Now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given the green light for productions to open at 100% capacity, Broadway producers have options as to when to resume performances.
Each show can determine its own return date, so long as the producers and theater owners agree to follow the governmental guidelines that are in place at the time of reopening. The update comes after Cuomo announced Wednesday that theaters and other venues can now open at 100% capacity with a fully vaccinated audience.
“We aren’t controlling when shows open,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement to Broadway News. “We are coordinating the protocol discussions on behalf of our members. The Governor’s recent approval for shows to open soon is based on those shows following the state guidelines for 100% capacity.”
Per the current guidelines, St. Martin said that “any show that wants to open fully will need to require vaccinations as of right now.” However, she noted that requirements may shift over the next several months, meaning different protocols may be required for productions opening this fall.
That means that while “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and others initially staked a claim on Sept. 14 and “Hadestown” has since announced a Sept. 2 reopening, other productions could resume earlier.
Shows that have announced fall start dates are not currently selling tickets for the rows closest to the stage, per guidance from the government, several productions confirmed Thursday. However, the expectation is that this requirement will be lifted before performances resume. The theaters are otherwise able to sell at full capacity.
As show announcements roll in, each production has said it will determine health and safety protocols in coordination with the governor’s office and the show’s theater owner. With reopening dates months away, no production has yet announced final regulations.
Even with earlier start dates as a possibility, productions may still need months to build up an advance, rehearse and reassemble the cast. And safety protocols for cast and crew members have not yet been finalized between the 14 theatrical unions and the Broadway League.
“Equity is currently working with the Broadway League on protocols for the safe reopening of Broadway. Reaching agreement on safety protocols with the Broadway League is the union’s current focus,” said Brandon Lorenz, a spokesperson for Actors’ Equity.
The union does not currently have any requests from productions looking to resume earlier than Sept. 2, he said.
Cuomo made his initial announcement about the Sept. 14 on-sale ticketing date on May 5. Since then, COVID-19 case numbers in New York have improved, reaching a low of a 0.65% positivity rate across the state Thursday, as more of the population becomes vaccinated.
The decision to allow productions to open earlier than Sept. 14 was made due to the improved numbers and the industry’s willingness to follow protocols.
“Broadway is committed to following the State’s health and safety guidelines for performing arts and live entertainment as the public health conditions change. While certain productions may open sooner than anticipated given the acceleration in vaccinations and decline in new cases, Broadway remains flexible and adaptive to the applicable health protocols,” said Jonah Bruno, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health.