It’s increasingly clear that, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Broadway won’t be returning until at least early 2021, if then. The Hugh Jackman–led production of The Music Man, which was announced with much fanfare almost two years in advance with plans to debut in fall 2020, has said that it will move its production dates back to spring 2021. The new plan, according to a release, is for the production to begin rehearsals on February 8, start performances on April 7, and open on May 20 at the Winter Garden Theatre. The show’s creative team, including director Jerry Zaks, and primary cast, including Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo, remains intact. “Despite the postponement, we are sticking together as a company, and we are grateful to be able to do so,” producer Scott Rudin said in a statement. “And so we look forward to arriving at the Winter Garden — with a beautiful, heartening Music Man in tow — at the beginning of April, and to being just one part of what we expect will once again be a vibrant and exciting Broadway.
As of right now, Broadway, the biggest slice of New York’s theater industry, is formally shut down until this Labor Day, and as BroadwayNews.com has reported, the Broadway League may soon extend that closure until January 2021. For now, productions like The Music Man have already started to move their dates in seeming anticipation of a longer shutdown. This morning, Lincoln Center Theater announced that it would be moving its Broadway production of the James Lapine LSD musical Flying Over Sunset and its Off Broadway opera Intimate Apparel to spring 2021. Both were originally set to premiere this March, and LCT previously said it would move them to this fall. Other Broadway shows planned for this spring and summer leaped to spring 2021 dates already. Plaza Suite, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, announced this May that it would move its run from March 19 to July 18, 2021. The Michael Jackson musical MJ, meanwhile, announced in May that it would start performances on March 8, 2021 and open on April 15.
Given the uncertain nature of the pandemic, and the many questions about how theaters could protect the safety of performers and audiences, these dates could all change in the future. But they are also a sign that producers are betting that theater will return sometime next spring, and hoping to reap some of the goodwill that might come from being the first shows to return to the theater (if everyone does feel comfortable returning to the theater). As for the Tony Awards: Those typically air in June after a qualifying cutoff that shows must premiere before late April, though The Music Man’s dates imply that producers might be betting that the qualifying period might change next year. Anyway, this year CBS aired a Grease sing-along instead of the Tonys, and no one has announced when the awards show might return, or in what form. So really, deeply, truly: Who knows?!
Update, June 25: Two more Broadway shows scheduled to open this year have announced plans to return next spring: Tracy Letts’s municipal comedy The Minutes and a revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo. Anna D. Shapiro directs The Minutes, which was supposed to open on Broadway on March 15 with a cast that included Armie Hammer, Jessie Mueller, and Letts himself. Neil Pepe directs American Buffalo, which was supposed to open on Broadway on April 14 this year, starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell, and Darren Criss. Both shows’ producers intend to open on the same dates in 2021.
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