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COVID-19

“We’re in it for the long game”: After extended shutdown, Broadway producer plans for reopening

Kai Ryssdal and Andie Corban Jul 21, 2021
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The Broadhurst Theatre in January, after being closed nearly a year. "Jagged Little Pill" is expected to resume performances in the fall. Cindy Ord/Getty Images
COVID-19

“We’re in it for the long game”: After extended shutdown, Broadway producer plans for reopening

Kai Ryssdal and Andie Corban Jul 21, 2021
Heard on:
The Broadhurst Theatre in January, after being closed nearly a year. "Jagged Little Pill" is expected to resume performances in the fall. Cindy Ord/Getty Images
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Parts of New York City are emerging from the pandemic, with many workers returning to offices and all capacity restrictions lifted. But one of the city’s quintessential industries, Broadway musicals, won’t start coming back until September.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal caught up with Broadway producer Eva Price outside the Broadhurst Theatre, home to her show “Jagged Little Pill.” The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: The funny part is we’re standing outside because nobody’s allowed in. How are you guys gonna open in what, two months?

Eva Price: Well, it’s a little more than two months, Oct. 21. People can get in. We’re just not in yet. We’re going to be starting rehearsals in September. And we’re going to start checking out the equipment and costumes and the set to make sure it works.

Ryssdal: Are you exhausted?

Price: I’m an athlete out of shape.

Ryssdal: Ah, that’s a really good analogy.

Price: Yeah, I mean, working 10, 12 hours a day morning, noon and night was, like, part of the day’s work. And to go cold and only Zoom to all of a sudden be running around, it’s — yeah — it’s taken a toll.

Price with the Tony award for Best Revival of a Musical, won for Oklahoma!, in June 2019.
Eva Price with the Tony Award for best revival of a musical for “Oklahoma!” in 2019. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Ryssdal: So what are you doing during the day? Are you, like, rounding up people and make sure contracts are done and all that stuff?

Price: Totally. All of that, you know, getting ready for opening, getting ready for the Tony Awards —

Ryssdal: For which this has, like, a dozen and change nominations.

Price: Um, 15, Kai. Let’s be exact when we can. You are a journalist, after all.

Ryssdal: Facts matter. Fair enough. Ouch. What’s it gonna be like, do you think? Are you calling it opening night? What are you calling it? Reopening night? There’s got to be some Broadway-branded thing, right?

Price: I don’t know. I mean, we’re calling it reopening, I guess.

Ryssdal: How much time are you spending on protocols and health and all of that stuff? And I ask because over there at the St. James, Bruce Springsteen, he’s back, fully vaccinated, right? That’s the deal, you got to be fully vaccinated to go to that show.

Alanis Morrisette and the cast of Jagged Little Pill during the curtain call on the show's opening night in December 2019. The show ran for three months before the pandemic caused Broadway to shut its doors.
Singer Alanis Morrisette and the cast of “Jagged Little Pill” on opening night in December 2019. The show ran for about three months before the pandemic shut down Broadway. (Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images)

Price: That is the deal. We are spending a lot of time on all of that. We are working with epidemiologists and the unions and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the state to make sure that we follow every protocol and that we adapt because, like you said, it’s July. The show happens in October. What can change? Well, you know, “much” is the answer, based on what we’ve learned.

Ryssdal: We talked maybe two times ago, or maybe last time, about all the people who depended on this industry for a living who had to do something else for a year and a half, right? Stagehands and catering people and all of that, and some portion of them have left to go do something else. And we talked about how, you know, you hope they’ll come back, blah, blah, blah. Here’s my question, and it’s a little personal, but whatever: How come you stuck with it?

Price: I don’t know if I know how to do anything else now. I think it would have taken something other than a pandemic to push me out. And it’s because it’s hard to do. It’s really, really hard to be a Broadway producer and to work in the live theatre industry. And if I thought there was something else that I’d enjoy doing, I think I would have left pre-pandemic, never mind from it. My heart is here.

Ryssdal: We should say here, this is not the only thing you’ve got going on. There are tours and, I mean, you’ve got things in Australia and other shows. I mean, you’re trying to stand up a whole, you know, enterprise.

Price: Yeah, yeah. It’s tough because it’s different everywhere you go right now. Australia’s currently in lockdown. And you know, similarly, with this country, I’ve got three tours launching this fall, and every state is suffering or progressing in different ways right now. That’s actually scarier than Broadway.

Ryssdal: I don’t want to end on a downer, so I’ll make this the second-to-last question. What happens if the reopening doesn’t work? If the crowds don’t come back?

Price: They’re gonna come back, Kai. They’re gonna come back. They might come back thinner. They might take longer to come back. But we’re in it for the long game. I wasn’t in it to see what I could pull off by 45. I got into it to see what I could pull off for the next 30 years. And it’s a great question. It’s a real question. What if they don’t come back? But I don’t think there’s gonna be a time where Broadway isn’t booming again. I don’t think there’s going to be a time where humanity isn’t going to want to sit in a theater together again. It’s just, when is that time? Is it September? Is it later? Only time will tell.

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