For Broadway and the performing arts industry, a harsh reality is beginning to set in – The Athletic

As the world continues to navigate through a global pandemic, a sign of some return to normality has been hundreds and thousands of people once again gathering for live entertainment. Not just in stadiums and arenas, but in theaters and performance halls – especially in New York and especially on Broadway.

Since September, the performing arts industry has proudly proclaimed that “Broadway is back!” more than a year and a half after the lights went out. Since March 2020, the actors, musicians, stagehands and all the support staff involved in setting up a Broadway production have been at an uneasy standoff as comeback promises continue to be postponed and the uncertainty hovers. With the country in quarantine, tourism suspended and a raging public health crisis, an already financially precarious industry has faced many questions about its future.

“It was surreal,” said Dave Mancuso, a 20-year Broadway veteran who worked as a percussionist and assistant bandleader on shows like “The Lion King,” “Spamalot” and “Frozen.” “It was definitely a shock, but I think the biggest shock was that we all expected to go back to work. We all hoped it would be temporary.

Prior to the shutdown, members of society had begun to fall ill and there had already been signs of restrictions being imposed on emissions. No backstage guests were allowed, people masked up and the audience dwindled.

Then, on March 12 of last year, the entire industry received an email that Broadway would be shut down under a government mandate. Many players assumed they would return to work in a month. “It was kind of like, ah, well, we’re going to take a break. We’re not going to get paid, but we’re going to have this little vacation,” said Mancuso, who was working on “Frozen” at the time.