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Aisle Seat: Broadway, We Hardly Knew Ye

Updated: Jan 13

By Naomi Serviss / New York City


A jubilant Hugh Jackman…before contracting Covid
A jubilant Hugh Jackman…before contracting Covid

When Hugh Jackman


got whacked by Covid last month,


The Music Man wasn’t the only thing


in Trouble with a capital T.


It was Broadway with a capital B.


Jackman addressed an exuberant


post-performance crowd,


enthusiastically singing the praises


of the unsung heroes:


understudies, standbys and swings,


for their stamina and dedication.

Unfortunately, as Jackman was praising


the industry’s backbone,



Covid put the kibosh on the show,


claiming its star performer.


Friends peppered me frantically.


“Broadway’s shutting down again?”


“This time’s permanent, right?”


“No way would I set foot


in a Broadway theater now!”


Is the gist.


No one’s into risking hundreds of dollars


on a Broadway promise.


Planning a trip to the city is too iffy, some say.


They’ve been detoured this way before.


Not up for another go-around or rescheduling


or waiting for a refund.


Ticketholders


of the mega musical The Music Man


are especially sweating it out.


It’s going to get better, right? What to do?


The entire theater industry has the heebee-jeebies.


Another wide-scale shutdown


would shutter or “pause” more shows,”


à la Mrs. Doubtfire.


Covid swept through Mrs. Doubtfire’s cast
Covid swept through Mrs. Doubtfire’s cast

In an unusual maneuver


to stave off closing,


Mrs. Doubtfire is taking


a nine-week hiatus.


Performances have been canceled


from January 10 through March 14.


Reasoning? It beats closing prematurely


and losing the pot.


Ain’t Too Proud. has also announced


its closing January 16.


Waitress ended its Broadway run


after multiple Covid-related cancellations.


America Utopia stripped down to


Unplugged & Unchained, a scaled-back show


with nods to David Byrne’s Talking Heads roots


after Covid took out band and crew members.


Patti Lupone tried to calm theatergoers’ nerves
Patti LuPone tried to calm theatergoers’ nerves

It’s not easy being theater royalty.


Queen Patti LuPone reassured and pleaded with minions


on Instagram that Broadway was open and


The Great White Way illuminated.


Strict covid protocols may lead to performance cancellations,


but Company, at the Shubert Theatre,


plans to soldier on.


Thanks to the understudies, swings and standbys,


those whose job is to jump in when needed,


many productions go on.


Casts and backstage personnel are


vaccinated and masked backstage.


They’re tested daily, but breakthrough infections


have taken their toll.


Come From Away was slammed so hard,


the show was forced to cancel


a week’s performances before Christmas.


It’s a shame, since the state of theater is dicey at best.


On December 26,


eight of the 12 actors


in the show were subs.


Some replacements for band members also filled in.


Recent news stories have highlighted


the show-saving actors who have


stepped up and in, when Covid intruded.


But it’s not over.


While some shows have closed


because of the devastating spreading infection,


others have paused to regroup.


To Kill a Mockingbird will close

at the Shubert Theatre on January 16,

and transfer to


the smaller Belasco Theatre June 1.

Not great timing for Greg Kinnear,

who just stepped into Jeff Daniels’ shoes

as Atticus Finch on January 5.


Bob Dylan's Girl From the North Country


is struggling as well,


with its last performance


scheduled for January 23.


Producers are eyeing

a possible spring reopening

post-Omicron surge.


Most productions have continued.


It’s a scenario likely to repeat


as Omicron continues to be


an equal-opportunity offender.


Audience attendance dropped


to under three-quarters of all seats


during the week ending January 2.


The average seat price was $146.


The thriving TKTS booth in pre-Covid Times Square
The thriving TKTS booth in pre-Covid Times Square

Lines for TKTS, midtown’s discount theater site,


indicate faith that


Broadway will rise Phoenix-like again.


Speaking of which,


Jackman is back, baby!


Here’s hoping the long-anticipated Funny Girl


will experience good trouble.


With a lowercase t.



See the accompanying story, Big Apple Bargains, If You Dare!


 






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

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