January 24, 2022

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A new labor battle opens on Broadway as omicron closes shows

2 min read

A sign indicating canceled performances of “Mrs. Doubtfire” due to Covid is displayed in the window of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on December 16, 2021 in New York City.

Dia Dipasupil | Getty Images

After over a year of industry-wide closures, Broadway theaters finally reopened in September, but 2021 did not end the way theater professionals hoped it would. The late 2021 comeback had largely bucked London’s touch-and-go reopening earlier that summer: only a handful of Broadway productions temporarily closed due to delta infections. But omicron outbreaks late in the year stalled live theater. Before Christmas, 18 productions canceled performances. Five shows closed permanently in December, citing extreme uncertainty ahead this winter and increased challenges from the pandemic.

If some shows can’t go on under these conditions, how Broadway producers are choosing to close is creating a new labor controversy involving artists already among the hardest-hit by the pandemic.

Kevin McCollum, a prominent producer of numerous Broadway shows including the Tony Award-winning productions of “In the Heights,” “Avenue Q,” and “Rent” says he remains “very bullish on the theatre business,” but he just made a decision that has theater unions alarmed.

McCollum has multiple shows currently running on Broadway, including “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Six,” but as omicron surged in New York City, “Mrs. Doubtfire” had yet to find its footing.

“Mrs. Doubtfire was especially vulnerable because [it] just opened,” McCollum said.

With no cast album (unlike the wildly popular show “Six”), he says opening the show as cases spiked was “like planting a sapling, but there’s a hurricane.”

Doubtfire was open for seven days before an omicron outbreak in the cast forced McCollum to cancel Sunday’s matinee performance on December 12. Due to infections, the show did not reopen until December 22. During the 11-show shutdown in December, McCollum says the production swung $3 million: $1.5 million in expenses and…



2022-01-14 19:15:35

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