Broadway Week launches today, but this has not been Broadway’s week. Two more Broadway shows joined “Mrs. Doubtfire” in announcing a hiatus. “To Kill A Mockingbird” ended its run Sunday at the Shubert Theater with plans to reopen at the Belasco on June 1. “Girl from the North Country” ends next Sunday. It hasn’t announced a reopening date – only a vague “in the Spring.”
The theater unions eye the unprecedented action with suspicion. (“CNBC: A new labor battle opens on Broadway.”) although theatergoers seem generally to approve, judging from this small sample:
Given the other shows shutting down for good (“Ain’t Too Proud,” “Clyde’s” and “Flying Over Sunset” on January 16; ‘Slave Play” on January 23), by next Sunday, only 19 of the 41 Broadway theaters will be open for business.
“ Live theater has taken a serious hit,” Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, tells Variety. “It’s not just Broadway. It’s our live concerts, it’s our small theaters.”
January is traditionally a slow month for theater, but during the week that ended January 9, just 62 percent of seats on Broadway were occupied, the lowest attendance since a musician’s strike in 2003. The headline in the New York Times article sums it up: Now Is the Winter of Broadway’s Discontent.
But there are reasons to take heart:
Ariana DeBose as host of Saturday Night Live
“It is great to be here representing not only the Latino community as an Afro-Latina, but also the Broadway community,” Ariana DeBose said in her opening monologue at Saturday Night Live this weekend, to raucous applause. “Obviously Broadway has been through a tough couple of years. But we are a community that perseveres. I believe Broadway changes lives. I mean, hey, it changed mine. And Broadway has this magical ability to bring people together.” Then she launched into a medley of “West Side Story” with Kate Mckinnon (see video below)
Clyde’s, MJ the Musical, and Intimate Apparel!
A Strange Loop and The Kite Runner
“A Strange Loop,” the Pulitzer Prize winning musical now has a full cast, an opening date — April 26 — and a badass new logo. It is now the 55th show in the Broadway 2021-2022 season. (Read my review when it was Off-Broadway and my interview with Michael R. Jackson.)
“The Kite Runner,” a new play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s novel, will play a limited run at Broadway’s Hayes Theater, July 6 to October 30, opening July 21. The story focuses on an Afghani man’s journey to confront his past and find redemption.
And, whatever you call it, theater continues to thrive on the Internet.
The Week in Theater Reviews
Trudy, a crazy bag lady who is one of the 11 characters that Cecily Strong portrays in this one-woman play originally performed by Lily Tomlin, tells us she brought her “space chums” — aliens from outer space — to the theater to see a show. They got goose bumps – not from the show; from watching the audience. “Yeah, to see a group of strangers sitting together in the dark, laughing and crying about the same things just knocked them out.”
Earthlings surely understand the feeling these days….
The night I saw “Witness,” a rabbi and several members of his congregation were being held hostage in a synagogue near Fort Worth, Texas. The live scene of the police gathered on the street outside the synagogue was inserted into “Witness” – proof that this work of theater was live…and relevant.
“Witness” is billed as a “virtual documentary theater piece” about Jewish immigration in the face of antisemitism. But the bulk of it is both more particular and more peculiar than that…[It is set in] the MS St. Louis, which in 1939 set sail with some 900 Jewish refugees from Hamburg, Germany, but was denied entry first by Cuba, then the United States, and Canada.
a night’s dalliance between a young German soldier and a French teenager in an abandoned house in Chartres, France in August, 1944…N95 or KN95 masks are required to attend “This Beautiful Future”…But I found myself in need of greater protection, because the playwright’s glibness felt like an assault.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group of performers, including Jeffrey Wright, and public officials, including New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and New York Attorney General Letitia James, gave a dramatic online reading of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, delivered two months before his assassination. It was accompanied by music composed and conducted by Dr. Philip Woodmore, and was followed up (as are all Theater of War productions) with a discussion among first a panelists of community members and then anybody who wished to discuss the meaning and impact of King’s words.
The Week in Theater News
To nobody’s surprise, the Broadway League extended the mask and vaccination policy for Broadway theatergoers through April 30. Children between the ages of five and 11 will be required to show full proof of vaccination to attend theater starting Jan. 29. Some theaters are requiring proof of booster shots to those who are eligible for them.
Fighting Omicron, Broadway has slowest week.. (Forbes)
“Overall grosses were down 30% from the holiday week prior, to an icy $18.25 million. But the real cause for alarm was the attendance: only 62% of all available seats were filled. That’s the lowest since the pandemic started, yes, but it’s also the lowest for any single week in the last decade, including ones that cancelled shows for blizzards and hurricanes.” (It’s actually the lowest in nearly two decades.)
Kevin R. Free, who is one of the busiest theater artists I know– actor, playwright, director, producer, mentor, teacher, audiobook narrator – has taken on two new jobs…. both of them artistic director.
In November, Frigid New York announced they were appointing Free as resident artistic director. Then this week, Mile Square Theater announced that, after a nation-wide search, they had chosen Free as its new artistic director, taking over from Chris O’Connor, who founded the much-lauded Hoboken-based company 19 years ago. I talked to him on the telephone while he was taking a dinner break from a directing gig in California, walking the aisles of a Whole Foods…
….Why are you taking this on, and shedding other things to do it?
Well, about 10 years ago, I started saying out loud that I wanted to be an artistic leader. That’s when I started directing. I knew I wanted to run a theater someday. I applied for jobs I didn’t get, I guess because I wasn’t a known quantity in terms of artistic leadership…. I am really excited at trying my hand at a new model of leadership and implementing some of my plans – making the players a little bit more diverse, doing more world premiere plays there….
Rest in Peace
Terry Teachout, 65, jazz musician, biographer, blogger, podcaster, Tweeter, essayist and above all theater critic for almost two decades at the Wall Street Journal. Unafraid of new platforms and technology, steeped in history and the arts, he was a truly eclectic surveyor and purveyor of culture.
The Week’s Theater Video