Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s continuing adventures in one-upping each other over New York reopening announcements have reached a new peak: Today, Cuomo announced that Broadway theaters will open on September 14 at full capacity, with tickets going on sale starting tomorrow. The announcement jumps the gun a bit, as no Broadway shows have announced concrete schedules for a return to performances, but it clears the way for producers to do so. After the governor’s announcement, the industry organization the Broadway League followed up with a release of its own that keeps things a little more vague, only confirming that shows will “resume ticket sales this month for Fall 2021 performances.”
Broadway halted performances on March 12, 2020, amid the spread of the COVID pandemic in New York, originally for only a month, though the shutdown was extended repeatedly. As more people get vaccinated and New York cultural events and spaces reopen, estimates for Broadway’s return have lagged behind most other reopening dates. Previously, de Blasio announced plans to reopen the city on July 1, with theater expected to return in September, with Cuomo following up by saying that he would loosen pandemic restrictions May 19. A big part of that is because the industry operates on such a scale, with performances eight nights a week to a minimum of 500 seats, theaters need to be pretty much completely full for shows to be profitable. The buffer period over the summer would allow audiences more time to get comfortable in large group settings and theaters time to institute safety protocols, give productions time for rehearsals and recasting as needed, and allow at least some trickle of tourists, crucial for the industry, to start coming back to the city.
Until then, we’ll have to wait for producers to pull the trigger on actually announcing when their Broadway productions will reopen. According to the New York Times, Hamilton, The Lion King, and Wicked — three of Broadway’s typically best-selling shows — are planning to make a joint announcement next week and be the first to return in mid-September, while others might hold off for a bit. Per the Times, the two-part Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is “rethinking its length and structure before deciding how and when to reopen,” while the status of shows from producer Scott Rudin, accused of violently abusive behavior toward his employees, are also up in the air after he said he would “step back” from them. There are a few musicals set to premiere last spring that may finally open later in the fall, including Six, Diana, and Flying Over Sunset, as well as new productions of plays, including Pass Over. For more ticket info, look to the western sky/consult the circle of life/don’t throw away your shot, etc.
Update: Like a chandelier falling from the ceiling, the first Broadway show has made a dramatic announcement of its grand return. Per a statement from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh, The Phantom of the Opera will resume performances on October 22 this year, with tickets going on sale on Friday, May 7. The musical opened at the Majestic Theatre all the way back on January 9, 1988, making it the longest-running Broadway show, with a record 32 years of performances (33 once it returns, if you count this lost pandemic year, but really, who does?).