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Broadway Producer Kevin McCollum Eager For Theaters To Reopen; 'When Broadway Is Back, New York Is Back And America Is Back'

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CBS2's Dana Tyler takes a look at what it will take to reopen Broadway after a one-year shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video Transcript

CINDY HSU: The lights have been dark on Broadway for more than a year. One year ago this past week, theaters were closed as coronavirus cases spread throughout the tri-state area. With Broadway bringing $15 billion annually, New York City's economy took a big hit. CBS 2's Dana Tyler reports on what it will take to reopen.

- Six, the pop musical, tells the story of the six wives of King Henry VIII. Opening night was March 12, 2020. But with 90 minutes till showtime, it was put on pause. 31 Broadway shows closed that night. New York's iconic theater district went eerily silent.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: It wants people, and we want everybody to sit here.

- Kevin McCollum has produced more than two dozen Broadway shows. He and others thought this unprecedented shutdown would be temporary. We met up with McCollum when he went back for the first time in a year to the Brooks Atkinson Theater, where Six is staged.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: We did three and a half weeks of previews, where the theater was filled, and it was very exciting. We had a very nice, large advance, and we were getting ready to put a whole another block of tickets on sale. And I think it was proper. We had to close, because the cases started to spike.

- The Broadway League says, 97,000 people rely on the industry for their livelihoods, and each show lost, at least, a year of revenue.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: Which is why we've been working with the federal government with the Shuttered Venues Legislation, because we're going to need money to restart.

- Listen up. Let me tell you a story.

- But before anything happens, producers and theater owners need the green light from the city and state.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: So if we're told that we can put tickets on sale, let's say, today, great, but when can we open? We can put on sale on the 12th. Then you can start opening in, hopefully, September. We need to be on sale, at least, six months before we do our first show.

- And that's not all. He says, health and safety protocols must be center stage.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: We're not going to let anyone in this theater, on stage or backstage, if we feel there's any risk of putting them in any peril. Everyone's going to wear a mask, whether you're vaccinated or not.

- You and I are sitting six feet apart. We are social distancing. Well theater goers do that?

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: I don't think it's practical. We made that choice, because we're six apart. But who is sitting right here in front of me? I'm, like, 24 inches.

- McCollum says, it's just not financially feasible in this 100 seat theater to restart at reduced capacity. McCollum is also a producer of Mrs. Doubtfire. After the rehearsals and only three shows at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, the lights went out on Broadway. Starting, again, is a challenge in every way.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: Let's say, we have some new cast members. That fabric that we did that whole scene in might not be available, because supply chains.

- Sure.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: And we won't know, until we come back.

- For example, redoing costumes on a big budget musical could cost between $75,000 and $100,000.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: Everyone needs new shoes, and they have to be made specifically for you. But the costumers might have left the city, because they let their rent go. Or they moved back home.

- Zane Mark is the dancer ranger for Mrs. Doubtfire, and he had other shows on the horizon when the pandemic hit.

ZANE MARK: I was doing Mrs. Doubtfire. We were just starting rehearsals on Aida. I had two other projects that we were supposed to be doing, so I went from four shows to no shows.

- And then there was COVID.

ZANE MARK: My wife and I are coronavirus survivors. That was about four weeks of hell.

- Mark's wife is Tony award winning actress Adrian Linux, and their daughter Crystal also works in theater. Playbills from their Broadway shows lined the walls in their Brooklyn home. Their family is part of the Broadway community.

ZANE MARK: We check in on our people. We look in on our people, and we support our people. So many of my peers have all their eggs in the one basket, and this shutdown, it was not good. And then, if you were, like, say, mid 40s and under, you couldn't even get, like, your backup waitress gig.

- Like many shows, the cast of Mrs. Doubtfire used the downtime to continue to entertain theater fans.

- As long as there is love.

- Despite the challenges--

ZANE MARK: If there's anything, good that's come out of this, I think we're a little tighter and a little stronger because of it.

KEVIN MCCOLLUM: I'm very bullish on the future for Broadway. When Broadway is back, New York is back, and America is back.

- Till then, everyone is waiting in the wings. In the theater district, Dana Tyler, CBS 2 News.

- Broadway performances are currently suspended through May 30. The Broadway League is hopeful that theaters can reopen by the fall.