The Broadway League has officially confirmed what has already seemed apparent: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Broadway theater won’t be able to come back until at least 2021. The league, a consortium of Broadway producers and theater owners, announced today that it will suspend performances through January 2, 2021. Previously, in May, the league set the shutdown to last until Labor Day. Several Broadway productions, including the Hugh Jackman Music Man revival, already anticipated this announcement last week and moved their performance dates to next spring. But on a practical level, the league’s announcement means that theaters will have to start offering refunds and exchanges for anyone holding tickets to performances throughout the fall.
The pandemic-caused shutdown has already had wide-ranging effects on the theater industry, closing the Broadway productions of Hangmen, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Disney’s Frozen while also devastating the economics of many Off Broadway theater companies. While the future of COVID-19 treatment remains uncertain, in a release, the Broadway League promised that it is exploring options for how best to open theaters safely in 2021 and said it’s exploring options such as “screening and testing, cleaning and sanitizing, wayfinding inside theatres, backstage protocols, and much more.” “Returning productions are currently projected to resume performances over a series of rolling dates in early 2021,” the league added in its statement, noting that tickets will start to go on sale for those dates in the coming weeks.
With Broadway shut down, the theater industry has also faced a reckoning over its intrinsic racism. In an interview with the Times, the league’s president and chief executive, Charlotte St. Martin, said the group is hiring outside researchers to audit the industry and will make it easier for people of color to join the group. Currently, the bulk of the productions planning to open at some time in 2021 are written by white authors, with the exceptions of the Michael Jackson musical MJ and Roundabout’s recently announced Broadway debut of Trouble in Mind.