COVID-19 Impacts Local Theater & Changes Made At ASU Gammage

Theater Commentary – May 2, 2020


By Chris Curcio

Since live theater will not return until September at the earliest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local theatergoers are facing the challenge of not attending the art form they love.  For those who value theater, seeing performances on a television, a computer, or a smartphone is nothing like enjoying live theater with other audience members.

For live theater to return the experience must be different.  We can no longer crowd into a playhouse because social distancing must be established.  We must wait to see how theaters establish this requirement.  Requests to local theater managers have netted no answers on this critical issue.  Producer Cameron Mackintosh announced he will not re-open any of his London or Broadway shows or theaters until there is a coronavirus vaccine.

One wonders how ASU Gammage decided to deal with the remainder of its 2019/20 Broadway season.  The facility moved the April “Mean Girls” engagement to September 1-6 before the 2020/21 Broadway season begins September 15.

The major Broadway musical hit, “Come From Away,” scheduled in May as the current season closer, has been “canceled” according to the ASU Gammage web site.  So local audiences will see the reportedly dismal “Mean Girls” but the acclaimed “Come From Away” about the landing of planes in Newfoundland following the September 11 bombing of New York City’s World Trade Center is missing.

Admittedly, the “Come From Away” tour is heavily booked and finding a free week to present it locally would have been a logistical nightmare but a hit show like “Come From Away” seems more significant than “Mean Girls.”  If the local Broadway season’s commitment is to bring top touring Broadway shows to our area, why will local audiences miss “Come From Away”?  “Come From Away” is still scheduled to play Tucson June 22-27, 2021.  “The Lion King” was scheduled to return to ASU Gammage from June 17-July 12, 2020 and it has now been canceled with no new dates announced.

The announced 2020/21 local Broadway Across America – Arizona season includes seven shows – “The Band’s Visit,” “Oklahoma,” “Hadestown,” “My Fair Lady,” “Tootsie,” “Frozen,” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” plus return engagements of “Hamilton” and “Jersey Boys.”  While all the announced shows appear on the Playbill web site that list tour dates, none of the ASU Gammage engagement dates appear.

Messages to the Broadway Across America New York office and ASU Gamage were not answered suggesting something is up.  Perhaps the social distancing caveat is proving an unusual test or perhaps the announced shows will not play ASU Gammage .