New York City, New York: The largest musicals on Broadway returned on this week, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close for 18 months.
For the first time since the shutdown, the curtains rose again for leading musicals, including Hamilton, the Lion King and Wicked, which saw packed houses which welcomed back live theater.
Creator of Tony Award-winning hip-hop show Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, received a standing ovation when he appeared on stage, stating to the crowd, "I am so grateful to you and I hope you go see as many shows as you can and keep supporting our industry," as quoted by Reuters.
Kristin Chenoweth, who originally played the role of Glenda in Wicked some two decades ago, also made a surprise appearance before the show's re-opening, and composer Steven Schwartz joined a prolonged curtain call.
While long-running musical Chicago also re-opened, Julie Taymor, director of the Lion King, told the audience at the show's re-launch, "As Rafiki says, it is time."
When the pandemic began in mid-March 2020, Broadway was one of the first national institutions to close, and is the last to re-open. In New York, 40 theaters shut down and thousands of actors, stagehands, musicians and dancers lost their salaries.
With new protocols in place, audiences, actors, musicians and backstage crews must now show proof of being fully vaccinated and wear masks, and theaters have upgraded their air filter systems.
On Tuesday, Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller said, "It has been 700,125 minutes since we were last able to perform for a live audience."
The re-opening of many more musicals and plays in September will complete the re-opening of one of New York's major cultural attractions, and city officials hope Broadway's return will encourage tourism and bring back business to restaurants, bars and hotels near Times Square.