In the days after Hurricane Sandy hit, New Yorkers struggled to return to work. Some created makeshift satellite offices in co-workers’ apartments, while others waited in lines that stretched several city blocks for MTA buses to take them to their offices. For Broadway actors, though, their work has a set start time and a specific venue, so many were required to go to great lengths to ensure that the show would go on.
Patrick Page, starring in “Cyrano de Bergerac” at the American Airlines Theatre, wrote on Facebook Oct. 31, “Curtain going up of the matinee of Cyrano. So proud of my cast. Some of them walked three hours to get here today. Others came in despite homes and families without power, heat or hot water. We are Broadway.”
“Annie” cast member Joel Hatch also reported on Facebook last week that colleagues had walked from as far as Queens to make sure the midweek matinee went up.
Broadway was shut down Oct. 28–30, with most productions returning on Oct. 31. Broadway League Executive Director Charlotte St. Martin noted that this is the longest period on record, aside from strikes, that Broadway has been shut down. Of the lengths actors went to to continue their shows last week, St. Martin said in an interview, “I do believe ‘the show must go on’ is engrained in the culture maybe because with this form of entertainment the actors are so connected to the audience, and without them there is no show.”
By last week, it appeared the audience had returned in full force. Rebecca Faulkenberry, who plays Mary Jane Watson in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” reported a packed audience at a Nov. 2 performance and noted that the crowd at the Oct. 28 matinee, the last show before the Main Stem shut down, was small and rowdy. “I think people were sort of enjoying those last moments before hiding out,” she said in an interview.
The resiliency and passion displayed by actors in the aftermath of Sandy doesn’t surprise St. Martin, who said that in times of tragedy and crisis Broadway, from cast members to the crew, acts as a family. While returning to work, Faulkenberry is also coordinating what she calls the “Spidey Couch Motel,” linking Spider-Man employees who have no electricity with those who do. St. Martin had heard offhand an anecdote of “Evita” star Ricky Martin giving cast members rides after a show last week because their plans had fallen through due to the gas shortage. Queens resident Delphine Barguirdjian was stranded on Thursday morning trying to find a cab when a shuttle bus carrying “The Book of Mormon” crew members spotted her and offered her a ride into Manhattan.
While the lights of Broadway are now shining as bright as they did before the storm, there is still work to be done to address the effects of Sandy. St. Martin said the league is investigating organizing a shuttle service to provide transportation for Broadway workers who are unable to find gas for a ride home. It seems that on Broadway not only does the show go on, but cast and crew take care of each other.