Good news for those who have looked to the Western sky, consulted the circle of life, and/or decided to wait for it as news about Broadway’s return from the COVID pandemic this September has trickled out: Three of the industry’s biggest shows have put out a joint announcement of their return to the stage. Hamilton, Wicked, and The Lion King will all restart their performances on September 14 this year, as revealed in a joint announcement on Good Morning America live from Times Square. The three shows are typically the best-selling productions on Broadway, with Hamilton opening six years ago, Wicked 17 years ago (and still no movie in sight!), and The Lion King 23 years ago. Tickets for all three productions are on sale now. Good luck defying everyone else on Ticketmaster to book tickets for their first nights back. AaaaAAAah!
These three flagship musicals, which all run in houses owned by the Nederlander Organization, will be among the first Broadway shows to will return to theaters this fall, alongside Chicago, which also plans to sheba-shimmy-shake back on September 14. The 14th is the date Governor Cuomo gave out last Wednesday for when Broadway theaters would be able to resume performances at full capacity. This lays out an arc for the rest of the fall theater season, where the traditional juggernauts return first, testing the waters of audience interest and comfort with safety precautions, before the newer shows premiere.
One question underlying this strategy is how soon, and in what magnitude, tourism will return to New York City. Many longer-running shows relied to varying extents on out-of-town ticket buyers to fill audiences even before the pandemic. Those tourists – especially international ones – may take longer to return to the city, which in turn may reduce those sky-high pre-pandemic ticket prices. Or maybe New Yorkers and those in the tri-state area will be excited to see live performances again, they’ll stuff theaters through the fall, which is possible, but may be unlikely. The first shows out of the gate in September will serve as the test cases for whatever industry trends prevail.
Before this joint announcement, a number of Broadway productions already started jockeying for position last week, from Phantom (waiting it out in his underground lair until October 22) to the new musical Six (jumping right in on September 17). At a glance, thbe fall dates announced so far:
Six: First performance September 17, opening October 3.
Come From Away: First performance September 21.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical: First performance October 8.
Caroline, or Change: First performance October 8, opening October 27.
Ain’t Too Proud: First performance October 16.
Jagged Little Pill: First performance October 21.
Mrs. Doubtfire: First performance October 21, opening December 5.
Phantom of the Opera: First performance October 22.
Trouble in Mind: First performance October 29, opening November 18.
Diana: First performance December 1, opening December 16.
MJ (based on the life of Michael Jackson): First performance December 6, opening February 1.
Company: First performance December 20, opening January 9.
The Music Man (should it still return despite abuse allegations against producer Scott Rudin): First performance December 20, opening February 10.
Finally, lest we forget, there are the Tony Awards. The oh-so long-delayed ceremony for the 2020 nominees still doesn’t have a date, but is supposed to happen “in coordination with Broadway’s reopening.” I’d guess they might happen around Labor Day, with the returning shows back in rehearsal and lots of celebrities saying on CBS that “#NothingBeatsBroadway,” which, yes, is the terrible hashtag the Broadway League is using around the return of performances.