“I’ve always felt embraced by the Broadway community even before I felt like I earned it.” ~ Hugh Jackman
A Place For All
A year ago, I was sitting in the mezzanine section of the Minskoff Theatre watching my last Broadway Show as a New York resident. It was the Lion King and in so many ways it felt like it truly was the Circle of Life. I was paying adieu to not just a city I loved, but also a community that welcomed me with open arms. My love affair with Broadway began at an early age, belting (badly) out ballads, and pretending I was on the stage acting albite horribly! It only grew once I moved to the city and started attending shows.
I had always appreciated the incredible talent that went into a Broadway show, in particular musicals. Not only did you have to act, but sing and dance as well. All while remembering your lines and choreography and performing eight shows a week. Broadway, especially musicals, has been that genre of entertainment that has always been gravely under appreciated compared to Hollywood. Something I never truly understood, because in Hollywood you can do take, after take, after take where as with Broadway you have to get it right every single time you step on to that stage.
There is a beauty in the unknowingly, unexpectedness, of live art that is a Broadway Stage. It can crucify you as equally as it will shower you with accolades and yet, it is also that welcoming safe haven regardless of who or what you are. That blank slate of starting over every night and connecting with an audience that is never the same, but always equally unique. Of slipping into character and bringing something new despite doing eight shows a week. It is as tiring as it is invigorating. It is live theatre.
Despite having a passion for Broadway, my musical talent was and is limited to hitting play on my iPod. But as the late, great, Terrence McNally said, you don’t have to be able to sing to have a career on Broadway. He reiterated that when I met him backstage at Anastasia and at my commencement last year from NYU. I honestly never in my wildest tone deaf dreams thought that I would get the chance to work with incredible productions, marketing teams, and producers, and yet that is exactly what happened. Behind the scenes is equally as important as being on stage and in many ways offers more opportunities to be creative.
When I made the decision to move, it was with an incredibly heavy heart. It was a decision I didn’t make lightly, due in part because I knew I would miss Broadway. While shows do tour, it isn’t the same as going to a theatre on the Great White Way. From attending opening night, to seeing a show repeatedly if you so choose, to the history that give the theaters their grandeur and then there is the theatre folklore like Olive Thomas who (allegedly, but she does guys) haunts the Amsterdam Theatre, there is a magical allure that you can not find anywhere else, except maybe the West End.
The last couple weeks (months really) I was in New York, I spent soaking up as many shows as I could, saying good-bye to casts, and friends, amongst doing a lot of other “lasts.” It was incredibly bittersweet. Except, I have since realized, I didn’t know what bittersweetness was until March 12, when Broadway went dark except for the ghost lights that are continuously burning until productions and patrons return.
While I have returned to Broadway since to soak up theatre and enjoy the company of insanely talented friends, I never could have imagined that many of the shows I saw last year, would be for the last time. Shows have closed, and unfortunately, more will likely follow, without having taken their final bow because unbeknownst to them, they took it March 11. Casts, like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, took premature bows as they switch casts every year and now even the likelihood of Year Three taking the proverbial torch seems like distant happening. Then their are shows like Beetle Juice which closed long before their June end date. Then you have shows like Frozen. Poor Elsa the first, but unfortunately not the last of COVID’s show casualties.
Broadway is use to Happy Trails. To productions not working out, or prematurely closing whether to ticket sales or not jiving with theatre goers maybe even dare I say it, but bad marketing (gulp) the Broadway community is incredibly resilient, but this pandemic not only hurts, but cuts deep. Those in the arts know, it is a paycheck to paycheck business, one where only those passionate survive and persevere. They know how to do the hustle. Unfortunately with everything shut down there is no hustle to be had. Heck no one has a definitive date for when it returns, except fingers crossed MAYBE September.
It is Only Intermission
How Broadway will look when we all come back I have no idea. No one does. It certainly won’t be easy, but then Broadway and that of a Broadway career isn’t built on being easy. But the Broadway community is built on perseverance. It might be an artistic world, but it is also one of grit. A community that fights for the rights of everyone, and THAT is what makes it so amazing. THAT is what makes preserving and supporting it so important. As Scenery Bags, a sustainable company that turns old Broadway and other production backdrops into fashion said, “Though it will be a different theatre, it’s still only intermission.”
That is so true. As long as their are actors, as long as their are writers, as long as their are producers, musicians, wardrobe, techs, and so many others behind the scenes, and most importantly, YOU, the theater goers, Broadway will continue, it will live on. It will persevere. One of the last shows I saw before I moved out of New York was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Billed as a play, it really is a show and encompasses all that Broadway is as does this quote that Dumbledore speaks:
“In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”
We are hurting. We are in pain. We are suffering. But as normal as that is, so to is that fighting spirit to triumph, to grow, to be stronger and more united then ever before. Broadway will once again shine on the great White Way, Because after all, it is Only Intermission.
How has Broadway touched you?
If you want to support Broadway and are able to The Actor’s Fund as well as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are two amazing organizations working to support actors and artists during this time. Thank you for all your support.