind you, ushers encourage patrons keep their faces covered, but it’s no longer required.
Gone are the days of ubiquitous security inspectors outside theaters, and nervous Nelly patrons anxiously waiting their vaccination- proving/bag-examination turns.
These days, it’s a relatively smooth transition from the chilly outside line to the
sanctuary of a warm lobby and into the welcoming arms of the ticket takers.
When directed to your seat, you’ll notice mostly masked ushers. Logic dictates they don face coverings since they’re daily exposed to hundreds of people.
Announcements ahead of a performance still include a recitation of:
*Masks are no longer required but are highly recommended
*No photo or video-taking
*Turn off cellphones
*Unwrap your candy now
*Don’t annoy your neighbor.”
The last sentiment is mine, after having been literally elbowed out of armrest real estate and chatted up once too often by Nosey Parkers.
With a revival of Camelot on the books, the likes of Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, and Daniel Radcliffe gracing the boards, it’s going to be a very good year.
Of course, you can’t coerce audiences to see a show they’re not into, especially with those crazy ticket prices. Some steals (from $49) can be found at the TKTS booth or on TDF’s (Theatre Development Fund) online site. Otherwise, you’ll be doling out hundreds of dollars to see Hugh Jackman lead 76 trombones in The Music Man.
Upcoming season highlights are bountiful, and I’m especially eager to catch:
Laura Linney, multi-talented thespian, four-time Emmy winner and twice Tony-nominated,
is a thrill.
A Doll’s House
Jessica Chastain stars in the first revival of this play since 1977.
New York, New York
Kander & Ebb’s musical will be composed with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Life of Pi
A theatrical adaptation of the book and movie.
Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
This most anticipated musical will star Annaleigh Ashford and Josh Groban.
Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
Anticipated to be a singular sensation.
An updated book by Aaron Sorkin has the theater world abuzz.
This should be a hoot, composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Pictures from Home
This limited engagement at Studio 54 is star-studded, with Nathan Lane and Danny Burstein.
Back to the Future: The Musical
This extravaganza should be a slam dunk with Boomers and progeny alike.
My sage advice:
If you’re planning on seeing a show, always check with the TKTS booth (47th & Broadway) for discounted tickets the day of. TDF (Theatre Development Fund), which runs TKTS, offers online membership for reduced-price seats. It’s a bargain!
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com