Broadway theaters shutting down in wake of coronavirus concerns
Broadway theaters are shutting their doors for an entire month in the wake of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new measures Thursday prohibiting gatherings with more than 500 people in the state starting Friday. For Broadway shows, those rules would go into effect beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday. “We have already spoken to the theaters about these new measures and they agreed,” he said.
The Broadway League, a trade organization that represents Broadway producers and theater owners, said performances will resume on April 13, 2020. Ticket holders for performances on or before April 12 can contact their point of purchase for refunds and exchanges.
“Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatregoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals,” Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, said in a statement. “Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart, and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.”
The shutdown comes as many sporting events, film premieres, and festivals are being delayed or postponed amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
On Wednesday, it was reported that a part-time usher and security guard who recently worked at two Broadway theaters tested positive for the virus and was under quarantine. Both theaters were deep-cleaned and shows were due to resume before the shutdown was eventually announced.
Last week, the Broadway League said it was “following the lead of our city, state and federal elected officials as we implement strategies recommended by public health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in all of our theaters and offices” while shows were performing as scheduled, and had “significantly increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in all public and backstage areas beyond the standard daily schedule.” Other measures, like restricting backstage access and reducing interactions with fans at stage doors, had also been implemented.
It’s rare for Broadway productions — a major part of New York's tourism industry and one of its biggest artistic institutions — to cancel shows. The last major closure was in 2016, when theaters went dark for a day because subways were shut down in the wake of a major New York City snowstorm. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 also forced theaters to shut down for four days, and in 2001 theaters closed for two days in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The suspension comes at a busy time in the Broadway season, which had 16 openings scheduled between Thursday (when the musical Six was due to open) and April 23 (a revival of the play Take Me Out). Currently, April 23 is the cutoff date for shows to be eligible for this year's Tony Awards, which are set to take place on June 7 in a ceremony airing on CBS. It remains to be seen how those dates will change in wake of the shutdown.