Now Playing On Broadway: Uncertainty, Unemployment, And Displays Of Unity Broadway has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Theaters are shuttered indefinitely, millions of dollars have been lost, and some members of the community have been infected by the coronavirus.
NPR logo

Now Playing On Broadway: Uncertainty, Unemployment And Displays Of Unity

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/843429366/843529651" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Now Playing On Broadway: Uncertainty, Unemployment And Displays Of Unity

Now Playing On Broadway: Uncertainty, Unemployment And Displays Of Unity

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/843429366/843529651" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NOEL KING, HOST:

Broadway has 41 theaters, and this virus has been terrible for them. They're closed. No one knows for how long. Thousands of people are out of work. And then some members of the Broadway community have also gotten sick. Here's Jeff Lunden.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: On March 12, one hour before a matinee of "Moulin Rouge! The Musical," the company held an emergency meeting, says actor Danny Burstein.

DANNY BURSTEIN: And they said that somebody in our cast was currently at the doctor's, suffering symptoms of COVID-19, and that they were canceling the show.

LUNDEN: Later that afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo canceled all Broadway shows. Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, which represents producers and theater owners, says every week Broadway is closed, it loses $33 million in ticket sales.

CHARLOTTE ST MARTIN: On any given year, Broadway has between 10 and 12,000 direct employees that are in cast and crew. Plus, many thousands of other jobs are affected by Broadway.

LUNDEN: Brittney Mack has one of those jobs on indefinite hold. She was about to make her Broadway debut in the musical "Six" when she found out opening night was canceled.

BRITTNEY MACK: Man, it kind of hits you like a ton of bricks and a crane and a truck.

LUNDEN: Mack says she has daily chats with her fellow cast members. And...

MACK: I've applied for unemployment insurance and still haven't been able to verify. So (laughter) I have no income. But I'm still on Instagram, and I go in there, and I sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF INSTAGRAM VIDEO)

MACK: (Singing) Tomorrow's unknown...

LUNDEN: Danny Burstein from "Moulin Rouge" is waiting for unemployment insurance, as well. But he says...

BURSTEIN: I'm just happy to be alive.

LUNDEN: In the week after his show closed, he developed all the symptoms of COVID-19. And when he collapsed in his bathroom, he ended up in the ICU at Mount Sinai Hospital on oxygen.

BURSTEIN: I just kept telling myself, I'm going to get better. I'm going to get better. This is - and I started (laughter) literally doing dances from "Moulin Rouge" in my bed with my legs, trying to, you know, mimic what I did in the show, just to keep thinking forward.

LUNDEN: And after a harrowing five days in intensive care, he is getting better. But there have been deaths on Broadway - playwright Terrence McNally, actor Mark Blum. Another actor, Nick Cordero, who is on a ventilator, had his leg amputated. People in the Broadway community say they're pulling together and supporting each other. But they worry that shows won't reopen and that the theatergoing experience may change. Charlotte St. Martin.

ST MARTIN: Will we see people's temperature being taken before they come back into the theater? Will people wear masks? Will people have certificates or cards that say they've been tested?

LUNDEN: For now, industry professionals, like Brian Stokes Mitchell, a COVID-19 survivor himself, are finding ways to give New Yorkers a sense of community. Every evening, after people applaud health care workers, he stands at his apartment window and sings "The Impossible Dream."

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL: (Singing) This is my quest to follow that star...

People need this, too. They need that connection. They need to be reconnected to themselves, to their own center, to each other, you know, to feel that we're all in this together.

(APPLAUSE)

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM (THE QUEST)")

MITCHELL: (Singing) This is my quest.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.