Commentary by Kelsee Brady, managing editor
On Mar. 12, 2020, Broadway shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial closing was only supposed to last for one month, but as COVID-19 cases continued to increase, Broadway had no choice but to stay shut down until Sept. 2021. Fans like myself were disappointed to hear about the Broadway shut down, but ultimately the concern for the safety and well-being of audience members, cast and crew alike was the top priority.
Theaters across the U.S. were shut down and performers were unable to do what they love the most. According to the Broadway League, almost 100,000 people had jobs related to Broadway productions. With the shutdown of the industry, all of these people were left without a source of income. The cast and crews of Broadway were provided some relief through the Save Our Stages Act that was passed by congress in Dec. 2020. Prior to this act, actors and actresses were seeking emergency financial assistance through the Actors Fund, a nonprofit that provides funding to workers in the performing arts and entertainment industry.
In Atlanta, the Fox Theatre closed on Mar. 14 and planned to remain that way for two weeks. As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continued to evolve, the Fox had to stay closed much longer. Finally, they opened their doors to patrons in late July with socially distanced seating and a reduced audience capacity. In late Aug., they began showing productions of “Hamilton” with a full audience and a mask requirement for audience members.
Since Aug. 24, the Fox has held showings of “Hamilton” at full capacity with very few issues. One performance on Sept. 15 was cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the cast, according to the New York Times. PCR test results for the rest of the cast and crew were delayed and because the results were not back in time the performance was cancelled. It was rescheduled for a different time, but the incident serves as a reminder that COVD-19 is still a viable threat and we should be cautious of our actions.
On Sept. 21, “Hamilton” went on without any issue and I was able to attend. While standing outside waiting to be let in, I reminisced on the excitement that I felt being able to attend a live theatre performance once again. With long concession lines and crowded entryways, it was just like before COVID-19 existed. When the opening instrumentation of “Alexander Hamilton” began, I got chills and the chills kept coming back throughout the performance.
The cast spectacularly displayed the story of Alexander Hamilton with stunning vocals and acting. Performing “Hamilton” feels like a considerable amount of pressure considering the global exposure that it has gained from its release on Disney +. The soundtrack of “Hamilton” is very popular among fans, and I can’t imagine what it’s like performing the show on Broadway knowing that almost every member of the audience has heard the original Broadway cast recordings.
While watching “Hamilton” from the privacy of my own home is great, I would rather experience the show live. The show translates well to the TV screen, but the Disney + version of “Hamilton” can’t capture the anticipation of waiting for the curtain to come up or the sound of over 4,000 viewers laughing, crying and applauding throughout the entirety of the show.
Disney + also takes liberties in the interpretation of the musical by zooming in during certain scenes and showing a specific perspective during a scene. Seeing it live onstage creates a unique experience that allows viewers to decide what they want to take in from the stage.
One of my favorite things to watch during shows is the interaction between background characters. In one scene, members of the ensemble are off to one side moving planks of wood to the second level of the set. They have very specific choreography despite the simple task, and watching the investment of the ensemble members is fascinating. Seeing the ensemble members interact with the acting can make or break a show. They are not the focal point of the scene, but without them, the scene can seem lifeless.