Listen

Jeff Lunden

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo upstaged the Broadway League Monday. Industry insiders expected the trade organization, which represents theater owners and producers, to say that some Broadway shows would reopen in September, with more coming back during the fall. But at a press conference Cuomo beat them to it, lifting most capacity restrictions on restaurants, bars, museums, gyms, salons and retail shops by May 19. That list also included Broadway.

Indoor theater has been shuttered in New York City for more than a year, due to safety concerns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

But there are indications of slow movement on this front.

Friday is opening night for Blindness at the off-Broadway Daryl Roth Theatre. At a recent preview, there was a short line outside the theater, where invited patrons waited to see the show — a piece based on a novel by José Saramago.

In 2012, when he was already well into his 80s, Christopher Plummer told NPR that he was busier than he had been in a long time – and that was OK with him. "You never stop learning how to act, both on screen and on the stage," he said. "I feel like I'm starting all over again. Every sort of decade I feel this, and that's very satisfying."

The Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor died Friday at his home in Connecticut. He was 91.

With his trademark suspenders and deep baritone voice Larry King spoke with presidents, world leaders, celebrities, authors, scientists, comedians, athletes — everyone. The Peabody Award-winning broadcaster died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 87.

The death of the famed interviewer was announced on King's Twitter feed in a posting from his production studio, Ora Media. No cause of death was provided, but King had recently been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Broadway star Rebecca Luker has died of complications from ALS. She and her husband also had COVID-19 earlier this year.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Tony-winning legend and dance icon Ann Reinking died on Saturday, family members confirmed to news outlets on Monday. She was 71.

"The world and our family have lost a vibrant, amazing talent and beautiful soul. Ann was the heart of our family and the life of the party," her family said in a statement, as reported by Variety.

Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater in New York, knows firsthand about the coronavirus. Eustis was hospitalized with COVID on March 10, and by the time he was released five days later, everything was shut down. "I came out into a world that had no theater, and it's a different world," he says.

As theaters across the world have closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, they've scrambled to find ways get work to the public.

Some have made archival video of productions available, some have created Zoom plays and some have returned to an old art form — radio drama — but with a digital twist.

In the 1930s, with many people out of work, families huddled around radio receivers to listen to audio plays, like Orson Welles' famous broadcast, War of the Worlds.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Before everything shut down, there were already jitters. An usher tested positive for coronavirus, actors were no longer taking selfies at stage doors and on March 12, one hour before a matinee of Moulin Rouge: The Musical!, the company held an emergency meeting, says actor Danny Burstein.

"They said that somebody in our cast was currently at the doctor's suffering symptoms of COVID-19 and that they were canceling the show," he recalls.

When states and municipalities across the country began banning large gatherings, theaters — from regional stages to Broadway — shut down. But, in a creative solution to a difficult problem, some theaters made archival videos of the closed productions available online, for the cost of a ticket.

In March, the American Conservatory Theater, or A.C.T., in San Francisco had a new play on its main stage called Toni Stone. It was about a female ballplayer in the Negro Leagues.

Broadway shut down in March for what it thought would be a month, but with New York at the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and with guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and the New York governor Andrew Cuomo, theaters will now remain shut until at least June 7th. The announcement was made on Wednesday morning by the Broadway League, an organization of theater owners and producers.

To stem the spread of coronavirus, New York's major cultural institutions announced they would be suspending performances or closing their doors, beginning Thursday.

Legendary Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman has died. The author of the hit musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles was 88.

Publicist Harlan Boll said Herman was taken to a Miami hospital Thursday night complaining of chest pain and later died of pulmonary complications.

The title of Jerry Herman's autobiography was Showtune, and if there ever was a Broadway composer who wrote good, old-fashioned, hummable show tunes, it was Jerry Herman.

Broadway is coming off a record-breaking season, in terms of attendance and box office receipts. But this weekend and next weekend, five musicals, representing an investment of $95 million, will close.

Broadway attendance was up 14% between 2018 and 2019, generating $1.83 billion in ticket sales. But not everyone has been invited to the party, says Jeremy Gerard, who has covered Broadway as a reporter and critic for over three decades.

"It's been a great year for Broadway, and that's true if you're one of the producers of a blockbuster show on Broadway," he says.

The musical theater director and producer Hal Prince, winner of an unprecedented 21 Tony Awards, has died in Iceland after a brief illness. He was 91.

Prince worked on such major shows as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and The Phantom of the Opera. But he was always looking forward to the next show, regardless of how the last one turned out.

In 1965, composer John Kander was working on a show that Prince produced called Flora, The Red Menace — and it was not going well.

June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of an event that proved to be a catalyst for a simmering gay-rights movement. On that day in 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Now a new opera, Stonewall, at the New York City Opera, dramatizes that historic moment.

The scores of Be More Chill, Beetlejuice, Hadestown, The Prom, To Kill a Mockingbird and Tootsie are all up for Tony Awards at the 73rd annual awards show.

Trustees of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) announced the evening of May 24 that they will apply to the U.S. Treasury for a reduction in member benefits, due to the AFM-EPF's "critical and declining" status – meaning the fund is projected to run out of money in 20 years. The AFM represents 80,000 professionals in the United States and Canada who play in symphony orchestras and opera houses, on Broadway, in film and television, and on studio recordings.

The 2018-2019 Broadway season hurtled to a close, with 14 plays and musicals opening in March and April, before the Tony Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning. And some of the late entries into the race were handsomely rewarded.

Actor and playwright Heidi Schreck says her new play — What the Constitution Means to Me — is a love letter to her mother.

The Broadway play — part personal memoir, part civics town hall — recreates the constitutional debate contests Schreck attended in high school. It's an attempt, she explains, to trace her evolving understanding of the U.S. Constitution and how it relates to her life, her family, and the women in her family in particular.

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Dominick Argento died on Wednesday in Minneapolis, Minn., after a short illness; his death was announced by his family He was 91. Argento was best known for his lyrical and astringent music for the human voice – he wrote 13 operas, as well as song cycles and choral works. As he told the late Mary Ann Feldman in a 2002 interview, "My interest is people. I am committed to working with characters, feelings and emotions."

Aug. 25, 2018 marks the centennial of Leonard Bernstein's birth. He was a singular American talent and one of the great orchestra conductors of his generation. He was also a composer of symphonies, ballets and hit musicals, a teacher, a television personality and a complicated man with a complicated personal life.

Editor's note: This story includes language that some may find offensive.

It was 1968. But playwright Mart Crowley felt he had to write what he knew.

"Nobody wanted the play," Crowley says. "Not even agents wanted to look at this play. They just thought it was pornographic and it was outrageous."

What he wrote in The Boys in the Band was a thinly veiled slice of autobiographical fiction. A group of gay friends gather for a raucous birthday party; by the end of the evening, secrets are spilled, tears are shed.

One of the oldest and most distinguished Spanish language theaters in the U.S. is housed in a converted Manhattan brownstone. "It started actually as a private house," explains Robert Federico, executive producer of Repertorio Español.

The space is tiny — rickety wooden stairs lead backstage and small props are stored in the hallway. The sets are designed to be stashed flush against walls behind black curtains.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When songwriter David Yazbek, whose mother is Jewish and father Lebanese, decided to write a musical that fused his two cultural backgrounds, he knew he didn't want it to be about tribal conflict.

His new Broadway show, The Band's Visit, attempts to do something that seems almost unfashionable: look at two historically antagonistic cultures and tell a story about their commonality.

We Shall Not Be Moved is a new opera that takes its name from both the old spiritual-turned-civil-rights anthem and the Philadelphia black liberation group, MOVE. That group might be best-remembered for a 1985 tragedy: A police helicopter bombed the MOVE house, and the resulting fire killed 11 people and destroyed 62 homes in the neighborhood.

The opera, presented by Opera Philadelphia with the Apollo Theater, had its world premiere Sept. 16. It revisits that house and its ghosts, while remaining centered on stories about young people in Philadelphia today.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of the ingredients a successful Broadway show needs is a talented cast. That starts with talented casting directors, the people who can see a Tony-winning star in the making, say, when a performer walks into an audition as a college student named Audra McDonald.

Pages