UPDATE, with Broadway League & Equity responses New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that state-mandated capacity restrictions in New York City will be lifted May 19, including Broadway theaters.
While acknowledging that a Spring reopening is unlikely for Broadway due to the logistics of mounting productions, Cuomo included theaters among the NYC businesses that will see all capacity restrictions lifted on Wednesday, May 19. The list also includes restaurants, bars, retail, salons and other live performance venues.
Actors’ Equity association called the governor’s comments “unexpected” but welcome. The lifting of the state’s capacity restrictions is a first step toward Broadway’s reopening. (The shutdown began March 12, 2020, when Cuomo instituted the statewide capacity restrictions.)
Cuomo acknowledged that the various industries, including Broadway, “may make their own economic decisions” about when to reopen. Broadway, he said, has its own schedule: “They have to produce a play before they can sell the play, but from capacity point of view they can all reopen on May 19.”
The Broadway League, and well as various other industry insiders, have indicated that a September reopening of some shows is likely.
In a statement today, the League said, “We applaud the Governor’s recent announcement easing capacity limits on performance venues in New York State. We are encouraged by this good news, which is a long-awaited indication that New York is truly on the road to recovery. We look forward to reopening at full capacity and are working to safely welcome audiences and employees back to Broadway theatres this fall. As always, we continue to work closely with our elected officials and will share more information as soon as plans become finalized.”
Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity, said, “We are having regular and ongoing conversations with the Broadway League about what protocols for a safe reopening would look like, and have a clear understanding of their timetable. We welcome this unexpected announcement and look forward to a safe reopening of theatre, both on Broadway, Off Broadway and beyond, that prioritizes the safety of the workers.”
Cuomo’s announcement today goes two months better than that of his political nemesis New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said last week he expects the city to reopen in July (though the mayor specifically excluded Broadway from that prognosis, again restating the September goal.)
The governor also indicated that live venues could work around still-existing social distance requirements by demanding proof of vaccination or negative Covid test results upon entry. Broadway producers have repeatedly and frequently insisted that social distance requirements are a non-starter for the industry: the cost of staging a Broadway production demands full-capacity availability. As to whether theater owners and producers will institute a vaccine-only policy remains unclear, to say the least.
Numerous Broadway insiders have told Deadline that an announcement of a partial reopening could arrive as early as next week, with some shows expected to publicly disclose their plans for a September reopening. Deadline hears that fewer than five productions will reopen in September, with others rolling out later in the fall and winter. The $17 million Music Man revival, for example, currently is set to begin previews at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre in December, with an official opening on Feb. 10, 2022.
As for Off Broadway, the New York Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park season will return July 5, when Merry Wives, an adaptation of Merry Wives of Windsor, begins performances at the Public’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
Watch Cuomo’s announcement below. The Broadway discussion begins around the 11:50 mark.
In New York City giving a COVID update and making an announcement. Watch live: https://t.co/y2mtbDaQVJ
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) May 3, 2021