Though Broadway theaters face extended closures, many producers believe their shows will return.
The Broadway League announced Wednesday that theaters would remain closed through June 7, after initially setting a reopening date of April 13. Many industry members had expected the extension and are planning for even further closures as they await for the date that audiences can safely return to theaters.
Mara Isaacs, a lead producer of “Hadestown,” which won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Musical, says her show will “absolutely” be back, thanks to many high-grossing weeks and the production’s lean fiscal model — which has now been made leaner as the show prepares for an extended “hibernation.”
“‘Hadestown’ is fortunate in that we were an economically healthy show,” Isaacs said. “We have always operated with some kind of a worst-case scenario mindset, so I feel like we are as prepared as one can be to weather a difficult moment like this.”
Issacs said she viewed Wednesday’s announcement as an incremental step for the industry, aimed at helping ticket sellers and box offices process refunds and exchanges. Outside of that, Broadway’s return is dependent on the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“None of us knows really what a return date is,” she said.
While high-grossing shows are better equipped to handle the shutdown, the extended suspension of shows has already impacted several new productions.
Sixteen shows were set to open before April 23, but now face an uncertain return date. Two of those shows, “Hangmen” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” have already said they will not reopen and four non-profit productions — “Caroline, or Change,” “Birthday Candles,” “Flying Over Sunset” and “How I Learned to Drive” — have plans to move to next season.
Of the remaining shows, producers of “Diana,” one of the 16 shows set to open this spring, say they are “committed” to the show and are awaiting word on a Broadway reopening date so that they can make plans to bring the musical back to Broadway.
Jeffrey Richards, producer of “The Minutes” and “American Buffalo,” both limited runs set to end June 14 and July 12 respectively, said Wednesday that there were no updates yet on either show.
Among the longer running shows, “Beetlejuice,” which opened in April 2019, planned to end its run at the Winter Garden Theatre on June 6, but had to prematurely close due to the new shutdowns. The producers say they will continue to look for another theater when Broadway receives a reopening date.
Sue Frost, a lead producer on “Come From Away,” also believes her show, which has been running on Broadway for three years, is well-positioned to return. Like Isaacs and many in the industry, she is uncertain when that return will be.
“None of us has a crystal ball, but Broadway will be back when it is deemed safe for people to gather again,” Frost said.
As they await further guidance from the League, Isaacs said she and her team are also aware that the show’s return is one small part of society’s return in the face of a pandemic. Her team includes producer Tom Kirdahy, whom she notes has already been deeply impacted by the virus after the death of his husband, Terrence McNally.
“I think we all are really looking at the bigger picture,” Isaacs said. “What is happening with the pandemic itself.”