Lights Out on Broadway: A look into the world of theatre after a year long shutdown


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York has been its epicenter. Being a populated state made it hard to keep up with the alarming numbers of COVID-19 cases. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on March 12th, 2020 that Broadway theatres and all other Off-Broadway theatres would close. 

It’s been more than a year since Broadway had its lights turned off. Thousands of people, singers, dancers, directors, and more became unemployed. Just like the rest of us, they struggled to keep afloat. Theatres started to feel the strain as the rent was due. With no shows being performed, there was and is no way to pay the bills.  

Naturally, some shows were forced to close indefinitely. Meaning that in the event that Broadway opens up, they wouldn’t open along with the other shows. Shows like Frozen and Mean Girls were amongst the first to announce that they would no longer open. Their actors took to social media to express their sadness and to encourage the public to wear their masks so that one day they could perform again. 

 Actress Olivia Kaufmann posed in front of the August Wilson theatre where she played Janis from Mean Girls. Kaufmann’s caption under her Instagram post posing in front of the August Wilson theatre stated, I still don’t have a lot of words, but I finally got a picture in front of the theater.” 

Kaufmann had been an understudy for Cady and Janis for a long time but had been given a full-time role as Janis when fellow actress Barrett Wilbert Weed stepped down from the role, making way for Olivia. Kaufmann along with new actors Chad Burris playing Damian  Laura Leigh Turner playing Karen Smith, and Sabrina Carpenter playing Cady Heron, began their new roles. Their time was cut short as they only had three shows before they closed. 

Actors from Frozen shared the same experience, starting a new cast in February. Ryan McCartan, mostly known for his role as ‘Diggie’ in the hit Disney show Liv and Maddie and as ‘JD’ from Heathers The Musical, posted two pictures from his debut as the musical’s villain ‘Hans’. He captioned “Have you ever been too sad to cry?” and “Still mourning”. 

As if COVID hadn’t already cast a dark cloud on the vibrant community, Broadway lost one of their own. Nick Cordero, known for his role as ‘Earl’ from the musical Waitress, died from COVID on July 5th of last year. He had a lengthy battle with the disease, being placed under a medically induced coma and having his right leg amputated. Various Broadway stars grieved over the loss of a great man and a great voice. 

Lin Manuel-Miranda, writer and actor from musical’s In The Heights and Hamilton, expressed his grief at the recent opening of a vaccination site on Broadway.

“I’m thinking of Nick Cordero who is my age and we lost to this terrible virus,” Miranda stated.

Broadway actress Dana Steingold spoke briefly with The Paw Print about how the pandemic shutdown has affected her career and passion.

I had the honor of having a brief conversation with Broadway star: Dana Steingold, who is known for her role as ‘Girl Scout’ and the understudy for ‘Lydia Deetz’ in the Tony-nominated musical Beetlejuice that I had the chance of seeing back in March 2020 (pre-pandemic). I asked her a few questions about how she believes Broadway was affected all whilst fangirling over her. Let me just say: you have not lived till you see her sing. 

Paw Print: “How were you affected by the shutdown in regards to your Broadway career?”

DS: “My livelihood sort of went up in flames. Like most people, I’m getting by on teaching and unemployment. It feels like time froze.”

Paw Print: “Do you think the shutdown caused many issues in the Broadway community?”

DS: “I think there are many negatives, of course, but the positives are that we have been able to discuss diversity and inclusion in a real way and begin to address the issues that have plagued our industry for so long.”

Paw Print: “What is something that you remember from your final shows that you will cherish?”

DS: “I remember feeling tired and pushing through. Hearing the audience. Hugging my friends. Taking off my costume like I’d be back in a day.”

It’s safe to say that this pandemic will leave a dark mark on the history of Broadway. Returning to theatre won’t be easy but it is doable. As someone who has had the opportunity of watching a live show, I can express how much joy watching actors and actresses, dancers, and the tech crew, bring a story to life.