CHAPTER 12 (Surprises: the Pandemic)
Weather has never been a problem on Broadway. 41 theatres have procedures for hurricanes and blizzards, usually what’s called a “Past-dated” policy. If there’s a valid reason for not being able to attend your performance, the public may call the box office directly on the day when they can return to see the show. No guarantee of exact seating (usually “best available” in the originally-priced section of the theatre), but if there’s a seat available, you’ll be admitted without additional cost.
During the Covid-era, refunds were given, a few months at a time, but not always. With some brokers (like Today-Tix), vouchers for any future show, were promised.
As of today, they are selling tickets for Hugh Jackman in The Music Man at the Winter Garden Theatre in March 2021. This is risky for the theatre and the audience. What if the show is postponed again? More importantly, will Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster be willing to perform 8 shows a week even if a proven vaccine has not yet reached the general market. What about all of the backstage folk?
It is presumed that many new Broadway shows will use small casts and even smaller crews backstage. That is yet to be seen since almost no shows have set a return date, and no Broadway union has agreed to health guidelines of any kind.
Yet, the Broadway League and the Unions are doing a lot of research and talking…about Black Lives Matter, about employees and their health, about ventilation especially in many older theatres, about working conditions, and about the data telling us that audiences are not yet ready to return shoulder-to-shoulder to a 1000+ seat theatre with masks and hand sanitizers and feel comfortable watching an expensive entertainment.
Meanwhile, Broadway is set to lose $1.5 billion dollars of business this year, and the multi-billion dollar restaurant and hotel industry that serve its audience have been closed, struggling or in some cases, giving up their very expensive leases…permanently.
And everyone is still waiting for Congress to offer some aid, seven months after the industry shut down. But no one believes that Broadway is dead. No one. How it returns is still very much up in the air.
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