With the shutdown throwing a shadow of uncertainty over all of Broadway, the unprecedented hiatus has the potential to be particularly destabilizing for the season’s new and previewing productions — especially those that haven’t found their feet at the box office yet.
In the face of that, however, many producers vowed their shows will return, most of them as soon as the stoppage lifted. And others remained confident that their shows could make it through the financial storm.
“We are complying with the governor’s decision to prioritize the safety of our community,” said Barbara Broccoli, the producer of the new musical “Sing Street,” which had been scheduled to begin previews March 26. “We look forward to starting performances when Broadway comes back and reopens their doors.”
Other producers followed suit, with previewing shows from “The Minutes” to “Six” to “Company” to “Mrs. Doubtfire” to “Flying Over Sunset” all planning to welcome audiences back the week of April 13, assuming the shutdown ends as scheduled. Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Thursday that shutdowns may last for months at large venues across the city.
With Broadway’s notoriously tight operating budgets, the financial side of sustaining a dark production remained up in the air as of Thursday evening. A musical like “Six,” already doing well at the box office and only one part of a robust operation that has the show running in multiple productions around the world, stands ready to weather the shutdown without much drama.
Kevin McCollum, a co-producer on “Six” and lead on “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which began previews Monday, was confident both shows would survive.
“We’re suspended for four weeks, and we’ll get through it,” McCollum said.
As for whether “Six,” which was scheduled to open Thursday evening, would continue to pay employees working on the show, McCollum said the team was “in the middle of working that out with 17 union contracts.” He would not comment on whether there would be an opening night party Thursday — the production requested reviews be held until reopening — but noted “we have all the creatives in town.”
Gabriella Palitz, a co-producer on “Ain’t Too Proud” and “Beetlejuice,” praised the actions of the League in shutting down the theaters amid health concerns. Still, the move has dealt “a real blow” to the industry, she said, and may create an uncertain future for some.
“’Ain’t Too Proud’ has returned 75% of its investment so I think there’s enough in reserve. But this is going to scare off investors on future shows,” Palitz said. “And shows on tour now, we just don’t know what will happen.”
Some producers could face the prospect of raising additional money to hold a production together through the long, dark month, especially as producers await clarity about just how much insurance will cover losses from the shutdown.
Logistically, the shutdown will prove a major disruption to launching shows and to the tight choreography of spring openings. Now, producers of new titles will have to jockey for catch-up dates, even if the Tony Awards administrators push the season’s awards eligibility date back from the originally scheduled April 23.
But even without the press hurdles, the interruption of previews runs the risk of nipping a new show’s growth in the bud, especially for a show like “The Minutes,” a new play jostling for consumer attention in a crowded spring. Previews had started modestly for the production, which grossed about 45% of capacity in its first two weeks, and now the extended interruption looks poised to jeopardize the organic expansion of word-of-mouth that producers count on to bring in audiences.
Producers of “The Minutes” didn’t respond to request for comment, but the show remains on track to resume performances the week of April 13.
For now, though, many in the industry said the questions raised by the hiatus were still too fresh to have answers.
-Jeremy Gerard contributed to this report.