The first Broadway play to return got its first curtain opening this week, as Pass Over opened in front of a crowd of 1,055 at the August Wilson Theater on Wednesday. Crowds had to show proof of full vaccination to be allowed in, and wear masks in accordance with rules that were recently made universal to Broadway reopening through at least October.
“It’s thrilling, and a little unsettling,” said Anne Grossman and Jennifer Rockwood of the experience, chronicled by the New York Times. “I wanted to be part of the restart of live theater.”
While Springsteen on Broadway at the nearby St. James has been open for over a month, Pass Over, a play by Antoinette Chinoye Nwandu, is the first theatre performance (and the first with more than one performer of any type on Broadway if you discount a brief appearance by Springsteen’s wife Patti Scialfa in his mostly one-man show) since March of 2020.
Other Broadway shows are in the process of preparing for their returns, despite additional worries mounting over the return of crowds as the ‘delta’ variant rages. Hadestown and Waitress are scheduled to begin performances in early September, with Hamilton, The Lion King and Wicked among five slated to return on September 14.
“I am a little nervous about being in a theater setting, because I haven’t been in that type of setting since the pandemic began, but a lot of precautions were taken, and that gives some comfort level,” LaTasha Owens told the Times. “But this is timely, and of interest, so I’m looking forward to being back.”
Pass Over’s opening was also a celebration of the diversity in the new shows opening on Broadway – it is one of seven plays by Black writers slated to be staged on Broadway this season. Following Wednesday’s performance, its opening was celebrated with a block party on West 52nd Street in front of the marquee of the August Wilson. “Thank you all so much for being vaccinated, and thank you for celebrating Black joy,” Nwandu told the crowd from a balcony above as the celebration went on.