UPDATED: Curtain Comes Down on Hurricane, But Broadway Remained Shut on Sunday; Monday Shows Expected

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
and Adam Hetrick
28 Aug 2011

Hurricane Irene was downgraded to Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28 as sun began to filter through thick clouds by noon. Much of New York City's mass transit remained shut down on Sunday, as did Broadway and many Off-Broadway theatres.



Damage from storm surge has been reported throughout shore areas in the five boroughs in New York City. Some street flooding from rain was evident, and there were some power outages in the metropolitan area.

Looking ahead to shows offering Monday night performances on Monday, Aug. 29, the Broadway League issued the following statement just after noon on Sunday: "As of now, Broadway performances will play on Monday as scheduled, unless government authorities request otherwise."

By 9 PM Sunday, officials said that some subway service would be restored by 6 AM Monday. Limited bus service was restored late Sunday afternoon. As of noon Sunday, all of the city's bridges and tunnels had been reopened.

Broadway and other theatres — as well as many restaurants, shops and other establishments of public life — remained closed Aug. 28. There were signs throughout the day that Manhattan eateries in the theatre district were beginning to reopen on Sunday, as power and availability of staffing permitted. (At 4 PM Sunday, dangerous wind gusts and bands of rain were still being reported in metro New York.) Playbill.com had not reports of Broadway theatres affected by power outages or street flooding due to six inches of rain that fell in Manhattan.

Irene was a Broadway hit in the 1920s and the 1970s. She hit Broadway again, in the form of Hurricane Irene, shutting down the Great White Way Aug. 27-28. Hurricane Irene, billed as a Category 1 storm when she made her entrance Saturday, lashed New York City with high winds and heavy sustained rains beginning around 8 PM Saturday.

While much less severe than forecasters had predicted, the storm is blamed for more than a dozen deaths along the East Coast, from Florida, northward.

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Shortly after 4 PM Friday, the Nederlander Organization tweeted the news on Twitter that all Saturday and Sunday Broadway shows would go dark owing to the emergency weather situation. This represents the biggest emergency shutdown of Broadway since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (A massive blackout in August 2003 closed Broadway for one performance.)

Following the earlier tweet from the Nederlanders, the official closure statement from The Broadway League came at 5:47 PM Friday, citing "the suspension of public transportation by government authorities in preparation of the incoming storm."

Paul Libin, chairman of The Broadway League, stated, "The safety and security of theatregoers and employees is everyone's primary concern."

Some 23 Broadway plays and musicals are affected, including the 2011 Tony Award-winning productions of War Horse and The Book of Mormon. Countless Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows, concerts, readings, rehearsals and cabaret shows will also go dark.

The producer of Off-Broadway's Perfect Crime, at The Snapple Theater Center on West 50th Street, a few blocks north of Times Square, announced Friday night that the thriller's 2 PM Saturday matinee (before serious weather is to hit) would be performed. The apparent target audience is stranded midtown tourists who can hoof it to the venue. The Saturday matinee of the New York City premiere of Bluebird starring Simon Russell Beale was performed at Atlantic Stage 2.

On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had ordered a shut-down of New York City mass transit, effective noon Saturday, Aug. 27. A statement from the governor's office read, "The Metropolitan Transit Authority will institute a system-wide shut-down when trains and buses begin their final runs starting at approximately noon on Saturday; the shut-down will include subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Access-A-Ride."

At 3 PM Friday, Disney Theatrical Productions announced that performances of the Broadway productions of Mary Poppins and The Lion King will not be presented on Saturday and Sunday Aug. 27-28. Refund/exchange inquiries should be made at point of purchase The League soon followed suit.

Disney "made the decision in the interest of its patrons' and staff's safety following the announcement of the impending suspension of MTA and Metro North service," according to a statement.

By 3 PM Friday, some Off-Broadway producers had already started to cancel weekend shows. By 6 PM, it became clear that most of public life in New York City would be halted for the weekend, with residents hunkering down in their homes. The Off-Broadway shows affected include (but are not limited to) Zarkana at Radio City Music Hall, (The Select) Sun Also Rises at New York Theatre Workshop, The Talls at Second Stage Uptown, Million Dollar Quartet and Rent at New World Stages and Olive and the Bitter Herbs by Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters. For more information, visit OffBroadway.com. Contact point of purchase for questions about cancellations and exchange and refund policies.

Sunday performances of the New York International Fringe Festival have also been cancelled.

Following the League's Friday announcement of the Broadway shutdown, Theatre Development Fund, which operates three TKTS discount theatre ticket booths in New York City (Lower Manhattan, Times Square and Downtown Brooklyn), announced the weekend shuttering of its kiosks.

The Tony-winning Broadway revival of John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse's Chicago was to become the fourth longest-running production in Broadway history at the Saturday matinee, surpassing the run of A Chorus Line with a total of 6,138 performances. That milestone at the Ambassador Theatre will now be delayed until the Monday, Aug. 29 performance.

It is generally thought, according to industry sources, that Off-Broadway and Broadway shows that play on a Monday schedule will go on as planned, as long as power and public access are sure things.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said transit service probably won't be available again until sometime Monday or later. City licenses for all outdoor events on Sunday have been revoked. The 8.1 million people in New York City were urged to stay at home with food, family, friends and emergency supplies such as flashlights and bottled water.

What are theatre people doing on their days off? Hunkering down in their homes, mostly, they told Playbill.com.

Joel Hatch, who plays George in Broadway's Billy Elliot, said that he and his wife "stocked up on supplies," and planned a long walk on Saturday morning before they "settle in for old movies and martinis." 

Kathy Santen, a member of the ensemble of Wicked, said, "I'll be reading the paper, cleaning the kitchen, giving myself a manicure and watching movies with my husband. Wine will be involved."

Ann Arvia, who plays Bird Woman in Mary Poppins, said she'll curl up with a book and catch up on television shows.

Amy Coady, a cabaret director and performer who shares an apartment with her husband in a building steps away from the East River in Long Island City, Queens, packed up her two cats and a dog on Saturday, and the family is staying in a pet-friendly hotel in Manhattan Saturday and Sunday night, with their car parked safely in the city.

Parts of Long Island City are in the mandatory evacuation zone, though some residents have opted to stay put. Coady said LIC residents were being told by city emergency management personnel that those who didn't heed the evacuation demand would be on their own in the case of a medical emergency during the worst of the storm.

Several industry people who have country houses said they werestaying put at their homes in the New York City area rather than face the possibility of power outages or downed wires out of town.

REFUND AND EXCHANGE INFORMATION FOR BROADWAY

If tickets were purchased via Telecharge or Ticketmaster via phone or online: Your credit card will be refunded automatically within 7-10 business days. For any issues, please contact the customer service information included with your tickets. Please have your Order Number/Confirmation Number handy. Original tickets need not be retained.

If tickets were purchased at the box office: Return your original tickets to the theatre's box office. You have the option of receiving a full refund to the original method of payment or exchanging your tickets for an alternate date of your choice, subject to availability.

If tickets were purchased as part of a group: Contact your Group Sales Agent for more information regarding refunds or exchanges. Original tickets should be retained until you contact the Group Sales Agent.

If tickets were purchased through any other sales channel: Return to the original point of purchase for more information. If you have your tickets in hand, please retain them for a refund or exchange.

Playbill.com will continue to update this story.