People walk past the Richard Rodgers Theatre after cancellations of the Hamilton broadway shows due to breakthrough COVID-19 cases during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 16, 2021.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Visitors to New York City on Friday can check out the famous outdoor Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, but they won’t be able to walk down the block and see Radio City Musical Hall’s “Christmas Spectacular.”
The stars of that show, the Rockettes, have been sidelined by an outbreak of Covid-19.
It’s been a hard week for live performances. Show after show on Broadway has been canceled as variants of the coronavirus fuel a new surge in Covid cases in the city.
With just a week before Christmas Eve, all four performances of Radio City’s Christmas show were canceled. Elsewhere, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” nixed its Thursday night performance with audience members in their seats after a company member tested positive.
Productions have been starting and stopping since the theater industry reopened in the Big Apple in September. “Aladdin,” “Chicken & Biscuits,” “Chicago” and “Wicked” as well as “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” have been forced to cancel performances or shut down because of breakthrough cases.
These incidents have been more frequent in recent weeks, however, as the Covid omicron variant has led to an increase in cases, even among those who are fully vaccinated.
On Wednesday, “Tina,” a jukebox musical about legendary singer Tina Turner, canceled both of its performances, the Harry Potter show called off its matinee and “Hamilton” scratched its evening performance.
A sign indicating canceled performances of “Mrs. Doubtfire” due to Covid is displayed in the window of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on December 16, 2021 in New York City.
Dia Dipasupil | Getty Images
“Mrs. Doubtfire,” a new musical adaptation of the popular comedy film, had previously canceled four performances between Sunday and Wednesday. Additionally, “Freestyle Love Supreme” canceled three shows, “Ain’t Too Proud’ scrapped one and the off-Broadway “Little Shop of Horrors” revival abandoned four.
Broadway has taken precautions to ensure that workers and audience members are vaccinated and patrons are required to wear masks during performances. In many cases, company members and workers who have tested positive have been asymptomatic or have shown only mild symptoms. But they are not allowed to return until they are considered no longer contagious.
In some instances, productions have been able to continue even if a cast member tests positive for Covid-19, with understudies or swing players taking their place.
While audiences have largely been understanding of these cancellations, the disruptions are costly to productions, especially those that are just getting underway. While shows with major followings are anchors in the Broadway community and will be able to rebound, the newer productions face steeper challenges.
“Chicken & Biscuits,” for example, a comedy about a family that reunited for a funeral, closed permanently at the end of November.
While ticket holders in the New York metro area may choose to rebook tickets, tourists who often come expressly to see Broadway shows are less fortunate.
In a typical year, tourists account for 65% of Broadway ticket sales. They also spend additional money on transportation, food and hotels. Frequent cancellations, especially during the peak holiday season, could deter these travelers from scooping up tickets for fear that the performance will get called off before curtain time.