UPDATED: After Hurricane Sandy, Broadway Is Back On Its Feet Nov. 1; Downtown Stages Remain Challenged
By Kenneth Jones
The sun'll come out tomorrow, insists the optimistic red-headed moppet in the musical Annie, and — for the Broadway theatre community — that day happens to be Nov. 1. Following an overcast four days that included scattered cancelled performances between Sunday and Wednesday due to the deadly Oct. 29 East Coast landfall of Hurricane Sandy, Broadway is back to its regular schedule starting Thursday.
Most of Broadway was operational on for matinees and evening shows Wednesday, Oct. 31 (save for Evita, Jersey Boys, Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson and Disney's The Lion King and Mary Poppins), but Tuesday, Oct. 29 was a dark day for all 28 musicals and plays on the Great White Way.
A city-ordered mass-transit shutdown starting Sunday evening prompted The Broadway League to cancel peformances scheduled for the nights of Sunday, Oct. 28, and Monday, Oct. 29, when only a handful of productions play. Performances on the busier Tuesday (when almost all of Broadway is usually lit up) were also cancelled.
Deadly Hurricane Sandy — downgraded to a tropical storm when it made landfall the evening of Monday, Oct. 29 — flooded subway tunnels and coastal neighborhoods of New York City and caused a massive blackout that, since Monday, left 250,000 people below 38th Street in the dark. The continuing blackout (as of noon Nov. 1) has blotted out many Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions.
(Playbill learned on Nov. 1 that downtown casts of Classic Stage Company's Ivanov, Vineyard Theatre's Checkers and The Public Theater's shows are continuing their rehearsals uptown, where there is power. The troupes need to be fresh and ready, after all.)
Most tragic in this historic weather event, however, were the deaths of at least 25 people in the New York City area, and many more in neighboring states. Damage is in the billions of dollars, with losses particularly heavy on the southern New Jersey Shore, near Atlantic City.
The Manhattan blackout south of 38th Street began Monday night, coinciding with Lower Manhattan flooding that lapped at the East and West Village and the Battery, near the World Trade Center. Consolidated Edison cut power to some neighborhoods in anticipation of the disaster, and still other neighborhoods lost power due to a transformer explosion on East 14th Street on Monday.
If you held tickets to cancelled performance on or Off-Broadway, inquire at point of purchase about refund or exchange policies. If hold tickets to shows in the coming days, and you struggle with transit issues or trouble at home due to the hurricane, inquire about exchange and refund possibilities at point of purchase.
TheBroadwayLeague.com has information about Broadway refund/exchanges. We've also included it at the end of this article.
The announcement about Broadway's full restoration on Nov. 1 came at 5:30 PM Oct. 31 from Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League: "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. 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!"
Producers in recent days have been offering discounts and incentives to attend Broadway shows during these days when subway service has been cut. Some bus service returned at 5 PM Tuesday to non-flooded parts of town.
Partial restoration of some Manhattan subways above 42nd Street began the morning of Nov. 1. People wanting to go between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and Queens and Manhattan, have to rely (in the short term) on buses, bridges, taxis and cars. Some bridge and tunnel service to New Jersey has been available. Thousands of New Yorkers — including Broadway theatre practitioners — walked several miles to get to work on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
On Wednesday afternoon, actor Patrick Page, now in Broadway's Cyrano de Bergerac at the American Airlines Theatre, posted this 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."
Actor Joel Hatch, of Broadway's Annie, at the Palace Theatre, posted this 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!"
For updates about New York City mass transit service, visit mta.info.
The downtown blackout Monday-Thursday knocked out performances by major resident not-for-profit theatres in the city. In recent weeks, the downtown boards had been alive with the world premiere of Douglas McGrath's Checkers, at the Vineyard Theatre; a revival of Chekhov's Ivanov, starring Ethan Hawke at Classic Stage Company; the New York premiere of the Michael John LaChiusa-Sybille Pearson musical Giant, at The Public Theater; MCC Theater's world premiere of Stephen Belber's Don't Go Gentle, at the Lucille Lortel; and Atlantic Theater Company's well-reviewed Harper Regan, among many other performing-arts works. All were dark Monday-Wednesday.
As of early Nov. 1, downtown Manhattan was still struggling with the power outage. It is not known when power will be restored, though it was thought to be within "days," according to officials, which is no comfort for residents who have hunkered down in their shadowy apartments since Monday. Some people frantically sought car service to get uptown — or off the island of Manhattan — to stay with friends, relatives or in hotels.
Consult websites of your favorite downtown shows or producing organizations to check performance status.
Off-Broadway shows on or north of 42nd Street, like Disgraced at Lincoln Center Theater's Claire Tow Theater, Vanya and Sonia… at the Mitzi Newhouse and Roundabout Theatre Company's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, at the Laura Pels, returned on Wednesday, Oct. 31, as did plays along 42nd Street at such venues as Playwrights Horizons, where The Whale is making its New York premiere, and the Pershing Square Signature Center, home of Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company producer of Golden Child and The Piano Lesson.
On Sunday afternoon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the mass transit shutdown, which began 7 PM that night with subways, followed by buses at 9 PM. As a result of the mayor's edict, on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28, Broadway producers cancelled Sunday night and Monday night shows.
Most Broadway theatres, as readers of Playbill know, 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.
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 pumped out.
The Tuesday cancellations represent an untold economic blow to Broadway; Monday is the theatre's traditional dark night, when only a handful of Broadway shows play, so the losses were less widespread and severe.
At a noontime Sunday press conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents to stay indoors on Monday, when the worst of the weather was to 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 (Enron), his wife director Jenn Thompson (a co-artistic director of TACT/The Actors Company Theatre) 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 placed sandbags around their doors and windows. Their apartment is on the ground floor, within a mile of the New York waterfront, where the Hudson meets the East River and New York Harbor. 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.
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.
According to TheBroadwayLeague.com, here's information about refunds and exchanges for Broadway tickets affected the Hurricane Sandy:
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: please return your original tickets to the Theater 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: please 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: please 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.
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