Lin-Manuel Miranda, Julie Taymor, and Kristin Chenoweth were theater royalty, welcoming back the throngs to “Wicked”, “The Lion King”, and “Hamilton” for their first time since the outbreak of the pandemic. Tuesday marked the official return of Broadway.
Chenoweth stunned the crowd at “Wicked” when she appeared onstage to deliver a speech on the very stage that made her a star many years ago. She said “There’s no home like home” and lifted a line from the musical. The crowd hailed her and gave her a standing ovation.
Taymor, who was the costume-designer and director of “The Lion King,” thanked her audience for their enthusiasm and courage. She said, “Theater is, as we all know, the lifeblood, and soul of the town.” “It’s high time we live again.” Miranda from “Hamilton,” said that he didn’t want to ever take the live theater as a given.
After the departure of then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “The Lion King,” Hamilton and Wicked all vowed Tuesday to reopen in May. Andrew Cuomo chose Sept. 14 to announce when Broadway would be able to welcome back its full audience.
These three shows were defeated by Bruce Springsteen’s June concert and the opening of “Pass Over” on August 22, and also the reopenings of “Hadestown”, and “Waitress” musicals.
Despite the uncertainty and pressure from the rise of the delta version, the return to Broadway of the three musicals, which are the spiritual anchors of modern Broadway, as well as the return to Broadway of “Chicago” as well as the reopening and reopening the iconic TKTS booth on Tuesday, is a sign that Broadway is back.
The three theaters were practically blown off their roofs by the crowds. They stood at “Wicked” and applauded the welcoming announcement, the arrival and departure Chenoweths, the opening notes of the first songs, and several moments during those songs, especially when Glinda said: “It’s nice to see you, isn’t?
The opening song, “The Circle of Life”, was almost drowned out by the cheers and clapping at “The Lion King”, while “Hamilton’s” stars had to stop to allow the applause to die down enough for them to hear again.
Linda Diane Polichetti was a usher at “Hamilton” and said that she was proud to be back at work. She said, “I’m just glad that I’m back because the world in which I was, I wasn’t recognising.” “I love my show. “I love my cast.”
All ticketholders for these mega-hits were required to show proof of having been fully vaccinated by an FDA- or WHO-approved vaccine. Masks are required to be worn whenever possible, except where food or drink is permitted.
Bright T-shirted vaccine checkers inspected cards and phones as people made their way to the theaters. Miranda exclaimed, “Thanks for being vaccinated” and received a round of applause. The new rules were well received by the crowd, with only one exception: they lowered their masks to take the obligatory selfie. Taymor made a joke in her speech about the masks worn by performers. “Guess What? “Guess what? Tonight, you get to wear masks.”
Miranda, Taymor, and Stephen Schwartz, the “Wicked” composer, stressed that Broadway has safety protocols that make it as safe as possible to allow strangers into theatres.
“We go to the theater for catharsis. Miranda said that this is what Miranda meant: to experience communion with one another, hear a dark story and have catharsis. It wasn’t always safe to do this for a while. With the protocols in place, it is safe to return now.
Broadway actors are eager to return to the stage after more than one year of waiting and trusting the health professionals to do the right thing. Broadway’s major theaters will reopen by Thanksgiving.
Sharon Wheatley, an actor who has been a part of the Broadway revival of “Come From Away,” stated that it’s “a little like being on an airplane with turbulence.” “I trust the pilot. I also have to trust air traffic controllers. Although I am nervous, I must accept that I don’t know as much about these people as I do.
“Hamilton,” opened six years ago. “Wicked,” opened 17 years ago. “The Lion King,” opened 23 years ago. These three shows are the foundation of modern Broadway. They are virtually immune to any downturns or shifts in tourism and their rivals.
The re-opening in Times Square of the famed TKTS booth, where customers can receive same-day and next-day discounts on Broadway and off Broadway tickets, is another sign that Broadway is returning to normalcy.
Victoria Bailey, the executive director of Theatre Development Fund, said that the booth is a significant step forward. It was a great way to show people that theater is returning.
Bailey claims that Broadway’s return is less like flicking a switch than a dimmer. With a gradual build up to regular attendance, it will feel more like a flicker. “We’ll learn so much in two or three weeks but you can’t swimming unless you can begin by dog-paddling.
Miranda witnessed his visionary show transformed into a Disney+-hailed film version during the pandemic. However, Miranda said that there was no substitute for experiencing it live.
It’s one thing to be able to see it on the screen. It was a joy to see ‘Hamilton” on a screen at a time when it was not possible to go to the theater. It can now be seen live before an audience. That’s the best part.