Last week, the Public Theater canceled three performances of its production of “Merry Wives” in Central Park after learning a production member had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The production returned over the weekend, but the message seems clear: Covid is not over. Indeed there are some 800 new virus cases in New York City every day now, more than triple the daily average of a month ago. And while hospitalization rates remain relatively low, and there are almost five million New Yorkers who have been vaccinated, some two million New York City residents remain unvaccinated.
The rise in infections, most from the Delta variant, injects a note of uncertainty to the timeline of reopening for theater…everywhere. “My personal concern is that fear of the new variant will deter people from attending,” L.A. actor and producer Luke Walker said in an article in the L.A. Times (The rise of the Delta variant threatens to derail theaters’ best-laid plans) But Broadway in particular is more dependent than other commercial theater districts because so many of its customers are tourists, and the Biden administration has announced it will keep entry restrictions for Europeans and others.
Week in Theater News: Actors Equity opens up, Emilio Sosa becomes main Wing man, Bette Midler and Marge Simpson in the spotlight.
Week in Theater Video: Diana, Cinderella, New Victory Dance 2021.
The Week in Reviews
How can you go wrong with Jason Alexander as a sleazy lawyer, Patti LuPone as an avenging angel, and Santino Fontana as a conscience-stricken priest? The stellar cast of “Judgment Day” goes a long way towards absolving first-time playwright and long-time TV writer Rob Ulin for the sins of this glib comedy about redemption, which Barrington Stage Company is bringing back to stream for a week on Stellar, a year after its debut last summer. It also helps that it’s frequently funny.
Signature’s choice to offer this digital “preview” of Anna Deavere’s play about the Los Angeles riots not only whets one’s appetite for the fuller in-person production in the Fall; it suggests one way companies can continue to use digital theater past the pandemic.
Marylouise Burke is one of the secret weapons of this collection of five original short plays. The familiar 80-year-old character actress appears in four of them, albeit just a brief cameo in the one that features a podcast interview with Miss Cora Rona, the coronavirus.
The Week in Theater News
New York State has launched a new $100 million tax credit to encourage and support the reopening of Broadway (Deadline)
Actrs Equity has announced a new “Open Access” membership policy, allowing any theatre worker who can demonstrate they have worked professionally as an actor or stage manager within Equity’s geographical jurisdiction to join the union. Employers are no longer the gatekeepers
According to the annual American Time Use Survey, as reported in the New York Times, every age group spent more time watching TV, movies and video in 2020 than they did in 2019. The greatest increase was in ages 45-64, which added 25 minutes to reach close to an average of three hours a day. But it’s the over 65 cohort that watch the most, an average of more than four hours a day
Emilio Sosa, a prolific Broadway costume designer (Topdog/Underdog, On Your Feet, Motown: The Musical, Porgy and Bess and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill) has been elected chair f the American Theatre Wing succeeding David Henry Hwang and Ted Chapin. “I look forward to continue building the Wing’s ongoing, long-term equity work, expanding and deepening our education work, building bridges between all parts of the theatre ecology, and cultivating conversation and action across every region of the country to ensure all voices and occupations in our industry are heard.”
Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, performer Bette Midler and opera singer Justino Díaz will be celebrated at the 44th Kennedy Center Honors when the gala event returns to the Opera House December 5, 2021.
“Come from Away” will commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by giving a free concert of the musical at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The musical takes place ins Newfoundland, Canada, and focuses on the townspeople of Gander taking care of the planeloads of passengers who were rerouted to the local airport on that day
Season 33 of “The Simpsons” will launch on September 26 with an episode called “The Star of the Backstage” which series executive producer Matt Selman calls the “most musical episode we’ve ever done…like a Broadway musical of an episode with wall to wall music” — with original songs sung by Kristen Bell providing Marge’s singing voice
“Flying Over Sunset,” the new James Lapine/Tom Kitt musical about celebrities consuming LSD, has pushed its opening a week later, to December 13, making it the last Broadway show scheduled to open in 2021
James Lapine will be in digital conversation with Stephen Sondheim moderated by Christine Baranski, talking about Lapine’s book about the making of the musical “Sunday in the Park with George” at Town Hall on August 3.
(My review of the book, “Putting It Together,” which I found eccentric, valuable and entertaining.)
Play-PerView will present a reunion reading of SoHo Rep’s 2013 production of David Adjmi’s (3C) “Marie Antoniette” Marin Ireland and directed by Rebecca Taichman (Indecent). (My review of Adjmi’s memoir, “Lot Six.”)
After delaying the opening of his new musical “Cinderella” in the UK until August 25 because of Covid-19 restrictions, Andrew Lloyd Webber admonished British theater to be more like….Broadway:
“What I can’t get to grips with is that this Government does not seem to understand that theatre is the lifeblood of our cities. Every other country seems to have done so, America has grasped this. It’s not just about our actors, it’s about all the people who depend on us, it’s the taxi drivers, the restaurants, the dry cleaners. It’s an endless list and they don’t seem to understand that theatre is a huge revenue earner.”
Despite Strides in Accessibility, I Often Feel Othered at Broadway Shows by Christina Trivigno (TDF Stages)
“Sometimes the challenges wheelchair users face aren’t about spaces but about the attitudes of the people managing them. In my decades of theatregoing, I’ve encountered box office personnel who refused to sell me tickets or spoke to my companions instead of me. Ushers who pointed me to my wheelchair location as if landing a plane. A general disconnect between those who wrote the ADA ticketing guidelines and those who implement them.
“…Several barriers to access on Broadway have been tackled in my lifetime—on-demand captions in GalaPro; the existence of a centralized website for accessible theatre information, which I helped create; better training for staff. Recently, I was happy to read about the upcoming accessibility improvements at Jujamcyn Theaters, even though they were prompted by a lawsuit. Yet I continue to dream about advancements in inclusion that too few even consider.”
Rest in Peace
Jackie Mason, 93, a rabbi turned comedian at Catskills nightclubs, West Coast talk shows and 10 times on Broadway. Standard JM jokes: “I have enough money to last me the rest of my life unless I buy something.” “Politics doesn’t make strange bedfellows. Marriage does.”
The Week in Theater Videos
Watch The World Fell in Love, from “Diana” on YouTube
Watch New Victory Dance 2021 on YouTube