Broadway’s stars reflect on returning to the stage.
Last month, Playbill reached out to some of the performers who experienced the euphoric return of theatre following a shutdown that lasted more than a year. Below, a few of Broadway’s biggest stars remember that first night back like it was yesterday.
“The first word spoken in the pop opera Hadestown is ‘Aight?’ It is borrowed from Black English and means ‘copacetic’ (totally agreeable). When, upon the re-opening of Hadestown on Thursday, September 2nd, I, as Hermes, messenger to the gods, uttered the benediction ‘Aight?’ to the capacity audience, a great ululation of unbridled joy suspended time for a full two and one-half minutes. That was the night the Earth tilted on its axis.” - André De Shields, Hadestown
“It was like meeting an old, familiar friend. Your senses are overloaded with lights, fog, and the roar of a 1,000+ people, but then you remember this is exactly where you’re supposed to be, and this is exactly when you were meant to open.” - Anna Uzele, Six
“Imagine The best way to explain the feeling of Reopening: Imagine anything deflated. Then imagine it being filled with air. And with purpose. A tire. A unicorn pool toy. A heart. My heart. It felt like crackling electricity. And love. Electric love. The hunger of the audience for story and community was palpable and delightful. They felt everything. And we felt it with them. Any shred of ego seems to have dropped away during the pandemic and we’re just left with this amazing sense of service.” - Astrid Van Wieren, Come From Away
“I can hear the audience roaring, clapping, yelling, and I’m trying so hard not to cry because I’m about to be ascended in an elevator to make my Velma entrance and I must keep it together to deliver the confidence and force Velma requires and that the audience is expecting. I’m emotional and excited, just like the audience, but I must control it and keep Bianca down so Velma can emerge in her iconic entrance in ‘All That Jazz’ and start the magical experience that we’ve all been waiting for to return. Broadway is back, and I’m so grateful.” - Bianca Marroquín, Chicago
“In my 38 years in the business I’ve never experienced anything like it. Multiple standing ovations throughout the show. Nonstop energy. Everyone just so damn happy to be back together. It was musical theatre heaven.” - Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge!
“That first night back? Surreal. Although we are a cast of seven, our director Steve Broadnax III would talk about the audience as the eighth character. That epic night felt like inviting old friends over for a house-warming party... and theatre-church!” - Forrest McClendon, Thoughts of a Colored Man
“The moment we stood in the timeline as a company in the opening number, I was overcome with gratitude. I remember looking out into the audience, their voices cheering through masks. I thought about everyone in the theatre and what it took for all of us to get to this moment. Every night, I am reminded of the resilience of the human spirit.” - Mandy Gonzalez, Hamilton
“For the first time in months, my shoulders relaxed… costumes and wigs almost felt too formal… I just wanted to say, ‘how are you? I’m so glad you’re here! Let’s do this together, and see if we all feel a bit better by the time we start rolling on the river!’” - Myra Lucretia Taylor, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
“Honest answer, my first night back was so many things: overwhelming, emotional, terrifying, exhilarating, hard-won. I’d never realized how much trust is inherent in what we do. The audience trusted us to retell a good tale that night, and we were trusting them to help keep us safe; such a walk of faith, but so worthwhile and special.” - Nik Walker, Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations
“It is my honor and privilege to be among the group of artists, particularly the People of Color this season, to bring Broadway back to life after our stages have been empty for so long.” - Norm Lewis, Chicken & Biscuits
“These first shows back are proving just how essential live theatre is, was, and always will be. Theatre represents everything that has been denied us in the last 19 months; our shared humanity.” - Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire
“My first night back on the Broadhurst stage performing Jagged Little Pill after almost 20 months away was wonderful and wild and not just the smallest bit overwhelming. I had almost forgotten how magical live theatre can be and how our show in particular reaches out and embraces the audience, inviting them to come along with us and feel all the feels.” - Sean Allan Krill, Jagged Little Pill
“My first night back on Broadway with my American Utopia family was an absolute thrill. I missed these people dearly, and it was joyous to share this moment with them and our fans doing what we do best.” - Tim Keiper, David Byrne’s American Utopia
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