Bonnie Comley, a three-time Tony award-winning producer and chairman of the board of directors for The Drama League, spoke to NewsMadura about new Covid safety protocols being implemented by Broadway theaters and productions as shows resume.
“It’s really exciting to get back into the theater. The producers and theater owners have made a commitment to open it this time and the shows continue,” Comley said.
That commitment means audience members must show proof of vaccination and wear masks. There are no more pauses or signatures at the stage doors. Many show times are shortened to about 90 minutes.
Comley said show directors are working with theater owners to support the changes.
“The perfect example of that is with ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.’ That was a two-part show, five hours of theater. That was a beautiful piece of theater, but like a bunch of pieces of theater they actually condensed it.”
When it returns on November 16, “Potter” will be combined into a single, shorter show.
“It’s all going to be in one chair,” Comley said. “So it’s really like seeing a new show again.”
Producers not only rework the length of what you will see on stage, but also change the choreography backstage.
“The people who change other people, all those things that you don’t see, will also be re-staged and there will be security guards assigned backstage to watch all that,” she explained.
“Things change, and it won’t necessarily be what it was when we left it in March 2020, but there will still be great theater,” Comley said.
“Springsteen” reopened in June at the St. James Theater. Sara Bareilles returns on Thursday as Jenna Hunterson in “Waitress.” “Hadestown”, the last show to win a Tony Award for best musical before the coronavirus pandemic, also returns Thursday. Other major productions, including ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Hamilton’, will reopen in two weeks.
Broadway’s Collective Exhale
Broadway is big business for New York’s economy, and it employs an estimated 97,000 people for shows. The Broadway League launched a campaign this week, narrated by Oprah Winfrey, to welcome theater buffs back.
Broadway actor Timothy Hughes performed eight shows a week in Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theater before the pandemic. He will take the stage again this week for the reopening, along with the rest of the cast and crew who are regularly tested for Covid.
“I don’t think I’ve really admitted to myself how much I’ve missed the live theater experience,” Hughes told NewsMadura. “As an actor, as part of this cast, as a member of the audience, the visceral response of a live show is something that is so much a part of who I am and what I do and I can’t wait to share that experience with audiences again. “
Hughes said he feels as safe as possible going into opening night and that he is part of a fully vaccinated company.
“We still wear masks for many rehearsal processes and are being tested.”
When he returned for rehearsals this summer, Hughes said he was overwhelmed with emotion because he hadn’t been to a theater for 15 months.
“This theater has become like a second home for all of us who have been part of the show from the beginning,” he said, adding: “It really is a whirlwind of emotions. It was like putting it in a whole new context.” . . There was a new sense of fear and anxiety about returning to this space, as if any kind of enclosed space now feels different.”
He expects the first show to be an emotional experience for everyone involved. “Overwhelming for us as a company, overwhelming for that initial audience,” he said.
“There was nothing to me that compares to the visceral response to that exchange of energy between performers and an audience taking place live,” Hughes said. “I’m also super grateful to be back with this show. The messages of ‘Hadestown’ are going to resonate on a deeper level than before.”
Long-time member of the “Moulin Rouge” company, who will also star in Stephen Spielberg’s film adaptation of “West Side Story,” Paloma Garcia-Lee told NewsMadura she expects the Broadway reopening to be an “intense exhale.” are for every artist involved in the theater.
“Every step of Broadway coming back now is historic,” Garcia-Lee said. “Broadway has never stopped in its history for so long.”
A historic reopening for performers, perhaps for audiences, a reminder of the magic that lies in shared experiences.
“To sit in a Broadway theater and the lights start to dim, it’s not like the TV show you’ve been watching,” Garcia-Lee said. “Broadway is happening in one place on Earth in New York City in those select theaters. It’s magical.”