Back in March 2020, after being told shows were indefinitely postponed and the venues were to shutter, nobody in the theater world knew when exactly their professions would resume. Some actors even left their dressing rooms filled with personal items, thinking they would be back within a few weeks to keep performing.
Now, ten months later, the future of Broadway, NYC’s theater scene, as well as all musicals and plays performed nationwide, remains undetermined—but is without a doubt much brighter. With the emergence and dispersal of a Covid-19 vaccination, theaters, their actors and employees, as well as the patrons, can start looking forward to the eventual reopening of Broadway in 2021.
Paving a Way Forward
In some cities other than New York, theaters have already launched 2021 schedules for their musicals and plays that had to be postponed last year. Broadway in Cincinnati touring productions that were originally scheduled for the 2020-21 season have been set to resume at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, beginning September 2021. You can check out the full Broadway in Cincinnati schedule here, where you’ll see shows such as The Band’s Visit, Pretty Woman: The Musical, Ain’t Too Proud, and Hamilton in the theater’s 2021 lineup.
Though, as indicated on the theater’s website, dates remain tentative pending the battle against Covid-19 and how the outcomes, and cases, look as the time nears. Unfortunately, tentative is as close as some cities can come to making plans for reopening Broadway. Even though Covid-19 has devastated the theater industry to a large degree, all throughout the pandemic, actors and voices from Broadway hailed in to say hello, and to remind us of all the talent that awaits once this is over.
In December 2020, Deadline hosted a panel of theater producers, actor’s equity associates, and the like, to discuss the likely outcomes of theater attendance in 2021. Though we recommend checking out the entire discussion here, we’ve taken a few key possibilities that may help us understand how much work is required before NYC’s Broadway and theater nationwide can return, full force.
Envisioning A Broadway Reopening in 2021
The roll out will be slow, with just a few musicals and plays opening at first to gauge response and possible spikes. Though I’m sure directors and patrons of theater imagined a grand reopening, with all stage lights turning back on to beam together, the more realistic (and safe) way for Broadway to reopen is for just a few theaters to resume their shows. Plus, in cities with robust theater scenes such as New York City, many shows share choreographers, actors, stage directors, etc. Logistically, all theaters in a given city will have to work together in order to perform.
Late summer, or early fall 2021, is a possibility. But more likely: Broadway will do everything they can to return for the holiday season. Tourism, a big part of Broadway business, will not be in full swing until 2025—according to some experts. But the Broadway holiday market makes up a huge portion of theater sales for the year, and if directors and producers play their cards right, shows can hope to safely reopen in time for their busiest season.
Which Broadway Shows Are More Likely to Return in 2021?
Shows with intermissions face the biggest challenges, while shorter productions have a better chance of creating safe models for reopening. Six is one Broadway production we foresee becoming a model for larger re-openings due to its length and the show’s relatively smaller cast and fewer outside workers.
Smash hits, and other shows with established followings, are more likely to return in 2021. Shows such as Hadestown, Hamilton, Six, Company, and others, entered the Covid-19 pandemic with stronger, more enduring foundations and fans. Musicals and plays that were slated to debut in 2020 maybe be some of the last to end their postponement.
In the mean time, streaming Broadway musicals and plays has become a viable option. Prior to the pandemic, theaters had already forged models for streaming their shows. With the technology already in place, and with the advantages made clear, we anticipate that several more cities and their theater scenes will utilize streaming until venues reopen.
Why not veer on the edge of optimistic, and start planning for the return of Broadway in 2021? Granted venues are given the green light to open their doors this year, here are 10 Must-See Broadway Musicals and Plays Opening in 2021.