EDITORIAL: What it was like seeing a show on Broadway since before the pandemic

Opinions Editor Ren Sikes visited NYC during spring break. Photo courtesy of Sikes.

Ren Sikes | Opinions Editor

Over spring break, I went to New York with my grandparents and two of my younger sisters. This was the first time I had been in New York in nearly three years. The last time I was in the Big Apple was spring 2019. My junior year. That was the last time I saw a show on broadway. 

Musicals, plays, and all things theater have always been a part of my life, and I have never once had a bad experience on Broadway. I have never seen a show I didn’t like, and I remember being an aspiring writer and watching stories unfold just a few feet in front of me. 

I have been both on stage and behind the scenes, and have loved every minute of it — but nothing beats watching a show on Broadway. Which is one of the things I missed the most during the pandemic. 

Not only was Broadway out of reach, but every show was. Every ounce of theater left in the world went online, or went out completely. After not seeing a show for years, experimenting with Zoom theater and hybrid shows, I was ready for something familiar. 

I had the opportunity to see two shows during my time in New York. “Six,” the pop concert-style rendition of Henry VIII’s six wives, and the classic “The Music Man,” starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. 

I could write an entire book picking these two shows apart and talking about everything that I loved about them, but instead, I am going to talk about what it was like seeing these shows after being in a pandemic for two years. It was — different to say the least. 

First off, masks were required. Which isn’t a surprise and certainly wasn’t the end of the world. I would much rather wear a mask and see a Broadway show than not see a Broadway show. Even if my glasses were fogged up occasionally.

Second, vaccination and identification were required to enter the building. Finally, a use for the flimsy piece of paperboard in my wallet! In an attempt to make life easier, New York uses an app called NYCCOVIDSAFE where you can upload an image of your vaccination card and your ID, as well as a negative covid test if applicable. 

Essentially, before you could go inside, there was a person waiting by the door to check your vaccination status. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that we had the app, which culminated in my sister almost panicking because they wouldn’t let her into the theater. The trouble was, that they were asking for her card, and she kept trying to explain that our grandmother had it. Unknowingly, we had all gone in and left her behind. 

After I realized that my sister was no longer behind me, I tried to turn around and find her. Luckily she remembered the app and was able to get past the vaccination bouncer. Once we were inside we were able to find our seats and settle into the show. 

Photo of Sikes.

Despite the panic filled ten minute period of which we tried to enter the theater, the experience was rather pleasant. It reminded me of “the before times” and having my sisters with me made it all the better. I never truly grasped how much I missed going to see shows with my sisters, until we were all standing and applauding loudly at the end of the show “Six”. 

“Music Man” was no different, equipped with what we had learned at Six, we had our masks and our apps ready. We stopped at the souvenir counter and found our seats. If you thought Hugh Jackman’s performance in “Les Miserables” or “Greatest Showman” was good, his performance as Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man” was stellar. 

Not to mention the on stage chemistry that he and Sutton Foster had. 

One thing that interested me was that the cast wasn’t wearing masks. In “Six”, the queens were all mask free but the musicians in the back all wore masks. In “The Music Man”, only the orchestra wore masks. 

In the case of “The Music Man”, it is somewhat difficult to play band instruments with masks on, and the amount of dancing they did probably wouldn’t have been easy in masks. Still, that was one of the many hurdles that theaters all over the world had to figure out – how to perform with masks on. 

Many figured it out, and there were several shows and performances with masks involved, not just in theater. So seeing the cast without masks was refreshing, providing some semblance of normal to our less than normal society. 

Overall, I am just glad I got to go see a show. “Six” has been on my bucket list since I first heard the soundtrack and Hugh Jackman is definitely one of my favorite actors. Broadway will always have a special place in my heart, and the fact that it is slowly going back to how it was and the theaters are open again makes me overjoyed.

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