Lights on Broadway have Dimmed, Screens at Home Shine Bright

The Great White Way has dimmed its marquees for the first time since 9/11 in light of the global pandemic, COVID-19. Broadway theatres have been empty since March and will keep their doors closed for the unforeseeable future, but that hasn’t discouraged the community from sharing their art through new forums.

Streaming sites such as Disney+ and Netflix have released, or plan on releasing, professional recordings of blockbuster musicals, providing theatergoers a new, at-home theatre experience along with broadening audiences past these die-hard fans. Stories are still being told during these troubling times, but now in a more accessible and affordable setting than professional theatres.

Crowds were ecstatic to hear that a recording of internationally renowned musical Hamilton was to be released in movie theatres across the country featuring the original Broadway cast. Due to COVID-19, the planned release for Fall 2021 came sooner than expected. Fans were able to stream the show from the comfort of their homes starting July 3, 2020 with Disney+.

Junior Mikayla Lowe said, “I’ve listened to the soundtrack ever since the play was produced and I never thought I’d see Hamilton, let alone with the original cast. I’ve grown up loving to watch live performances in theatres, but I love watching musicals from home too. The performance was breathtaking. Watching the show from home was what I need in 2020.”

After the success of Hamilton on Disney+, plans for more pro-shots of Broadway musicals were announced for Netflix, with Diana, a new musical about the life of Princess Diana, confirmed and rumors of Mrs. Doubtfire, Tina, and Ain’t Too Proud-The Life and Times of the Temptations to follow.

The expensive ticket prices and lack of local theatres limits students’ access to professional productions. However, this issue is combatted by the releases of musicals on popular steaming sites, giving subscribers access to these shows from home.

“Even after this pandemic, people will be hesitant to go back to watching live musical, sitting next to complete strangers for 2-3 hours. Now, people can simply view their favorite musicals on their phones. I never thought I would see Hamilton on Broadway because the prices and the fact that traveling to New York isn’t convenient,” said Lowe.

With an industry so few teens are exposed to, these recorded productions open doors for more audiences to experience the power of storytelling through musical theatre.

Drama teacher Jennifer Isley said, “Once theatres start to reopen after COVID, they’re going to realize that there’s a wider range of audiences out there that they can reach. Hopefully these companies will start thinking about reducing ticket pricing, even if only on select performances, so more people can come see the shows.”

For the time being, doors must remain shut for the safety of audiences and actors. To keep the industry alive and the audiences growing, these pro-shot releases are the most safe and beneficial options available.

“There’s going to be more recorded theatre at this point because having audiences in small spaces will become and is an issue. Even if actors are able to work, they might not have big enough live audiences to make it worthwhile, so they’ll have to resort to recordings for a while,” said Isley.