Musicals Return to Broadway with "Waitress" and "Hadestown"

Sara Bareilles walked on stage at the Ethel Barrymore Theater minutes after 7 p.m. Thursday, a white apron over her blue uniform, as a ...


Sara Bareilles walked on stage at the Ethel Barrymore Theater minutes after 7 p.m. Thursday, a white apron over her blue uniform, as a loop recording of her voice began to sing the ingredients for the pie. “Sugar. Sugar. Sugar, butter. Sugar, butter. Sugar, butter, flour. And then, with a single note of a keyboard, a high piano chord and a whoosh of a cymbal, she launched into a song about baking.

An hour later and a block north, André De Boucliers slowly walked across the Walter Kerr Theater stage in a silver suit with iridescent silver boots, and, after a long stopping pause, asked the cast, then the audience, then the trombonist, a short question: “Aight? The actors nodded; the audience cheered, and trombonist, Brian Drye, began to vamp.

And just like that, Broadway musicals are back on Broadway.

Well, to be more precise, two musicals are back on Broadway: “Waitress”, about a gifted baker in an abusive marriage, and “Hadestown”, a contemporary retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Even on that first night, there was a reminder of the challenges involved: an actress in “Waitress,” who had been fully vaccinated, tested positive for coronavirus and was unable to act. The rest of the cast were tested, the actress who tested positive was replaced with an understudy, and the show continued.

The return of musical theater – the financial backbone of Broadway – marks another milestone as the theater industry and the theater community seek to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced Broadway’s 41 theaters closing on March 12, 2020. On September 14, four of the industry’s tent shows – “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and “Chicago” – will reopen, with many more musicals planning to start or restart performances throughout. long fall.

The audience was extremely enthusiastic after months of absence. The two reopening musicals sold out on Thursday. At “Waitress,” there was even a standing ovation for a taped announcement before the show reminding people to keep their masks on.

“We want everything to come back,” said Valerie Tuarez, 21, who said she fell in love with “Waitress” through the casting recording and is now seeing him for the first time.

Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for the New York Times

At “Hadestown,” 18-year-old Joey Casali wore the show’s signature flower – a red buttercup – behind his right ear. He said he had seen the show five times before the pandemic and was ready for his long-delayed sixth visit. But he was also aware of the bigger picture.

“It means Broadway is coming back,” he said. “All eyes are on New York tonight.”

Among those celebrating the reopening of the “Waitress” was Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, who had worked to get help to help live entertainment businesses and cultural organizations recover from the crisis. the pandemic. He told the cast before the show that the theater industry was not only popular, but essential.

“Without Broadway,” he said, “New York would never come back economically. “

The longest shutdown in Broadway history began to come to an end in late June, when Bruce Springsteen began a return engagement from his concert, “Springsteen on Broadway,” which sold heavily and is slated to end on Saturday; the first play, that of Antoinette Chinonye NwanduGo overThe performances began in August, opening up to good reviews, but struggling at the box office.

The shows start at a difficult time, with the Delta variant extending the perils of the pandemic. All Broadway shows are requiring that ticket holders present proof of vaccination to enter (children too young to be vaccinated may provide proof of a negative coronavirus test) and wear masks throughout performances.

The unexpected return of “Waitress,” which concluded a nearly four-year Broadway tour in January 2020, and the revival of “Hadestown,” which opened in 2019 and grossed over $ 1 million a week when the pandemic erupted, provide an early test for more complex Broadway productions, with large (ish) castings, moving sets, and running times long enough to require intermissions in which crowds tend to collapse. train while waiting for toilets and concessions.

The resumption of musicals also means the return to work of musicians, many of whom have been unemployed for 18 months.

“It has been extraordinarily difficult, economically, artistically, personally and professionally,” said Adam Krauthamer, president of American Federation of Musicians Local 802, which represents the musicians of Broadway. “It’s going to be growing pains, and we’ve got to do it a different way, but we can go back to what we’re supposed to do – live performances, on Broadway – and it couldn’t be more exciting. . “

The first two shows have small groups – “Waitress,” with a pop score written by Bareilles, has six musicians, five of whom sit on stage throughout the show, while “Hadestown,” with a folk / jazz score written by Anaïs Mitchell, has seven, all of whom are on stage. At “Hadestown”, the group (with the exception of the trombonist, who is the only wind player) wore masks (in the colors chosen by the clients of this show); to “Waitress” they did not, choosing to conform to the practice of actors on stage.

For the group “Waitress”, which had bid farewell to the show two months before closing, the return is an unexpected treat. “We could never have imagined doing it all over again, and we are so happy to be back,” said music supervisor and show pianist Nadia DiGiallonardo. “It’s surreal.”

At “Hadestown” there is a similar joy, with reassuring familiarity. “It’s kind of like slipping into an old pair of shoes – feels good, and not as strange as I thought,” said Drye, the trombonist.

But there is also apprehension, given that the public health situation remains unpredictable. “We’re all holding our breath a little longer,” said “Hadestown” music director Liam Robinson. “Working is really good, and we are ready. But there are still so many questions on the future. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Musicals Return to Broadway with "Waitress" and "Hadestown"
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