When your entire industry comes to a halt, it makes you grateful for every step of the recovery process.
That’s what Lia Vollack had to say about the experience of returning to Broadway. At the New Generation of Producers panel at Variety Legit: Return to Broadway presented by City National Bank, she said, even though Lia Vollack Productions’ “MJ the Musical” hasn’t opened yet, getting the chance to rehearse again after pandemic interruptions feels “magical.”
“Our show was in a somewhat different position than a lot of the other shows on Broadway. We were on sale, front of house, up on the building, but we hadn’t yet begun to load into the theater or start our rehearsal process,” Vollack said. “We were a month out from that. So when the shutdown happened, we had to put the brakes on everything without ever getting to that moment where we got to begin.”
Matt Ross, producer of “Is This a Room” and “Pass Over,” discussed what it was like to work on the latter, which was the first play to open on Broadway since the coronavirus pandemic shut down theaters. He explained that even though they came out on top, the initial stages of planning to return to Broadway were confusing for everyone.
“The thing that I think is easy even for me to forget is that when we started, it’s not like, ‘Let’s plan out our 16-month timeline. We had no idea. We said, ‘Is this two weeks? Four weeks? Eight weeks?’ It was none of those,” Ross said. “So I didn’t have some master plan to open these shows when Broadway opened at all. But as things came to be, ‘Pass Over’ felt more and more relevant.”
Brian Moreland, producer of “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” said the play’s director Steve H. Broadnax III always tells their company to remember that they’re “on assignment,” which kept Moreland grounded.
“During the pandemic, the lulls happened,” he said. “The loss of human connection happened. Loss of company members happened. It was a really dark period — I’m usually a very optimistic person, but I have to say it was a very dark moment. And it was really joyful to come together and have our first day of rehearsal. There were a lot of tears of joy, there was a lot of gratitude, and just a lot of people being extraordinarily grateful that we’re here on assignment. The assignment is to put on this play. And the assignment is to put this out in the world and heal people. It’s a really magical time.”
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