Stagehand Strike Ends; Broadway Back in Business

Once the stagehands union strike was settled Wednesday night, the frazzled but happy casts and crews of the 27 shuttered Broadway shows went into high gear to reopen Thursday.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The neon lights are bright again on Broadway. The 19-day stagehand strike ended last night with a tentative agreement between the League of American Theaters and Producers and the stagehands union, Local One. The stagehands will vote to either ratify or reject the agreement in 10 days.

Jeff Lunden went to check out all the activity before show time today.

JEFF LUNDEN: This afternoon, there were little signs of the strike all over the theater district. Lots of blue police barriers where, until last night, picket lines had been set up. But there were signs of life, too. In the lobby of the Ambassador Theater on 49th Street, a steady stream of customers waited on line to buy super cheap tickets to tonight's performance of "Chicago."

Ms. DAPHNE BRUCE(ph): My name is Daphne Bruce, and I saw it on "Good Day New York" that the tickets were being sold for about $26. And I couldn't pass that out from hearsay.

(Soundbite of musical "Chicago")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Come on, babe, why don't we paint the town and all that jazz. I'm going to…

LUNDEN: "Chicago" has been around for 10 years, but the strike interrupted several other shows in the middle of previews. One of those plays was "The Seafarer," an import from the Royal National Theater in London. It was shut down right before its scheduled opening and actor Conleth Hill says there are many ways to describe how the cast felt.

Mr. CONLETH HILL (Actor): Some say it was like being in a starting blocks of a race and the race being postponed. Some people say it was like halfway up in aisles towards a wedding and that being called off.

LUNDEN: Cast mate David Morse, well known for this television and movie roles, says he kept up a routine during the 19-day strike.

Mr. DAVID MORSE (Actor): I, literally, every show time, would rehearse to the show. I would say it out loud, try to have the same sort of energy or keep the rhythm of the day going. Just the nighttime is when it all happens for us. So it's still, keep that light going because you never knew when it was going to end.

LUNDEN: As a matter of fact, all the cast members ran through their lines every night, says Connor McPherson, playwright and director of "The Seafarer."

Mr. CONNOR McPHERSON (Playwright and Director, "The Seafarer"): At the beginning, we didn't know whether we were allowed to rehearse. And we were kind of sneaking around, wondering whether we're allowed to be seen together, you know? People said, you're not supposed to get together as a cast. And it was, like, really tough. But then as it turned into a few days, Equity, the actors union, says, you know, because you guys have not technically opened, you are still allowed to rehearse on a voluntary basis.

LUNDEN: So because of that, McPherson is certain that a brief touch-up rehearsal this afternoon will get everyone up to speed in time for the 8 o'clock curtain.

Over at the musical "Hairspray," there's a lot of technical work to be done, says formerly striking stagehand Richard Kirby.

Mr. RICHARD KIRBY (Stagehand): My position is carpenter, stage right. Well, we're going to make sure that everything runs smoothly. We're probably going to run all our pieces and make it safe. And we'll be up and running at the 7 o'clock curtain tonight. And we certainly will put the show on.

LUNDEN: And, Kirby adds…

Mr. KIRBY: Yes, come see a Broadway show. We're back to work and just in time for the Christmas season. So, everybody, Merry Christmas.

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

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