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Broadway in Richmond recently announced its new season will – fingers crossed! – kick off in February 2021. Of course, like everything else during this pandemic the dates are subject to change if COVID-19 still has a strong hold on the country.
“Right now, we are focusing our energy on the best way to bring people back into the theater safely,” says Jack Meyer, vice president of programming for Nederlander Producing Co. of America, the presenting company for Broadway in Richmond.
Broadway in Richmond’s twelfth season will feature two Richmond premieres and three Broadway classics, all at Altria Theater. The iconic Jesus Christ Superstar is the first show of the season in February, followed by the acclaimed Lincoln Center Theater production of Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady in May. The Richmond premiere of Mean Girls takes place in July, and the premiere of Anastasia is scheduled for August. The always fun and extra popular Hairspray concludes the season in August.
The live entertainment industry has had extreme challenges since the start of the pandemic. The theatrical experience requires people getting together to experience shows.
“Effectively now, we are a collapsed industry,” Meyer says. “Theater is more of a collective experience where we have our individual experiences together and we haven’t been able to do that yet.”
Every time openings get pushed back, the producing company has to change dates and city schedules. “It’s like the largest game of Jenga ever,” Meyer says, adding it’s a “big ask to ask people to come together, but we all need something we can look forward to.”
Whenever theater returns, it’s going to be an adjustment, he adds. “It’s going to require more of people when they enter a venue. Every building operator will find a way to get people into the theater in the most effective way so there are no long lines.”
Nederlander is using the model of Seoul, South Korea, which has effectively brought theater back to audiences. “They have it down,” Meyer says.
South Korea uses pre-messaging to let people know what to expect at the theater and also provide guidelines on personal responsibility. Protocols in place include everything from links where audience members have to register their temperature for two days before the show to the requirement of masks.
“So far there have been no incidents or flare ups from audience members,” Meyer says. “The venue is cleaned between each performance and misted with a solution that safely kills any surface [germs]. It just shows that we are all trying to find a way to make this work. We all need to be able to gather in a safe way and enjoy theater again.”
Meyer appreciates Governor Northam’s approach to the pandemic from a scientific standpoint. He also praises ASM Global, the company that manages several venues in Richmond, including Altria Theater, and its Richmond General Manager Dolly Vogt.
“They have some great strategic plans for the building. They are committed to getting people in and making them feel comfortable in a safe way,” Meyer says.
Nederlander is new to the Richmond market. It purchased Jam Theatricals in December. Meyer is thrilled with the new season lineup.
“Jesus Christ Superstar and My Fair Lady are two of my favorite scores,” he says. “Mean Girls is a blast and Anastaia has a great message. Hairspray is very relevant now.”
Even though theaters are presently dark, the “creative spirit is still alive even though we can’t get together,” Meyer says. “I hope people will support it when we do come back.”
Subject to change. All venue, local, and state gathering guidelines will be observed at the time of each engagement.
For more information, visit www.BroadwayInRichmond.com.