No, Broadway Isn’t Shutting Down - But It Is Hurting

Tony Award winner Lauren Patten is in the company of JAGGED LITTLE PILL.

Matthew Murphy is a person.

After days of mounting anxiety, Broadway awoke Tuesday to more hard news: the Tony-winning new musical Jagged Little Pill had closed permanently over the weekend.

The producers said that they need to prioritize the health and safety of the cast, crew and entire team. We have made the difficult decision to close our doors due to the uncertainty surrounding us this winter and the need to protect our company.

The show featuring the seminal music of Alanis Morissette is the fifth new production to announce an unexpected closing. The company is tested daily and fully vaccined. As an Omicron-driven surge sweeps the country, it is facing stiff challenges.

A number of shows have been forced to cancel recently due to breakthrough Covid cases, but the holiday hiatuses are more upsetting. Hamilton, Aladdin, Dear Evan Hansen, and Hadestown were all canceled through the Christmas weekend.

These are the biggest sellers in the industry and they can weather disruption. Producers seem confident that closing for a week is manageable because of their advance sales and cash reserves. The industry has banked on this lucrative holiday frame after 18 months in the dark, and seeing so many powerhouses closed for Christmas is alarming.

The thinner box office numbers could paint a clearer picture of Broadway's health. Demand is not cratering alongside supply, as evidenced by the fact that the remaining performances were still full. Many theatre leaders agree that a small number of shows have been selling well, while the rest are struggling. The gap between haves and have-nots is larger than it has ever been.

Jagged seemed to be one of the haves. It received $10 million in federal funding to cover reopening expenses, and also had robust business interruption insurance. The producers cited extreme uncertainty as the reason for the show's cancellation.

Veteran producer who asked not to be named out of respect said that some shows are hard to sell. That has always been true. Most new shows are not big hits. There are others that could've sold better and lasted longer without the virus, and are caught in the middle. Jagged is one of those. It was doing well in 2019.

Broadway houses are not the only ones that have been canceled. The Atlantic Theater has had several Off Broadway shows go dark. Jagged Little Pill decided to end their runs completely. The Toronto transfer of Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella in London have both been paused indefinitely.

The Broadway League, which represents producers and theater owners, says that a full shutdown is not on the table.

Charlotte St. Martin, the League President, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that they have no plans to close. 20 to 30 shows continue to perform every day because we are following the protocols that we set up.

The 2020 shutdown was ordered by Governor Cuomo's office, so the League may not have a say in such a decision. The consequences of a full shutdown would be catastrophic and most shows would close permanently. At a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio stated his opposition to any more government shutdowns. We have been through them. We can not go through it again.

Broadway has one of the best virus protocols in the country, and shows are cancelling performances because they are functioning and being taken seriously. They include masks required at all times in the house, daily testing for company members before each performance, and upgraded ventilation systems.

Many shows have not nixed a curtain, as a result. Fans, pundits, and industry stalwarts have clamored on social media to keep the facts straight.

Harvey Fierstein said that no Broadway show has been a super spreader. We are all tested daily. If someone is positive, they don't talk to each other. People wear masks. Broadway is doing this right.

Lynn Nottage, a two-time Pulitzer winner, said that there's so much emphasis on what's closed on Broadway, let's show some luv to the shows that are still open. The players are beating back the odds. Slave Play, Thoughts of a Colored Man, Trouble in Mind, and The Lehman Trilogy are some plays that have stayed open.

Matt Ross said that this is a great time to get away from black and white thinking. The shows are open. There will be rolling cancellation. It is safe to attend a show and support a workforce that is hurting.