Broadway Shows Pause Performances Through April Due to Coronavirus Fears

Jagged Little Pill Production Still - Publicity - H 2020
Matthew Murphy

Celia Rose Gooding (center) in Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill.

Last week, New York Gov. Cuomo announced a state of emergency as the coronavirus — now considered a pandemic — continues to spread across the state and the globe, with more than 60 confirmed cases in the city.

Under the direction of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, it was announced on Thursday that all Broadway shows in New York City will suspend all performances immediately amid growing coronavirus concerns. Performances are set to pick back up on April 13.

"Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theater industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers and many other dedicated professionals," Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a statement. "Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality."

Continued St. Martin, "Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night."

Mayor Bill de Blasio previously told CNN on Thursday that New York City was developing guidelines for those attending Broadway shows amid coronavirus concerns. "I don't want to see Broadway go dark if we can avoid it," de Blasio said. "I want to see if we can strike some kind of balance."

He added, "What we're trying to figure out: Is there a way to reduce the capacity, reduce the number of people? If we cannot strike that balance, of course, we can go to closure."

Last week, New York Gov. Cuomo announced a state of emergency as the coronavirus — now considered a pandemic — continues to spread across the state and the globe. As of Thursday morning, there are 62 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City, including a Broadway usher who worked at theaters housing the shows Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Six. Both productions up until Thursday were still operating as normal.

Because of worries surrounding the virus, producer Scott Rudin reduced ticket prices to $50 each for all five of his shows now on Broadway: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Book of Mormon, The Lehman Trilogy, To Kill a Mockingbird and West Side Story.

There are 31 shows currently in production on Broadway, with eight new shows slated to begin preview performances within the next few weeks.

Prior to the suspension, several shows had urged patrons to stay home or exchange tickets for future performances if they were feeling ill or experiencing flu-like symptoms. Other measures taken included additional venue cleaning, limited backstage access and decreased stage door appearances from castmembers.

This isn't the first time Broadway has gone dark. Twelve Broadway musical productions were shut down in 1975 for 25 days because of a musicians strike, and the 2007 stagehands strike caused a shutdown for 19 days. While these didn't have much impact on shows doing strong business, they did force struggling productions or shows that were still finding their footing at the box office to close early.

Additionally, 2001's 9/11 attacks happened on a Tuesday with shows canceled that evening, along with both matinee and evening performances the next day. However, those shows were back up and running by Thursday. Though attendance was patchy for a while, a popular campaign to encourage New Yorkers to get out to shows slowly had a positive effect.

Since the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, earlier this year, it has affected over 125,000 people in 122 countries and caused over 4,600 deaths. In addition to New York's GLAAD Media Awards, a number of entertainment industry events have been canceled or postponed because of the viral outbreak, including SXSW, Coachella and the Game Developers Conference.

David Rooney contributed to this report.

Thursday, 11:55 a.m. Updated with announcement from The Broadway League.