On March 12th, 2020, I went to work giving tours at the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway. Among the hundred-year-old architecture was something new: individual Purell stations. The New Am is a Disney theater, so making aesthetic changes did not come without immense consideration. My co-workers and I gave a few tours, and they would end up being the last tours I would give there. Later that afternoon, then Governor Cuomo (everyone’s least favorite Andrew behind Tate) announced that Broadway would be closing its doors due to the spread of COVID-19.
Three years later, Broadway was back and thriving. There were some bumps in the road along the way. Some people, like faux-intellectual Jordan Peterson, tried to cast a public pall on Broadway’s new COVID regulations. Other more reasonable people, who actually worked in the theaters, pointed to Broadway coming together as an exemplification of their “the show must go on” attitude. But some of those same people weren’t even following the regulations, so the truth lies somewhere in between. What matters is that Broadway seemed to be out of the dark and into the light. Now, COVID has returned for its second-act reprise.
My Spidey-Sense first started tingling a couple of weeks ago. While I am no longer giving tours on Broadway, I do still bartend there on occasion. The bartenders at my theater have been maskless for some time. That was a big deal. Then, masks started to come back on. At first, it was a courtesy when someone maybe didn’t feel their best. Then, it was being done when someone was exposed to COVID. When the Coronavirus first spread, several of my co-workers had it without realizing it. We were the canaries in a coal mine where soda costs ten dollars.
I won’t say what show I work at currently, but COVID may or may not have infected members of the cast recently. It didn’t make the news, because those infections don’t anymore. Unless, of course, it comes after the big stars. The current production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has lost both of its stars, Josh Groban and Analeigh Ashford, to COVID stints. The actors are expected to return, but it is foreboding nonetheless.
It could be much worse. Unlike in the beginning, we have vaccines now. There are easier ways to quarantine, and hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. Still, it’s hard not to feel a sense of fright at this news. COVID-19 left an indelible mark on Broadway. It shook an entire community to its core and took the lives of many. I’ll be honest when I say that, despite the advances, it feels scary to go to work again. Any shift could be that “last tour.” My son literally just ran over to give me a kiss, so I have hope. It’s hard not to. But not feeling fear can be just as hard.