Two more Broadway shows close as omicron takes a toll on theater

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Two more Broadway shows close as omicron takes a toll on theater
Da’Vinchi, left, and Tristan Mack Wilds in the play “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” in New York, Sept. 30, 2021. “Thoughts of a Colored Man” and “Waitress” became the latest productions to end their runs because of coronavirus cases among their cast or crew. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- Two more Broadway shows announced Thursday night that they had closed as the spike in coronavirus cases fueled by the omicron variant takes a growing toll on the theater business.

“Thoughts of a Colored Man,” a new play about a day in the life of a group of Black men in Brooklyn, said it had closed after two days in which it was so short of performers that it had kept going only because the playwright, Keenan Scott II, stepped in to perform. The play, which began previews Oct. 1 and opened Oct. 13, had been scheduled to run until March 13.

“While this is not the outcome we had hoped for, being part of this historic season on Broadway has been the greatest privilege of our lives,” the play’s producers, led by Brian Moreland, said in a statement.

A return engagement of “Waitress,” which began performances Sept. 2 and was scheduled to run until Jan. 9, also closed after missing several performances because of coronavirus cases in the cast or crew. The show said Thursday that it had detected new cases in its company.

“We are heartbroken that the COVID virus won’t allow us to finish our glorious scheduled run,” Barry Weissler, one of the show’s producers, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sutton Foster, lead actress in a revival of “The Music Man” that just started previews Monday, missed Thursday night’s performance for reasons that the show would not explain.

The closing announcements come at a brutal time for Broadway. The last weeks of the year are usually quite lucrative as tourists and vacationers turn to theater for entertainment, but this week, about half of the shows scheduled to play on Broadway have canceled most nights. On Thursday, only 16 shows had performances, down from the 33 that would have performed without the surge in cases.

The closings of “Thoughts of a Colored Man” and “Waitress” follow a decision Monday by the producers of “Jagged Little Pill,” a musical with songs by Alanis Morissette, to shut down. That show, too, had been missing performances because of positive coronavirus tests, and the producers said that, given the uncertain climate, they could not justify continuing. And in November, a new comedic play, “Chicken & Biscuits,” also closed citing the coronavirus.

Those closings come on top of other disappointments for producers this fall. The musical “Diana” closed last weekend, just a month after opening, following a number of brutal reviews and low ticket sales. And a pair of well-reviewed experimental plays, “Dana H.” and “Is This a Room,” also cut short their scheduled runs over soft sales.

Broadway will get a brief respite over the next few days — there are only two performances scheduled Friday, which is Christmas Eve, and 10 shows are hoping to perform on Christmas. But it is not clear how next week, traditionally a very busy period between Christmas and New Year’s, will go; shows that closed citing coronavirus cases, including “Hamilton” and “The Lion King,” are hoping to resume performances next week, but it is not clear whether they will be able to do so. One potential sign of hope: The new musical “Mrs. Doubtfire” resumed performances Wednesday after a 10-day hiatus prompted by coronavirus cases.

The financial toll of all the cancellations became clear this week, when the Broadway League released aggregated box office grosses for the week ending Dec. 19. They had dropped 26% from the previous week.

The surge in coronavirus cases is also prompting shows to close early off-Broadway and beyond. In New York, the one-woman play “Is There Still Sex in the City?” announced Wednesday that it was closing because Candace Bushnell, who wrote and starred in the show, had tested positive for the coronavirus, while in Washington, D.C., Arena Stage announced it was ending a run of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars.” And multiple productions of “A Christmas Carol” have canceled around North America.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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