UPDATE, with additional details Broadway is going dark, effective today, a day before a statewide ban of all gatherings of more than 500 people will go into effect. All 31 productions currently on the boards will shut down through April 12, and eight shows set to begin previews over the next month will be postponed.
In a statement released by the Broadway League, the immediate suspension of all Broadway shows was ordered “under the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo.”
“Broadway shows in New York City will suspend all performances immediately in support of the health and well-being of the theatregoing public, as well as those who work in the theatre industry. Performances will commence the week of April 13, 2020.”
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Deadline exclusively reported the potential closings earlier today.
“Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatregoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League. “Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart, and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.”
Those holding tickets for performances through April 12, 2020 should contact their point of purchase for refunds and exchanges, according to the League.
St. Martin said the Broadway League, the trade organization representing theater owners and producers, “will continue to closely monitor the evolving coronavirus situation on behalf of the Broadway community and make decisions as circumstances require, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and state and local health officials.”
Cuomo’s office tweeted, “We are taking new actions to reduce the density of people across the state. Starting Friday at 5pm, gatherings with 500 people or more will not be permitted in NYS. Additionally, for facilities with an occupancy of 500 or fewer, we are reducing the legal capacity by 50%.”
Broadway theaters have, by definition, a minimum seating capacity of 500 (venues with fewer seats are considered Off Broadway, or, colloquially, even Off Off Broadway). Broadway’s smallest theater is the 583-seat Helen Hayes, where the revival of Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out starring Patrick J. Adams was set to begin preview April 2. The largest theater is the 1,926-seat Gershwin, home of the long-running Wicked.
The state’s order for a 50% reduction in capacity for smaller venues will no doubt impact Off Broadway venues. Lincoln Center Theater, for example, has suspended its upcoming Broadway production Flying Over Sunset as well as its Off Broadway production of Intimate Apparel; both venues are located on the Lincoln Center “campus,” as are Film At Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. All public performances at Lincoln Center have been canceled at least through March.
At least two other Off Broadway productions have already announced schedule changes: Beyond Babel at the Gym at Judson Theatre, will go on hiatus following tonight’s performance with a planned return on April 7, and Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona and Brooklyn is postponing its upcoming run at Theatre Row. Immersive theater productions at the McKittrick Hotel (Sleep No More, The Woman in Black, Speakeasy Magick) will close through April 12). Other shows are certain to follow.
The Broadway shutdown has been feared, if not entirely anticipated, by the industry all week, with St. Martin telling reporters on Monday that though she was encouraged by last week’s steady ticket sales, she knew the situation could change.
This morning, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN that new Broadway guidelines were imminent, though he held out hope that a shutdown could be avoided. “I want to see if we can strike some kind of balance,” he said, adding that the city and industry were “trying to figure out: is there a way to reduce the capacity, reduce the number of people? If we cannot strike that balance, of course, we can go to closure.”
Even before the industry-wide shutdown was announced, the producers of Moulin Rouge! The Musical canceled today’s matinee and evening performances. Though no reason was given at the time, Deadline has learned that a cast member might have been exposed to Covid-19.
As of Thursday morning, New York City had 62 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including a Broadway usher who recently worked at theaters housing new productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and, opening tonight, the musical Six.
The shutdown will far exceed any similar measure in modern Broadway history. Theaters were closed for only two days following the 9/11 attacks on New York City. In weekly grosses alone, the dark theaters will likely result in the loss of more than $100 million over the next month, not counting advance sales and the repercussions on related businesses such as hotels, restaurants, bars, transportation and lost wages.
Prior to the shutdown, Broadway theater owners and producers had taken measures to avoid the closings, amping up venue cleanings, restricting backstage access and reducing stage door interaction between actors and fans. Patrons feeling ill with either cold or flu symptoms were urged to stay home. Producer Scott Rudin slashed ticket prices to $50 through March for whatever seats remained available at his five usually sold-out Broadway productions, a move that was designed to help keep theaters full if coronavirus concerns took a toll on attendance.
The mass closure arrives just as the smash London and Chicago musical Six was set for its opening tonight – critics have been asked to hold their reviews until the show re-opens. Such big-ticket productions with official openings or previews originally planned for the coming weeks include Hangmen, The Minutes, Diana, Plaza Suite, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Lehman Trilogy, Caroline or Change, How I Learned To Drive, American Buffalo, Birthday Candles, Sing Street, Take Me Out and Flying Over Sunset.
Within an hour of the League’s announcement today, press representatives for The Minutes, Diana, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Lehman Trilogy had informed critics that their previously confirmed seat reservations had been scuttled and will be rescheduled later.
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