Following a curtain call that capped off thunderous applause and appreciative ovations that peppered the re-opening performance of "Wicked" Tuesday night, the curtain came down.
And no one left.
The audience remained fixed in place, basking in the moment, not ready to let go of the magic the return to live theater on Broadway brought after 18 months away.
Minutes passed. The applause and cheers only grew louder.
And then the curtain was raised once more. The cast took another bow, the exchange between audience and company speaking volumes.
— Wicked the Musical (@WICKED_Musical) September 15, 2021
It's been a hard road to get to this moment, filled with sacrifice, heartache, sweat, tears and logistics on the parts of so many.
Yet the work to sustain an industry that itself sustains so much of the lifeblood of New York City has in many ways also just begun.
The future is a question mark in a world still facing a pandemic that surges and mutates. As a result, keeping Broadway companies and audiences safe presents several challenges.
Broadway officially returned last month, with the new play "Pass Over." At the start of September, it was joined by the returning musicals "Waitress" and "Hadestown." "Hamilton," "Wicked," "Chicago," "The Lion King" and "Lackawanna Blues" held their first performances on Sept. 14, and more productions will join the ranks throughout the next few months and into early 2022.
The early openings, as well as touring companies across the country getting underway, have given the Broadway League reasons for optimism regarding ticket demand and production safety protocols, St. Martin said.
"Well, I have a very cloudy crystal ball," she said. "Because we don't know (what the future holds). What we know right now is that ticket sales are great for September, and many shows in October."
St. Martin said ticket sales so far, combined with the success of COVID-19 protocols, are promising signs for the industry.
"Our very, very thorough and strict protocols, so far — I'm knocking on wood, by the way — have not led to any outbreaks. We have had one show open for six weeks, and several more for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks from now, (if) there are no outbreaks, I think what we're feeling is that our protocols are working. We spent 18 months developing them with our colleagues in the union, to ensure that the audience, the cast and the crew are safe. I say to everyone, as much as we would like to have opened in two weeks, that we would not open until we felt assured that we were delivering the best possible safety that could be delivered."
She said the industry is keeping a close eye as things develop.
"We're watching it, we're not sticking our heads in the sand acting like everything is hunky dory," she said. "But we're cautiously optimistic based on what we're seeing."
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Broadway is back, but how do we ensure it stays open?