UPDATE, with Broadway relief agreement The Broadway production of Martin McDonagh’s new comedy Hangmen will not resume performances when the coronavirus shutdown is lifted. The producers of the Olivier Award-winning play, starring Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens and Game of Thrones‘ Mark Addy, said today that they do not “have the economic resources” to reopen.
In a statement, producers Robert Fox, Jean Doumanian, Elizabeth I. McCann and Craig Balsam said, “Because of the current health crisis which has created circumstances beyond our control, it is with deep regret that we are not able to resume performances of Hangmen. With no definite end in sight of the government’s closure and Broadway’s suspension, we have no alternative but to release the actors from their contracts and close the production.”
The statement continues: “Given our show’s budget and capitalization, we do not have the economic resources to be able to continue to pay the theater owners, cast and crew through this still undefined closure period. Therefore, in the interests of all involved, we regretfully have no choice but to close the show. We are all extremely disappointed that we cannot give Martin McDonagh and our fabulous director, cast and team the celebrated opening they all deserve.”
Hangmen began previews at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre on Saturday, February 28 and was scheduled to officially open on Thursday, March 19. By the March 12 shutdown it had played 13 performances.
The decision not to return marks Broadway’s first permanent closure since the March 12 four-week shutdown was announced. The Broadway League, the trade organization representing producers and theater owners, is considering extending the shutdown to eight weeks in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, but no decision has been announced.
In all, 31 productions went dark on March 12, with a then-announced re-opening set for March 13.
On Friday evening, about 90 minutes after news of the Hangmen closing, the Broadway League representing producers, theatre owners and general managers, and a coalition of Broadway unions announced an agreement for emergency relief for theater workers during the COVID-19 shutdown. The agreement will provide Broadway employees with pay and health insurance during the current suspension of all Broadway shows.
Director Matthew Dunster’s Hangmen, a Royal Court Theatre/Atlantic Theater Company production, won the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Play following its world premiere at London’s Royal Court Theatre in September 2015 and a transfer to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre in 2016. Hangmen made its US Premiere Off Broadway in a sold-out January 18-March 7 2018 engagement at the Atlantic Theater Company; the production won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.
The Broadway production was to have starred Stevens, Mark Addy, Tracie Bennett, Ewen Bremner, Owen Campbell, Jeremy Crutchley, Gaby French, Josh Goulding, John Hodgkinson, Richard Hollis, John Horton and Ryan Pope. Tony Award nominations were an easy bet.
The play would have been Stevens’ return to Broadway after his 2013 debut in The Heiress opposite Jessica Chastain. He was to have played Mooney, a mysterious newcomer to the Northern England pub where Harry (Addy, reprising his Off Broadway performance) holds court as one of England’s last executioners. The play is set in 1965, after hanging has been abolished in England.
Hangmen would have been McDonagh’s seventh Broadway production, and his first since directing the Oscar-nominated film Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.
The producers’ decision not to reopen reflects what many Broadway insiders have feared since the March 12 shutdown: While more established productions with big advance sales, ready-made audiences, and casts and crews long settled into their respective roles have a better chance of weathering the storm, new shows could face dire futures sooner than later.
In addition to Hangmen, 14 new productions were shut down March 12 prior to their opening nights, including The Minutes, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Lehman Trilogy, Diana, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Company, Plaza Suite, Caroline or Change; How I Learned To Drive, American Buffalo, Birthday Candles, Sing Street, Take Me Out and Flying Over Sunset. The pop musical Six, about the wives of Henry VIII, was scheduled to open on March 12.
Though the League has not announced whether Broadway will stay closed beyond the current four-week shutdown, or whether this year’s Tony Awards will be pushed back from its planned June 7 broadcast, both prospects seem increasingly inevitable. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today ordered a statewide shutdown of all nonessential business activity beginning on Sunday, with confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbing to 5,151 in New York City.