(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/10; via Pam Green; Photo: Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker celebrated the long-delayed opening of “Plaza Suite,” the comedy in which they are co-starring. A little more than a week later, they both tested positive for the coronavirus.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times.)
It will be the busiest April for Broadway openings in more than a decade. But some of its biggest stars have been sidelined by positive tests.
After a gloomy winter in which the Omicron variant shriveled Broadway’s lucrative holiday season, New York’s vaunted theater industry has been betting on a big spring, nearly doubling the number of shows on offer as the pandemic-battered business thirsts for a rebound.
Adding all those plays and musicals — 16 new productions plus three returning from hiatuses are opening over a five-week stretch — was always going to be a gamble, since no one knows, in this not-yet-post-pandemic era, whether there are enough tourists and theatergoing locals to sustain that many shows.
And now the stubborn persistence of the coronavirus is complicating matters even further. A rising number of cases in New York City, coinciding with the arrival of the virus’s BA. 2 subvariant, has once again rocked Broadway, infecting some of its biggest stars, including Daniel Craig, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, and forcing four shows to temporarily cancel performances.
“What we thought we were entering into this spring, which was always going to be busy and crowded, over the last week has changed dramatically,” said Greg Nobile, the lead producer of a new farce, “POTUS,” which, while still in rehearsals, has had to adapt as four of its seven actresses tested positive for the coronavirus. “Somehow it feels like, ‘This again?’ The answer is yes, but this time, we need to ask the question, how do we truly keep the show on, and what are the ways we are adjusting to what is a new normal?”
Broadway’s big spring began on a cold night in late March with the opening of a revival of “Plaza Suite,” a Neil Simon comedy starring Parker and Broderick that was initially scheduled to start performances on March 13, 2020. Broadway shut down for the pandemic the day before that performance, and the Hudson Theater remained vacant, with the married co-stars’ names on the marquee and the set on the stage, for two full years before they returned to try again.
“Our hope is that this isn’t a moment, but rather this is the way we will function now,” Parker, in a pink satin gown with a beaded tulle overlay, said opening night at the end of an 80-foot-long preshow red carpet. “We have restaurants waiting to reopen still, we have hotel employees waiting to come back, we have delis that have been hit, we have ushers who are wanting to work the front of the house.”
The crowd that came out to cheer her on, which included Mikhail Baryshnikov, Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon and Martin Short, was buoyant.
Broderick, finished with the gauntlet of camera crews arrayed inside a translucent tent, remarked how much he had enjoyed returning to the theater as an audience member, and now as a performer. “We’re learning to live with the pandemic or endemic — whatever you want to call it now — so the stronger theater and everything New York gets, the more normal life is,” he said. “This is part of the world coming back.”
But eight days later, he tested positive, and two days later, so did she.