Great Performances

S49 E16 | FULL EPISODE

Great Performances – Reopening: The Broadway Revival

Go behind the scenes of Broadway as shows reunite, rehearse and re-stage for their long-awaited reopening nights while the theater industry learns how to turn the lights back on after its longest hiatus in history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AIRED: January 18, 2022 | 0:54:00
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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪♪

♪♪♪

-Broadway is...

♪♪♪

...New York City at its best.

-Broadway is special.

It's exhilarating. It's so much fun.

-Broadway is awesome. [ Laughs ]

-You know, it's the heartbeat of what New York is all about.

-Broadway talent is the best in the world.

-You can't get it anywhere else.

♪♪♪

-Broadway is joy to me.

-Absolute joy.

-It means something big.

-A mythic heart of amazing storytellers.

-It's just what I love.

-Live theater is really electric.

-It feels like you're on top of the world.

-Come home singing and dancing along the street.

♪♪♪

Whoa!

-Broadway is the hardest... performance art form.

-Broadway's hard, y'all. Broadway is hard!

-Broadway is also...strong.

-It's a family.

-Broadway is my home.

-I am actually home when I'm onstage.

-Broadway is...like...

-Broadway is...everything.

-"Reopening: The Broadway Revival,"

next on "Great Performances."

-Welcome to great performances. I'm Frank DiLella.

As a New York-based journalist who has spent

almost the last two decades covering theater

for New York 1 News,

I've never seen Broadway more vibrant

than it was in early 2020.

The industry was at a fever pitch,

employing over 97,000 workers,

bringing more audience members than the 10 New York

and New Jersey professional sports teams combined.

New box-office records were being set,

and fans from all over the world

were packing these storied theaters.

♪♪♪

-♪ But my life is incomplete ♪

♪ I'm so blue ♪

♪ 'Cause I can't get next to you ♪

-♪ I can't get next to you, babe ♪

-Broadway was crazy pre-pandemic.

It's so crazy to the point

where we got underwear thrown onstage.

-♪ I can't get next to you ♪

-♪ I can't get next to you ♪

♪ I just can't ♪

-Real underwear, panties,

and I'm like, "Oh, okay," and then swing it over.

-♪ Next to you ♪

♪ Oh, I ♪

♪ Next to you ♪

-The security guys had to, like, start checking for,

you know, articles of clothing and telling people

not to throw anything onstage or run up onstage.

-No more underwear. -No more underwear.

But then we started getting, like, requests of, like,

"Can you sign my chest?"

I was signing body parts at one point.

It was just -- It was so crazy.

-♪ It was just my imagination ♪

-"Oh, can you say something in my ear?

Talk in your deep voice."

[ Deep voice ] I'm like, "Yeah, baby, what you want?" You know?

[ Both laugh ]

It's so great.

♪♪♪

-I remember where I was

when our producer phoned me and said,

"We're going to Broadway."

She said, "Don't tell anyone,

but we're moving to Broadway," and I said, "I won't."

And then I phoned about five ensemble members

and told them all.

[ Both laugh ]

Getting to portray Princess Diana on Broadway

is the honor of a lifetime.

It definitely feels like the biggest challenge

that I've faced.

There's this huge sort of, like, pressure

to fill these massive boots.

♪♪♪

-So 2020 was so exciting because it felt like

five years' worth of work really coming to a head at this moment

that I've been looking forward to for so long,

probably my whole life.

♪♪♪

-♪ Baby ♪

♪ Don't, baby ♪

♪ Don't, baby ♪

[ Vocalizing ]

♪ Do I love you, my, oh, my ♪

♪ River deep, mountain high ♪

♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah ♪

♪ If I lost you, would I cry? ♪

♪ Oh, how I love you, baby ♪

♪ Baby, baby, baby ♪

-We opened the show. It was great.

Award season was about to begin,

and all of a sudden, everything...

stopped.

In that moment, I thought, "You've got to be kidding me."

[ Laughs ]

Because it felt like I had finally --

I was finally seeing the finish line.

And then it just disappeared.

And man, I was so tired.

I was going around that last bend,

and I couldn't believe it.

Like, if you had said, "The world is gonna stop,"

I would have been like, "What are you talking about?"

It crushed me.

♪♪♪

Because I didn't know what was gonna happen.

And not just like personally, but, like, with my career.

Would anybody remember everything that I just did?

[ Sighs ]

Would "Tina" open again?

Everything that we just worked for?

I was so scared.

I didn't know what it meant for me.

♪♪♪

And a lot of loss and grief took place,

and I mourned the show heavily.

I mourned my work heavily.

♪♪♪

-You were doing "Waitress."

-Mm-hmm.

-And then what happened?

-Well, COVID happened.

♪♪♪

-No gathering with 500 people or more.

-Yes, all large gatherings banned.

-...gatherings of more than 500 people.

That's including Broadway shows.

-Broadway and Metropolitan Opera are going dark.

-...Broadway theaters in Manhattan

go into effect 5:00 today.

-It's lights out for the Great White Way.

Broadway shows will suspend all performances immediately.

-Well, it was a very strange day,

but I did have the information from serious medical friends

that this was a pandemic that we needed to worry about.

-You know, things intensified very, very quickly.

And it was locked down,

and there's nobody who's not touched by this on some level.

Many of our company members got COVID, and it was just like,

you know, the nightmare we've all been sort of living through.

[ Siren wails in distance ]

-It was really like a slow-motion movie,

and I remember walking around and seeing the streets

totally empty, and unbelievably...scary.

-It was like "Westworld."

It was like a wasteland,

and I kept thinking it's like -- what's that movie

with the pod people where they take over the bodies?

That's what it was like.

No one in the streets.

No one on the sidewalks.

Very little noise...

which strangely was very soothing and disturbing

because it felt like, "Where am I? I don't know.

Am I -- " Felt like I was in some kind of container.

♪♪♪

And I do remember they said -- and everybody said this.

"Well, don't worry, we'll be back in two weeks."

So I left everything in my dressing room.

So that moment, I do remember thinking,

"Oh, we'll be back."

And it was a year and a half later.

♪♪♪

-I don't think anybody thought that we were going to be shut

for the period of time that we were.

-Everybody kind of scattered during the pandemic.

It sort of felt like the end of "Fiddler on the Roof,"

where it was like, "Maybe see in the new country.

I don't know when we're coming back."

♪♪♪

-We got the news that we were gonna shut down for a month.

[ Chuckles ]

And then that month turned into, "Oh, next year."

♪♪♪

I don't want it to end like this.

You know, I want it to end where we have a proper closing,

where we have a proper goodbye.

It felt like something was stolen from me.

♪♪♪

-This is an art form in which we are literally,

like, singing at each other's faces

and our spittle is flying into the audience.

It really started to feel like

who will ever be comfortable with this again?

-It was a literal year and a half since the last time

I stepped inside a theater.

-Jeanna, you've had a crazy ride.

-Yeah.

♪♪♪

-Good, right?

Yay!

♪♪♪

-Dreams come true!

-You open with previews for "Diana."

The pandemic happens.

-Yeah.

It's been a whirlwind before, and it's the thing that sort of

has kept me afloat this pandemic.

Our producers were so adamant that we were coming back.

-♪ ...someone care ♪

-It's gonna take a lot of leadership and a lot of support,

and we're going to bring it all back.

♪♪♪

-I thought that the first thing that we had to do

was to try and get theater into a position

that it could safely reopen again

because I just felt that, you know,

we had to find a way out of it because it's what I love.

-We have an obligation.

We have a responsibility.

And it's not just to ourselves, being honest,

it's to the world.

-We are ready to do the thing we do,

and the audience wants it.

We cannot live our life anymore in fear.

-There's a beautiful saying in the theater,

"The show must go on,"

and here in New York City, the show is going on again.

Broadway is coming back.

-We're ready to go.

We're ready to open.

The curtain's rising.

Broadway's back,

and we are reopening bigger and better than ever.

[ Cheers and applause ]

♪♪♪

-We were the first industry, obviously, to shut down,

and we're the last to come back.

Cut to, "You're coming back to Broadway."

Okay, we have to move back to New York City,

and so that happened basically in like a month.

♪♪♪

There's so much to reopening a show on Broadway,

and especially now that we were closed for, you know, 18 months.

It's like putting up a new Broadway show.

People are like, "Oh, you're just doing a show again."

I'm like, "No, boo."

We had 18 months off.

When I tell you I did not know lines,

I did not know choreography.

We are re-learning everything again.

It was the most incredible thing

to come into the first day of rehearsal

and feel that energy that we've all been aching and hungry for

to feel for so long.

-♪ Arabian nights ♪

♪ Like Arabian days ♪

♪ More often than not ♪

♪ Are hotter than hot ♪

♪ In a lot of good ways ♪

-And there is nothing you can really do

to really just --

to prepare you for that intensity

that is the theater,

what we put our bodies through eight times a week.

Took for granted how fierce we were before the pandemic.

[ Laughs ]

And what it takes to get back to that fierceness.

I'm like, "It's taking a lot longer than I expected."

Broadway's hard, y'all.

Broadway is hard.

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Chatter ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

-The first rehearsal was wild.

It was surreal.

It was overwhelming.

This extraordinary community of artists and artisans.

You know, "Waitress" has a massive family.

There's so many people behind the scenes

that have been toiling over this

and trying to get this to come to life.

-So today, we're just filming "Opening Up,"

kind of with the purpose of everyone getting to hear

everyone's voices again for the first time,

just capturing and getting the essence of reopening,

opening up.

-Resilience and faith.

It's like rising up.

Those themes resonate so deeply to me right now.

-♪ The day starts like the rest we've seen ♪

♪ Another carbon copy of an old routine ♪

-♪ Days keep coming ♪

-♪ One out, one in ♪

-♪ They keep coming ♪

-♪ Don't know what I wish I had ♪

♪ But there's no time now for thinking things like that ♪

♪ We've got too much to do ♪

♪ Too much to do ♪

♪ All these same things ♪

♪ We're always ♪

♪ Opening up ♪

♪ Letting the day in ♪

♪ Over a cup ♪

♪ We'll say ♪

♪ Hello ♪ -♪ Hello ♪

-♪ How ya been? ♪ -♪ How ya been? ♪

-♪ Thank you ♪ -♪ Thank you ♪

-♪ Come again ♪

-♪ Looking around ♪

♪ Seeing the same things ♪

♪ Every day brings ♪

♪ Hello ♪ -♪ Hello ♪

-♪ How ya been? ♪ -♪ How ya been? ♪

-♪ Thank you ♪ -It was fun.

I mean, everything, like, snapped into reality

in this very beautiful and sort of intense way.

♪ Opening up ♪

♪ Some things never change ♪

♪ Hello ♪ -♪ Hello ♪

-♪ How ya been? ♪ -♪ How ya been? ♪

-♪ Thank you ♪ -♪ Thank you ♪

-♪ Come again ♪

♪ Some things never change ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

-It's very, very meaningful to me.

These people are extensions of my family.

[ Cheers and applause continue ]

They've been absolutely amazing, and nothing feels better

than being back in a room with other artists, you know,

passing the ball around.

I have a few notes.

[ Laughter ]

♪♪♪

-♪ Hey ♪

-Higher.

-♪ Hey ♪

-Higher.

-♪ Hey ♪

Like you're singing for your life!

-♪ Hey ♪ -Yes!

-So when I found out Broadway was coming back,

I was completely not in shape.

So the first thing I thought was,

"Oh, my gosh, how do I get in shape so quickly?"

within like three months.

And I just buckled down and did it.

[ Indistinct conversation ]

And I also had to realize, "You know what?

Like, I'm older now, and I am just a different woman.

And it's okay if my body's not gonna be exactly what it was."

♪ Come on ♪

And to come into this role again just as a new Adrienne

and to, like, really be in love with that person and this body

and this vessel that has gotten me through a lot,

so thank you, body.

But I was terrified when I found out Broadway was coming back.

♪ They call it Nutbush ♪

♪ Oh, Nutbush ♪

♪ Oh, Nutbush city limits ♪

♪ Nutbush city ♪

[ Singing indistinctly ]

I mean, I was so excited

that we were gonna bring the show back,

praying that I could bring it back,

that they would let me come back,

and then when we went into the rehearsal room,

I realized I had completely forgotten the show.

[ Singing indistinctly ]

No. Oh, my God, I messed up.

[ Laughter ]

And the reason I felt like I'd completely forgotten the show

because I have like six versions of a show in my head,

from workshops to the West End to name it, I had it,

and so there would be moments in rehearsal where I would

start doing something and people would be like,

"What? What are you doing?"

I'm like, "This is the show."

They'd be like, "No, it's not, Adrienne.

That's from London."

So that was hilarious and also terrifying.

♪ No whiskey for sale ♪

♪ You get caught, no bail ♪

♪ Saltpork and molasses ♪

♪ Oh, that's all you get in jail ♪

♪ Call it Nutbush ♪

♪ Yeah, Nutbush, oh, yeah ♪

♪ Oh, Nutbush city limits ♪

-♪ Nutbush city limits ♪

-♪ Nutbush city limits ♪

-♪ Nutbush city limits ♪

-♪ Nutbush city limits ♪

-♪ Nutbush city limits ♪

-♪ Nutbush city ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Siren wails in distance ]

-What went through your mind when you got back?

-Once I g-- I was terrified.

I was absolutely terrified.

I'm still terrified.

I have to tell you something.

At one point, I was -- we were doing a run through,

and I was like, "I wonder if I remember my cue."

I was like, "I wonder if I remember -- "

And my feet, like, moved, and I started to walk.

My brain wasn't going.

My feet were like...

I'm like, "Where am I going? What is happening?"

And I walked onstage, "Good morning!"

with no thought process whatsoever.

So my body luckily retained this sort of sense memory.

Luckily, I had done the role before.

♪♪♪

♪♪♪

[ Chatter ]

♪♪♪

-The really thrilling thing has been with a show

that has been running as long as this

to get the opportunity to reset the dial,

to rehearse with the cast from the beginning

as if it's a new show.

[ Cheers and applause ]

"Phantom" is, I think, one of the greatest productions

that I've ever been involved with.

I mean, hugely.

We've just got to make sure now

that there's a new generation who see it.

If we could get everybody back again

and get everybody back into the theater and talking about it

and make it the hot show again that it really should be,

that's my ambition.

Do you know what?

I think that the fact that we've all had a chance to rework

and revitalize our shows,

I think, is very, very important.

You never get a chance to sit down and say,

"Right, let's examine the material

and start rehearsing all over again,"

and the great joy of being able to work with the orchestra,

you know, and talk about some of the musical intentions.

Actually getting all of the music side

up to the very, very high standard.

We've just got to get "Phantom" back up to being

not just the great show that it was but even better than it was.

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Baby coos ]

-Oh, there we go.

-Elizabeth, what went through your mind when you found out

you were gonna have this beautiful, beautiful baby?

-I mean, it was a total joy.

It was just like this --

But and then it's also scary because I think

I'm not super young

and there are so many things that can go awry,

so it was like this mix of like,

"Oh, my gosh, it happened, and I hope that it becomes true."

Here I am, just being pregnant.

Then I remember, like, the mixed feeling of, like, as Broadway

was starting to announce, like,

"Hey, we're coming back and it's gonna be this timeline,"

I was like, "No!"

Because of course, I was so overjoyed that

there was hope on the horizon that we would be reopening.

[ "Uninvited" plays ]

But I just knew.

I was like, "That's gonna be really hard for me that..."

It's so close, but just not quite late enough for me

to really feel like I can do them both at the same time

in the way that I want to do them.

♪ But you ♪

♪ You're not allowed ♪

♪ You're uninvited ♪

♪ An unfortunate slight ♪

So, yeah, it was a little...

It was a bittersweet, I think, finding out

when Broadway was reopening, for me personally.

♪ Must be strangely exciting ♪

♪ To watch the stoic squirm ♪

It is the nature of this business

that shows come and go, and we are used to that.

And this is a really special one,

and so I'm looking forward to going back.

But I felt like if I didn't take this time with my child, like,

I would always regret it because I won't get that back.

Like, she's only gonna be a tiny baby one time.

♪ But you ♪

♪ You're not allowed ♪

♪ You're uninvited ♪

♪ An unfortunate ♪

♪♪♪

[ Horn honks ]

♪♪♪

-So today, we're getting the show back open,

and there's a lot of things that have to happen.

Yes! Hi!

[ Chatter ]

I actually was asked to do the pre-record that you hear

at the opening of the show.

What's up, everybody?

Welcome back to Broadway and the historic New Amsterdam Theatre.

[ Chuckles ] I just got excited.

I'm like, "I'm the voice that people are hearing?

Like, this voice? Are you kidding me?"

Like, that's so weird and crazy to me.

We are so glad you are here, and enjoy the show!

Okay.

-You ready?

-As ready as -- yes.

[ Both laugh ]

Aah!

No. [ Laughs ]

I am going to get in full costume,

my full Genie glam.

You know, sometimes my phone doesn't rec--

like, when I get makeup done --

-Won't recognize you?

-It won't recognize my -- which is hilarious.

I'm putting it on...

for the first time.

[ Laughs ]

Which is crazy.

I'm just -- I'm a little -- I'm a little in shock right now.

I'll get to see our new Aladdin, Michael Maliakel,

for the first time today, too.

Hi!

How are you?

♪♪♪

It's a bit surreal and beautiful and exciting and nerve-wracking,

and all the things to -- also a dream come true

because we've all been dreaming it for a while.

♪♪♪

It feels so outer body right now

to be standing back on this stage

in this gorgeous, lovely, subtle costume

and putting on, and I really had to sort of

take a moment, kind of took my breath away.

[ Laughs ]

Wow.

♪ Never had a friend like me ♪

[ Applause ]

I think that knowing that there was a place

for a little chocolate chubby child from Orlando, Florida,

who just wanted to sing and dance in this business

and that all these years later, people are accepting him for him

and for all of his ridiculousness [Laughs] is...

is beyond joyful

and when I think about other little kids

who may not have seen themself and knowing that it is possible.

I am a little bit speechless right now,

but thankful -- so thankful.

-Having this light at the end of the tunnel

that everybody in this community

is putting all of their effort into bringing this artform back,

and I'm with this community 100%

in just giving it my all to bring it back.

Hello. How you doing?

I'm Jeanna.

This morning, we are heading to a concert in Times Square

for the reopening of Broadway.

This is the first time I've sung any "Diana" songs

in front of people since...

yeah, March 2020.

♪ Will not have been in vain ♪

I'm performing "If," which is the hardest number in show,

so of course, let's just rip the Band-Aid off.

Sing the finale at 8:40 a.m. in the morning.

♪ My future's my design ♪

♪ My story finally mine ♪

♪ As I light the world ♪

♪ I'll light the world ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

Yes. Okay, 9:00 a.m.

[ Laughter ]

-In the center of all this craziness

and this whirlwind of getting a Broadway show open,

you're singing in Times Square for thousands of people.

-Yeah, it's very cool. It's crazy.

[ Cheers and applause ]

-Please welcome to the stage Ms. Jeanna de Waal.

[ Cheers and applause ]

-So, I was nervous.

♪ A mother full of pride ♪

♪ Her princes by her side ♪

♪ Her life finally hers to choose ♪

♪ And I choose happiness ♪

♪ I choose a fresh, new start ♪

♪ I choose whatever lies ahead ♪

♪ If I can carry on ♪

♪ Stay calm and simply breathe ♪

♪ If I devote my soul ♪

♪ To every child in need ♪

♪ The Queen bestows her grace ♪

♪ And places me in charge ♪

♪ To represent the crown ♪

♪ Ambassador at large ♪

♪ I'll be their English rose ♪

♪ Their shining knight ♪

♪ And I'll light the world ♪

♪ I'll light the world ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

And so, when you're in great shape,

it is the most fun thing to do in the world.

So, it was a wonderful day.

♪ If Charles steps aside ♪

♪ And lets my William reign ♪

♪ Then all this suffering ♪

♪ Will not have been in vain ♪

♪ My future's my design ♪

♪ My story finally mine ♪

♪ As I light the world ♪

♪ I'll light the world ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

Thank you so much.

-Finally, what we love doing, we were able to do.

And not just able to do it -- we were able to share it.

And that is such a blessing. [ Laughs ]

Oh, it's joy! [ Laughs ]

♪♪♪

-The Tony Awards is a celebration

of what this industry is all about.

What was so great about that night,

it was like a family reunion. You know, there were people

who came in from different parts of the country

to actually be a part of this program.

-It just felt very emotional.

I mean, I think there were some presenters who were crying.

♪♪♪

-When I came out, I came downstage,

and the audience, they stood.

-Standing ovation.

-[Voice breaking] And it was so humbling...

Um, go again.

It was so humbling

that you wonder why you're given these gifts.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-It's a highlight of my life and my career

that I'll never forget, no matter what happens tonight.

It's special to get to do your Tony-winning performance

at the reopening of Broadway. [ Laughs ]

-A good night for you.

-Yeah, it was a good night. [ Laughs ]

What?!

[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

♪ I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money ♪

♪ I'll do what you want me to do ♪

♪ Just a private dancer, a dancer for money ♪

♪ And any old music will do ♪

-Your reopening night on Broadway was pretty epic.

What was going through your mind when you took to the stage?

-There's a moment when I stand backstage

and it is just me onstage.

It's completely dark.

And I looked to my right, and there was a young woman

who had just joined our company, and it was her Broadway debut.

And I saw her nerves,

and it instantly -- thank the Lord --

it got me out of my head, and I ran offstage.

And my stage manager was like, "What are you doing?!"

And I just grabbed her and I hugged her and I said,

"Welcome to Broadway." Like, this is --

It's happening. It's, like, right now.

And when that curtain rose,

and it was like we were at a rock concert.

It was game on, ready to go. [ Laughs ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

♪♪♪

I realized that this is about all of us,

and this is the reopening of Broadway,

and just how cool is that?

[ Cheers and applause continue ]

♪♪♪

Reopening Broadway was...

...a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life.

♪♪♪

-Are you nervous at all to be back onstage?

-Yes, I'm totally nervous.

I think it's -- it's not like riding a horse.

It's different. It's -- We're all different.

People come in,

how people will feel about masks,

how people feel about showing their vaccination card --

it's a complicated atmosphere.

-It seems to me that everybody's got a rather good attitude

about it now because you have to be

double vaccinated to come to a building.

You have to wear a mask in the building.

I'm excited that we have paved the way for theatergoers

to understand about masks for a very, very long time.

♪♪♪

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-"Phantom" returns.

You know, the father of Broadway is back.

-We've been able to get it right back

to what it was when we opened it.

-What do you think is going to go through your mind tonight

when the chandelier finally raises for the first time

on Broadway in months?

[ Organ music playing, audience cheering ]

♪♪♪

-Apart from hoping it doesn't get stuck?

No, um... -[ Laughing ]

-That moment with the chandelier rising over the audience,

that's something you cannot get

from anywhere other than a theater.

You can't get it anywhere else.

♪♪♪

It's a show. It's a big, big musical.

I mean, there isn't a production like it.

♪♪♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Indistinct shouting, camera shutters clicking ]

-You're doing something special tonight after the show.

-Ah, yes, well, you see, my other, alter career --

people, you know, those in the real know,

know that I'm really a deejay at heart.

[ Electronic dance music plays ]

♪♪♪

Very pleased to say that, shall we say,

a surprising collection of tunes,

a surprising collection of songs

did seem to get the dance floor pretty full.

♪♪♪

♪♪♪

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-First, I'm headed to "Wicked" to do the curtain speech

because about 19 years ago, I created the role of Glinda.

And they've asked me to come over

and just welcome everybody back,

and I'm so excited to be able to say, "We thank you for coming

and sitting in our seats and watching us do our thing."

It's been a year and a half.

When I came in through the backstage,

which I haven't done in several, several, several years,

and I saw the cast onstage doing a group circle,

I got emotional, and then I saw Glinda.

Come here! Hi!

-Oh, my gosh!

-Well, we kind of hugged and cried,

and she's like, "I -- I --"

I'm like, "This is your night."

-[ Crying ] You look gorgeous.

-[ Speaking indistinctly ]

The electricity was so powerful

that I could have literally not curled my hair.

It was like -- vrrrrr!

The crew was buzzing.

The audience was beside themselves.

-Ladies and gentlemen, Kristin Chenoweth!

[ Cheers and applause ]

-I was there to deliver a message, a simple one.

You know, "Welcome back."

There's no place like home.

[ Cheers and applause ]

-You went to the theater that night.

You went to go see "Wicked."

The original Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth,

introduced "Wicked" that night.

-Yes. I mean, she was incredible.

She was incredible. She was incredible.

-I wanted to be the one to be here to welcome New York

and all of the theatergoers back

to what is -- sorry -- my favorite show.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Things like this don't just happen.

It takes a whole lot of people,

the people that are finally getting to present something

and do what it is they do for you,

so God bless you and have fun!

[ Cheers and applause ]

-After this long and unwanted intermission,

Alexandra, what was your first night back like?

-My first night back was extraordinary.

The gratefulness from the audience was palpable.

♪♪♪

You could feel it in your bones.

They're so happy to be there.

[ Cheers and applause ]

♪♪♪

♪♪♪

-It's good to see me, isn't it?

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-Aaron, what was reopening night like for you?

-The moment that I first hit the stage

and turned and saw the audience...

Um...

I mean, I almost -- I was right at the brink.

Like, I almost totally lost it, and I kind of had to really

get it together and compartmentalize

to even make it away across that stage.

[ Cheers and applause ]

I've been very lucky to be part

of some amazing nights of theater

and some amazing moments in rehearsal,

but all of us coming back together

and the first nights back...

[ Cheers and applause ]

They're like life things, you know?

Those are like all-time moments that you'll never forget.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-I'm just crying before the show even starts!

[ Speaking indistinctly ]

-It's my first time seeing a Broadway show

since the comeback.

And the fact that it's this show...

[ Laughs ] I'm like, "What?!"

-Your show's about to reopen.

Are you sad you're not going

to be performing on your opening night?

-I am.

I mean, that was like the hardest part, was...

that particular night.

Like, I'll be so sad to miss

that very first performance back.

I have a lot of feelings.

But my mascara is waterproof, so I feel prepared.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-Thank you for being here tonight.

I give you "Jagged Little Pill"!

[ Cheers and applause ]

-♪ Rain on your wedding day ♪

♪ It's a free ride when you've already paid ♪

♪ It's the good advice ♪

-So, it's intermission of the invite dress,

and I am losing my mind.

It is so amazing.

It's just...

Oh!

Well, also, I'm just breast pumping here

in the house manager's office. [ Laughs ]

And so, like, it's all so, so weird.

Oh, God, the show is so good.

-♪ And I'm here to remind you ♪

♪ Of the mess you left when you went away ♪

♪ It's not fair ♪ -♪ It's not fair ♪

-♪ To deny me ♪

♪ Of the cross I bear that you gave to me ♪

♪ You, you, you oughta know ♪

-Oh, it was so incredible.

It was so incredible to receive,

like, the energy that everyone is putting out.

I know how hard they were working,

and to just sit in the audience and feel that

was so extraordinary.

-Reopening Broadway is historic.

And I'm a lucky Irish lass. [ Laughs ]

♪ Suddenly I'm in the cockpit ♪

♪ Suddenly I've got my wings ♪

♪ Suddenly all of those pilots protesting me ♪

♪ Well, they can get their own drinks, ha-ha! ♪

We're back in the air again, seat belts on.

It's been -- It's been such an honor to be asked back.

[ Rhythmic clapping ]

♪♪♪

-What was your first night back like?

-It was crazy. It was beautiful. It was so epic.

[ Cheers and applause ]

I've never heard sound like that, a wall of sound.

We had to stop and pause

and we actually applauded the audience.

We're back. We are back.

And it's an unbelievable feeling.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-After 600 days,

welcome back home to the theater.

[ Cheers and applause ]

-♪ I choose happiness, I choose a fresh, new start ♪

-♪ I choose whatever lies ahead ♪

♪ I'll have another child ♪

♪ An answer to my prayer ♪

♪ Perhaps a baby girl ♪

♪ Or better yet, a pair ♪

♪ If Charles steps aside ♪

♪ And lets my William reign ♪

♪ Then all this suffering ♪

♪ Will not have been in vain ♪

♪ My future's my design ♪

♪ My story finally mine ♪

♪ As I light the world ♪

♪ I'll light the world ♪

♪♪♪

♪♪♪

[ Laughs ] That was incredible. I feel amazing.

That audience was just on our team

right from the beginning.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And then they were throwing roses at us,

which is like something from the movies.

We are so honored

to be back with you after 20 months,

and this company has been through an awful lot.

There are new babies.

We've lost some loved ones.

There are new pets, new houses.

Some of us are gay now.

[ Laughter ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

Hello! Hello!

I have every hope that we find our audience.

And it's a night like this where you see people,

like, really connecting with it and enjoying

that I have faith that we're going to find our audience

and that people are going to enjoy it.

-What a picture.

-Reopening "Diana" on Broadway is a privilege of a lifetime.

[ People cheering in distance ]

♪♪♪

-Reopening night, it was...

Honestly, I have to be honest --

once I got on that stage and the lights went down,

I kind of went into a dream, and I barely remember it.

[ Cheers and applause ]

At the end of "Friend Like Me,"

which is my sort of big, crazy number in "Aladdin,"

the audience stood up, and at the end of that,

you know, I was like, "Thank you, thank you!

Thank you! Oh, thank you so much!"

And in my head, all I kept thinking was like,

I am so tired.

I don't know how I'm going to finish the show.

Like, I am so winded right now.

And I just kept thinking, like, 18 months.

Well, I said that.

I just said it out loud, and the mic, you know, was up.

And because I'm the Genie, I can kind of get away with it.

So I just said -- I said, "18 months!"

And literally, like, it was as if it was a release

for everyone.

[ Laughs ]

So, I remember the opening night from that moment.

♪♪♪

So, the next night was a complete, uh...

...very different night.

-Breakthrough COVID cases forced the performance to be canceled

just one day after the show reopened

-The emotional high from a reopening after 18 months

to then a shutdown the next day --

"devastation" doesn't even really describe it.

-"Aladdin" was canceled

just 30 minutes before curtain time.

Positive COVID cases were detected

with members of the company.

-We were actually in the theater when the call came,

and it was like a funeral

walking down the steps to head outside,

and no one was really talking.

The four weeks of rehearsal and tech

to get to that point felt like it was

almost for nothing.

I think that that -- it scared me so much

in terms of how vulnerable we are

and that we still are.

That's when I think about our community

and I think about the support because everyone was like,

"That could be us. That could be us."

That is the reality.

Right now, this would be half-hour.

I would be in my, like, pre-Genie glam,

getting ready for the show,

instead of bustling on the terrace with my family.

[ Laughter ]

-Michael, you flew your whole family in to see you.

They're here now.

They've never seen you do the Genie in "Aladdin."

That was supposed to happen this weekend.

-Yeah. -Tonight.

How does that make you feel?

-Devastated.

I'm devastated that my family can't see me do the show.

They have sacrificed a lot to be able to be here to support.

You know, some of them have never been to a Broadway house,

so they've spent hard-earned money

to come and support not only me,

but the community, because they happen to be

connected to the community from me.

-He is a character. [ Laughter ]

-That he is. -He is a character.

-Look at him.

[ Laughter ]

-Proud dad.

-I can't be -- I can't be more proud of him.

-We're all proud of him. We are there. We support him.

-They are so excited to stand in front of those posters

and billboards on the side of the street.

Every, like, thing that says "Oh, 'Aladdin' is shut down,"

this and that, it's my picture like...

[ Laughter ]

They have all been getting selfies

and all the things and singing songs from "Aladdin."

And I can't wait for the day

that I get to do the show for them,

and I can't wait for the day that they get to see

their little Michael James Scott onstage.

[ Laughter ]

♪♪♪

-To get to revisit this show on Broadway in this way

is a miracle, truly.

-Although reopening Broadway has had its challenges,

there is no group of people with more heart and talent

than the members of the theater community.

While every show had tremendous reopening nights,

some couldn't find the support to keep going.

Despite what lies ahead,

Broadway's determination will make sure

the curtains will rise again and again and again.

-I was just sobbing, just fully sobbing.

-It still feels unbelievably special

because we're here.

Like, y'all, we made it.

-We've all felt all the feelings,

and now here we are and we are reclaiming Broadway

and coming back.

[ Cheers and applause ]

-Broadway is more than back! It's back! Look at it!

-We may have some blips in the road,

but we're going nowhere.

We are here to stay.

-If you've enjoyed our show, go see another show.

Go see off-Broadway, go see off-off-Broadway,

and safely support live theater.

-Finally, a full theater of people

who wanted to be there.

It was just glorious.

♪♪♪

-It is almost impossible to say the joy that one feels

about going around the theater district

and seeing it all open again.

It's just great to see everything back.

-To find out more about this

and other "Great Performances" programs,

visit pbs.org/greatperformances.

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