Broadway performers react to news of shutdown extension

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NEW YORK — To some, there is no New York City if we lose our theaters.

But because of the ongoing pandemic, The Broadway League announced the bright lights of Broadway won’t be turned back on until the end of May 2021, at the earliest.

PIX11 News caught up with The Jazz Bandits for reaction. They are out-of-work Broadway pit musicians wearing masks like bandits and playing for tips and dinner at the West Bank Cafe.

That’s because their more lucrative gig, Broadway shows, have now been shuttered for seven months and won’t be reopening for at least another seven.

“We can’t believe Broadway’s been closed for this long,” Bill Hayes, Broadway musician, told PIX11 News. “It’s the only steady source of income for players like us. To have that background of work not there for us is pretty devastating,” he added.

To say Broadway is the heart and soul and main tourist attraction of New York City is putting it mildly. More than 97,000 workers rely on Broadway for their livelihood. The economic impact to the city is $14.8 billion dollars.

Broadway producer Ken Laub says the closure is because many theaters are old with seats cramped together and narrow aisles. Big shows can’t break even at just 50% capacity. May 2021 is an optimistic reopening goal.

“In order for everyone to come back into the theaters they need to feel comfortable,” Laub told PIX11 News. “We need a vaccine and we need conditions established and criteria to make them feel healthy comfortable and not at risk. We haven’t even approached what that means.”

Theater row restaurant West Bank Café, staple for theater goers and performers for the last 42 years, is also struggling.

Owner Steve Olson moved the piano upstairs from the downstairs theater and closer to outdoor dining, but still he worries about the future.

“With the coronavirus, 4 out of 5 restaurants will continue to go out of business in the coming months,” Olson said. “Unless there’s some kind of financial package we can get,” he added.

Many are hoping for passage of the Save Our Stages Act, $10 billion in federal arts funding.

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