Broadway finds a way for the show to go on amid coronavirus

The theater community went online to deliver music and performances to disappointed fans after shows were forced to close through April 12.
Image: A sign announcing the theater for Broadway's "Come From Away" is closed in New York on March 14, 2020. New York shuttered its iconic Broadway theaters as coronavirus continues to spread.
A sign announcing that the theater for Broadway's "Come From Away" is closed in New York on Saturday, March 14, 2020. New York shuttered its iconic Broadway theaters as the coronavirus continues to spread.Cindy Ord / Getty Images

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By Savannah Smith

When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned all gatherings of 500 people or more, causing Broadway theaters to dim their lights through April 12, the theater community went online to deliver show tunes to disappointed fans.

After the ban went into effect Thursday at 5 p.m., the musical "Hamilton" tweeted songs throughout the evening to engage with fans using #HamAtHome. "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda also released a never-before- heard song called "I Have This Friend," tweeting, "Wish I could send you peace of mind via this app. Alas. But I can send you music no one's heard."

A video posted by Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti went viral Friday as she asked any high school students prevented from performing in their high school musicals because they were canceled by the coronavirus to send her videos of them performing songs.

"I know for me, my high school musical was a lifesaver," Benanti said in the video. "So, if you would like to sing a song that you are not going to get to sing now and tag me, I want to see you. I want to hear it."

Videos from students of all ages singing songs that they were meant to perform — known as "Sunshine Songs" — have since flooded in, creating a space for people to celebrate their work that likely would not have been seen otherwise.

BroadwayWorld, a theater news website, launched "Living Room Concerts" for people to watch Broadway performers.

"You know, a lot of people buy tickets and buy flights six months to a year in advance," said Alan Henry, digital managing editor for BroadwayWorld. "So it was really just, how do we bring a little bit of joy during this less than easy time for a lot of people?"

The videos encourage viewers to donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which had to cancel its annual "Broadway Backwards Fundraiser" concert Monday, as well as the Actors Fund, an organization that provides assistance to people in the entertainment industry in distress.

"If anyone likes the videos, instead of the money they would spend on a Broadway ticket, maybe sending a few dollars their way as they help out a community that's going through a very tough time."

Playbill also started a daily Twitter thread called #PlaybillTunes as a place for Broadway stars to make recommendations for cast albums.

While disappointed that the theaters are closing for now, some people who held tickets for shows during the next month say they understand why it's necessary for them to temporarily close.

Ryan Lefebvre drove 4½ hours to New York City from New Hampshire with his family to watch "Hadestown," "Beetlejuice" and "Six" this weekend before finding out the shows were canceled.

"I kind of see the big picture and understand where it's all coming from," said Lefebvre, who works in health care consulting. "I think that it was really good that they did that. I certainly, from a personal level, was really bummed."

After working with Ticketmaster and Telecharge for refunds to the shows, Lefebvre was able to rebook tickets for all three shows next month.

The Broadway League released a statement Thursday urging people to contact their points of purchase to receive refunds or exchanges on tickets for performances through April 12. Questions still swirl around what will happen to those who have been left unemployed for the next month.

"As theaters and concert halls go dark, we must ensure that musicians and other arts workers are not left behind," Adam Krauthamer, president of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, said in a statement Friday.