UPDATED with latest cancellations: The audience at tonight’s performance of Broadway’s Moulin Rouge! was seated and waiting for the music to start when the show was canceled due to a positive Covid test result within the company. The result apparently had been received just prior to curtain.
The audience was ushered out of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Producers are expected to announce an updated schedule performance Friday.
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The cancellation was just the latest — though certainly the most dramatic — in Broadway’s new wave of Covid-caused pauses this week. Jagged Little Pill, the musical of Alanis Morissette songs at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre, has canceled tonight’s performance due to the detection of a positive Covid case in the company. Performances are scheduled to resume Friday.
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Earlier today, Mrs. Doubtfire joined the roster of on-pause Broadway productions when producers announced that performances at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre from tonight through Sunday have been canceled. Described as being on “hiatus,” Mrs. Doubtfire is scheduled to resume performances Tuesday, meaning the musical will miss this upcoming, and fiscally crucial, holiday-season weekend.
That announcement came fast on the news that today’s matinee of MJ, the Michael Jackson musical, had been canceled by producers “due to the detection of a limited number of positive covid test results within the Broadway company.” Later in the day, tonight’s performance of MJ was canceled as well, with the show currently expected to resume performances Friday.
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Meanwhile, producers for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical have canceled tonight’s 7 p.m. performance of the popular musical “due to the detection of a limited number of positive covid test results” within the company, and Hamilton has extended its pause to tonight and Friday night. That show currently is on schedule for return Saturday.
The cancellation is the third this week for Tina, following Wednesday’s canceled matinee and evening performances. Tina had been expected to resume performance tonight, but now producers are targeting Friday.
The wave of cancellations — not closings — since last week is by far the largest spike of Broadway Covid cases and missed performances since the industry reopened in August following the 18-month pandemic shutdown. Among the other productions that canceled performances this week are Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Ain’t Too Proud and Freestyle Love Supreme. Last weekend, the Off Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors, starring Jeremy Jordan, canceled its Saturday and Sunday performances due to one case of Covid within the company.
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The cancellations — which often are announced within hours or, with Moulin, even minutes of scheduled performances — have not been definitively tied to the rise of the Omicron Covid variant, though that seems increasingly likely. The cancellations almost certainly reflect, at least in part, the extensive, rigorous and frequent testing procedures in place at all Broadway venues. While there is, so far, no indication that, say, Broadway actors are more likely to be infected with the virus, they certainly are subjected to more frequent testing than the general population.
Currently, Broadway requires all theater workers and audiences to be fully — i.e., doubly — vaccinated (children ages 5-11 currently are required to have received a single vaccine dose).
But one major New York arts organization, The Metropolitan Opera, announced Wednesday that employees and audiences will be required to show proof of a booster shot starting Jan. 17.
The booster requirement hasn’t been adopted on Broadway — yet — though the option certainly is being discussed. Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, the trade organization representing theater owners and producers, said in a statement provided to Deadline: “At the present time we are speaking with our unions about establishing a process to make sure that all of our eligible employees get a booster shot. All of our experts are emphasizing the importance of boosters in providing the maximum protection against the virus at this point in time. As always, our number one priority is the safety and security of our cast, crew and theatregoers.”
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According to Martin, meetings and discussions with all interested organizations and persons are occurring throughout the days, with information ever-changing.
Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity, said in a statement obtained by Deadline: “The fact that performances are being paused shows that the producers and the unions are staying vigilant. That’s what the safety protocols are there to be in place for, and this shows that they’re working. Dr. David Michaels continues to work with us, and he is in constant touch with the epidemiologist for the Broadway League. We are all continuing to monitor the science, and making the decisions that will best protect workers.”
To date, only one Broadway production — the new play Chicken & Biscuits — has ascribed its permanent early closing to the impact of previous Covid cancellations. After losing more than a week of performances in November due to positive Covid tests, producers announced on Nov. 11 that the “significant financial impact” of the cancellations would prove too much to overcome. Following a temporary suspension, the show returned to the Circle in the Square venue to play a final week before its Nov. 28 closing. The comedy, written by Douglas Lyons and directed by Zhailon Levingston, originally had been scheduled to complete its limited engagement on Jan. 2.
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Until the latest round of Broadway cancellations, the industry’s post-shutdown cancellation track record had been fairly encouraging, with just a few productions – including Off Broadway’s Merry Wives and, on Broadway, Disney’s Aladdin and Chicken & Biscuits – pausing due to Covid cases and/or positive tests.
For the productions that lost or are losing performances this week, the financial impact – especially during the traditionally lucrative holiday season – will be immediate, if not publicly known. Since Broadway reopened in August, the Broadway League has broken with its longtime tradition of releasing weekly box office grosses for each and every production, choosing instead to release only combined box office figures for all shows.
The most recent box office figure, released Tuesday for the week ending Dec. 12, indicated a reasonably healthy $31 million tally for all of Broadway’s 32 productions. Next week’s box office report will reflect this week’s various missed performances. (According to a New York Times report, the financial loss to productions that typically gross a weekly $1 million could amount to $125,000 for every missed performance.)
Given the rapidly changing performance schedules on Broadway, ticket buyers are encouraged to check the status of shows at least daily.
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