After being postponed for nearly a year and a half, the 74th Tony Awards took place last night. Broadway is making its way back – its first show opened in August – and many of its biggest hits have been turning the lights back on.
When the hit musical “Hamilton” reopened a couple weeks ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda resumed the cast’s pre-show tradition with an informal performance right outside the theater.
“Wicked” and “The Lion King” also reopened that night, when Variety’s theater editor Gordon Cox got to see a bit of each of them.
“The energy in those rooms was electric,” he said.
Audiences even clapped and cheered at the announcement to turn off their phones.
“I think all the people who are coming to theater right now are real theater lovers,” said Cox.
The real test is whether the tourists come back, especially as the industry moves into the holidays, when it typically pulls in the most money. The industry’s return has been slow because there are lots of logistics to work out, according to Charlotte St. Martin, president of the trade group The Broadway League. For example, there aren’t enough studios for all the shows to rehearse at once.
“These people had been off for 18 months. You have to build up your muscles, your muscle memory for your shows,” St. Martin said.
More than a dozen productions are currently open, though some haven’t yet ramped up to the traditional full slate of eight shows a week. But a lot of theaters are still dark. St. Martin says by the end of the year, Broadway should have 38 shows up and running.
And businesses in the area can’t wait.
“We really rely on them,” said Tom Harris, president of The Times Square Alliance. He said hotels in the neighborhood recently hit their highest occupancy rate since the beginning of the pandemic, at more than 75%. Harris has noticed the shift since Broadway reopened.
“More of a buzz in the neighborhood, more energy, the neighborhood felt more alive,” he said.
Still, about a third of businesses in the theater district are temporarily or permanently closed. The neighborhood needs Broadway’s comeback to have one of its own.
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