For The 1st Time In Over A Year A Live Audience Returned To Bway

The St. James Theater on Broadway
The St. James Theater on Broadway (screen capture)

Live performances returned to Broadway this past weekend as Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Savion Glover took to the stage of the St. James Theater to a small (but thrilled) live audience. #Progress

The mini-matinee was part of the ongoing NY PopsUp festival which consists of “hundreds of pop-up performances that will regularly permeate the daily lives of New Yorkers,” according to the official website. “It is intended to revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New York citizens through the energy of live performance.”

With new guidelines in place, Broadway theater restrictions allow up to 33% capacity, with a maximum of 100 people. If all attendees present proof of negative test prior to entry, capacity can increase up to 150 people.

The St. James Theater, which seats 1,700, has an updated ventilation system complete with MERV 13 air filters installed ahead of the performance. Audience members were given staggered arrival times and were seated six feet apart.

(screen capture via YouTube)

Clearly, full-on productions can’t function within those financial limitations, but small-scale special events can help revive and excite the theatergoing crowds.

Saturday’s brief 36-minute performance was directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks.

In a 20-minute tap-dance stream of consciousness, Glover (Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, Shuffle Along) reflected on his life in the theater dropping bits of “Memory,” “One,” and “Fabulous Feet.”

Lane performed a new monologue by playwright Paul Rudnick, which told the story of a theater-obsessed man cooped up during quarantine sharing his encounters (real or imagined?) in his studio apartment with stars like Hugh Jackman, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald and more.

The video below shows the audience arriving and making its way through safety precautions plus excerpts from each of the two stars’ performances.

In an interview with the New York Times after the event, Mr. Lane said: “These are baby steps toward a real reopening. It’s a way of signaling to everyone that we’re coming back.”

Asked if he felt safe, Lane replied, “I felt as safe as anyone who has been vaccinated and tested 123 times. I’ve been swabbed. I’ve been hosed down. There were a lot of precautions and protocols, so yes, I felt safe.”

The organizers told the Times they plan on comparing notes regarding the event and hope to offer nine more programs in Broadway houses over the next 10 weeks.

The festival continues through Labor Day, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Festival at the new Little Island at Pier 55.

Performances are not announced in advance, thus the term “PopsUp.”

You can follow the program on Instagram here.

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