We don’t know when Broadway will return right now. When it does return, hopefully some time in 2021, we know that it will be a completely different landscape than how we left it back in March when it was first shut down indefinitely. So for today, let’s speculate about what Broadway will look like when it returns.
What shows will return?
The first question is, of course, what shows that were already playing on Broadway will be able to return when it reopens. I think it’s safe to assume that the big commercial successes will be the ones absolutely reopening – I don’t think that Wicked or Hamilton will be going anywhere. I would almost guarantee these shows will return. The big Disney shows will probably make it too. The Lion King is such a tourist favorite that I’m sure it will make its way back. But also, RIP Frozen.
And some shows will not be returning, like Frozen, as I mentioned above. As the shutdown continues, I am sure we will be seeing more shows announcing that, unfortunately, they will not come back.
What shows will open?
Some shows that did not get a chance to start performances have already announced their intentions of opening in 2021, such as the revivals of 1776 and Caroline, Or Change, as well as the new musical Flying Over Sunset.
The Minutes, which was able to play a few preview performances, will also be coming back to officially open, and hopefully other shows like Six will be able to return as well.
We have no idea as of yet what kinds of new shows will be able to open. There are certainly plenty of shows that have announced wanting to open with no further details, but other than that, we will have to wait and see what producers will be wanting to fund. Which brings us to our next question…
What will the industry look like?
However, there is an even bigger question of what shows will actually be able to make it to Broadway in the aftermath of this pandemic. Broadway is a billion dollar industry, and a lot of that is foreign tourist dollars. When Broadway is back up and running, producers will naturally want to ensure that they can return to making money, even though the industry as a whole will likely not financially recover for years.
I worry about the implication of this. I worry that producers will only want to “play it safe” so to speak for a while. Meaning, they will rely only on shows that they think can be commercial hits. It will be easier to fund a stage adaptation of a movie or another biographical musical than a wholly original work. Broadway has never been too kind to smaller and more experimental original shows (better suited for Off-Broadway) but we may not get to see anything like that for a long time.
Producers will likely try anything to get people in seats. Even when Broadway does reopen, tourism as a whole will probably be down. I think we will see a lot of stunt casting in order to draw audiences. I have heard rumors that producers are considering everything from cutting ticket prices to limiting seats. I do not think anyone really knows what to do yet, and that is the scary part. We have no idea what actually will happen.
We are going to see a complete reset of the theatre industry. Some theatres where shows have closed may stand empty for months, if not seasons. We have no idea what audiences will actually want to see when it can reopen, or if they will want to come back at all. There will likely be strict social distancing rules enforced, from wearing a mask during a show to sitting in every other seat.
The only thing we know for sure is that we have no clue what to expect. However, I will leave you with one final thought. Theatre has survived literally everything that has been thrown at it throughout history. One pandemic will not change that.
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