For just over 30 minutes on Sunday, Broadway was open for business. Veteran performers and Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Savion Glover took the stage at the St. James Theater, bringing the lights up on the Great White Way for the first time after a closure that has lasted 387 days since the COVID pandemic shuttered all 41 performance spaces last March.
No tickets were sold for the event, which allowed 150 attendees in the venue which usually holds 1,700. Invited guests were “primarily front line workers affiliated with The Actors Fund and broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS,” which saw the space set up to follow all state health and safety protocols, according to a press release issued Sunday by NY Pops Up, which staged the event.
“Yesterday, NY PopsUp, the statewide initiative designed to celebrate and reinvitorate the arts in new York, presented the very first performance inside a Broadway theater since New York’s venues were shuttered by the pandemic more than a year ago,” it reads, in part. “This special event was part of the “pilot program” created by The Festival as a large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely after this prolonged COVID-related shutdown.”
— NY PopsUp (@NYPopsUp) April 5, 2021
Lane, who has been a Broadway mainstay since 1982 and won three Tony Awards, performed a monologue from Paul Rudnick titled Playbills, “about a man who has spent the last year cooped up in his studio apartment, laid off from his job and desperately missing his greatest passion: going to the theater. Yearning to be part of an audience again, to experience an event, he shares a true, near-miraculous story, which has given him hope for the city, the world, the TKTS booth and – at long last – a seat on the aisle. ” Glover, who made his Broadway debut at age 11 in 1985 and won a Tony Award for Best Coreography in 1996, “performed a special tap piece that channeled his personal experience of a life in the theater, allowing the audience to reflect on what Broadway was, what Broadway is, and what Broadway will be again, and reminding us of the sacred space that is the stage. ”
NY PopsUp launched in February and will run through Labor Day, with plans for hundreds of pop-up performances in coming months. Broadway is looking at a return in the fall of 2021, with mayor Bill de Blasio announcing a plan to work with Broadway and off-Broadway venues to reopen performance spaces to the public this year. All of Broadway is formally closed until at least May 30, but September is the more realistic target date for a return to the stage for larger-scale productions.