UPDATED! After Storm, Broadway Awakens; On Nov. 1, All of Broadway Will Be Back to Normal Schedule
By Kenneth Jones
Hurricane Sandy, downgraded to a tropical storm when it made landfall the evening of Monday, Oct. 29, has left a lasting mark on New York City this week. A blackout south of 38th Street in Manhattan started Monday night, coinciding with Lower Manhattan flooding that lapped at the East and West Village and soaked subway tunnels downtown. By Tuesday evening, the announcement came that most of Broadway would be back in business on Oct. 31; on Wednesday, The Broadway League said Broadway would be fully operational on Nov. 1.
"As of tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 1, all Broadway shows are back up and running and all regular schedules have been resumed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy," according to a League statement. Charlotte St. Martin,executive director of The Broadway League, stated, "The show must go on, and Broadway shows are doing just that. As of tomorrow, all Broadway shows are playing as scheduled. We are aware that some of our fans are still unable to get to the theatre, and our thoughts are with them. For cooped-up New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors who are staying in hotels and can't get home, now is a great time to see a show!"
Off-Broadway is still struggling as of Oct. 31. The catastrophe, which has left 25 dead in New York City, and more in neighboring states, has essentially shut down Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theatres below 38th Street this week due to the blackout. At 12:45 PM Wednesday, Oct. 31, officials announced that a partial restoration of the subway system — 14 of 22 lines, but none below 42nd Street — would happen on the morning of Nov. 1.
For more information about mass transit service, visit mta.info.
At 6 PM Oct. 30, The Broadway League announced that most Broadway productions would indeed go on (matinee and evening) on Wednesday, Oct. 31, though Disney announced that its shows Mary Poppins and The Lion King would not be back on Oct. 31.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Broadway actor Patrick Page, now in Cyrano de Bergerac at the American Airlines Theatre, posted on Facebook, "Curtain going up on the matinee of Cyrano. So proud of my cast. Some of them walked three hours to get here today. Others came in despite homes and families without power, heat or hot water. We are Broadway."
Joel Hatch, of Broadway's Annie, at the Palace Theatre, posted on Facebook, "Everyone in the Annie cast made it in to do our matinee. Several cast members walked in from Queens. Many adventures reported but…The show must go on!"
(Off-Broadway shows north of 42nd Street, like Disgraced at Lincoln Center Theater's Claire Tow Theater, and Roundabout's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, at the Laura Pels, are also back on Wednesday. Consult websites of your favorite shows or producing organizations to check performance status.)
As of 5 PM Wednesday, Oct. 31, downtown Manahattan was still struggling with a power outage. It is not known when power will be restored. Subways were not yet operational citywide on Wednesday morning, posing an obstacle for morning commuters. Thousands walked across bridges into the city. Buses are running, but they were packed. Leaving the island was also no picnic: Shoe leather was sometimes faster than wheels.
As reported earlier, Broadway producers and theatre owners decided by late Monday afternoon to cancel Tuesday night performances. Many Off-Broadway producers and organizations followed suit, though there were some Off-Broadway shows lighted on Tuesday (Perfect Crime, for example, was on for Tuesday night at midtown's Snapple Theater Center).
Some bus service resumed in New York City at 5 PM Tuesday, on a Sunday schedule, but the continuing shutdown of subways due to flooding poses a challenge to theatregoers. Most tunnels between Manhattan and outer boroughs and New Jersey remain closed on Wednesday, though bridges are open.
At 4 PM Tuesday, Lincoln Center Theater reported that its Wednesday matinee and evening performances on its campus at 66th and Broadway would be presented.
On Sunday afternoon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the mass transit shutdown, which began 7 PM Sunday with subways. As a result of the mayor's edict, on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28, Broadway producers cancelled Sunday night and Monday night shows.
Many prominent Off-Broadway theatres produce south of 42nd Street, where some coastal flooding and blackouts hobbled neighborhoods Monday night. (Part of the downtown blackout was a planned shutdown, part of it was due to a transformer explosion on 14th Street.) The downtown blackout continued Wednesday, with residents hunkering down or frantically seeking car service to get uptown — or off the island of Manhattan — to stay with friends, relatives or in hotels.
Vineyard Theatre on 15th Street, MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Greenwich Village, The Public Theater on Lafayette, Atlantic Theater Company on West 20th Street, the Flea Theater on White Street, Irish Rep on West 22nd Street, and Barrow Street Theatre, Cherry Lane Theatre and Minetta Lane Theatre in the West Village — among many others, including smaller Off-Off-Broadway spaces — operate downtown. As power is restored downtown and physical plants are checked in the coming hours and days, those theatres are expected to confirm resumption of performances, pending power. Check point of purchase or websites of theatres for exact information about Off-Broadway performances.
High winds and dangerous conditions were still a part of New Yorkers' experience on Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 30, a quarter-million people in Manhattan, most south of 42nd Street, were without power, according to Consolidated Edison. Most Broadway theatres are located between 42nd and 54th Streets.
When subways are shut down, theatregoers and the people who put on shows have limited ways to get to their Broadway and Off-Broadway destinations during the storm.
The area expected 3-6 inches of rain (and got about an inch) and wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour (and got just that on Monday). A powerful seawater storm surge was the most destructive force of the weather emergency. Flooded subway tunnels are in the process of being assessed and pumped out. At least seven subway lines in the city are impacted. Electricity transformers are in the process of being repaired by Con Ed, but there may be several days of blackout or subway loss, officials said on Tuesday.
As was the case Monday, rehearsals, benefits, readings and other theatre events on Tuesday are also negatively impacted. Cancellations of events in states neighboring New York were also expected Oct. 30. The Tuesday cancellations represent an economic blow to Broadway; Monday is the theatre's traditional dark night, when only a handful of Broadway shows play.
On Sunday afternoon, The Broadway League, the trade organization of Broadway theatres and producers announced, "As a result of the suspension of public transportation by government authorities in preparation for the incoming storm, all Broadway performances in NYC on Sunday evening, Oct. 28 and Monday evening, Oct. 29 are canceled. All Sunday matinees are playing as scheduled." At 5:15 PM Monday, the League announced that Tuesday — when most of Broadway is alive and glowing — will be dark. Again, visit thebroadwayleague.com for updates.
At a noontime Sunday press conference, Mayor Bloomberg urged residents to stay indoors on Monday, when the worst of the weather will hit. Here's a link to the city's official updates. On Sunday, the city also ordered mandatory evacuations for residents and businesses in low-lying coastal areas in New York City, including slices of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. This generally does not affect theatres, though some theatre personnel live in these areas.
Among the 375,000 people ordered out of those flood zones are Tony Award-nominated actor Stephen Kunken, his wife director Jenn Thompson and their daughter Naomi, who live in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The family told Playbill.com that they removed all lightweight objects from their patio and bought sandbags for placement around their doors and windows. Their apartment is on the ground floor, within a mile of the waterfront. The Kunken-Thompson family retreated with their pets deeper into Brooklyn to stay with actor friends Mark Lotito (Jersey Boys) and Valerie Wright (Elf) and their kids. The Kunken-Thompsons later learned that their home suffered serious flood damage.
If you held Broadway or Off-Broadway theatre tickets for cancelled performances, check with point of purchase for refunds or exchanges.
In general, producers offer ticket exchanges for future performances, based on availability. Refunds are also usually offered.
This weather event is an echo of Hurricane Irene in 2011, but forecasters indicated early that Sandy would have a much bigger bite. Irene blew into upstate New York and New England, causing serious flooding north of New York City — and damage to at least one theatre, Vermont's Weston Playhouse, which was able to rebuild and rebound. Read the 2011 story here.
Tropical Storm Sandy headed over upstate New York, Pennsylvania and New England, offering harsh weather to communities there. By late Tuesday, Oct. 30, New York City started to be in the clear, weather-wise.
Check Playbill.com for updates about how the theatre community is being affected by this serious storm.
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