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Broadway to light up again in September when shows are set to return

epa09070257 Broadway dancers and actors perform during a pop-up performance in Times Square called 'We Will Be Back' which was organized by the theater community to commemorate a year since theaters on Broadway were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic in New York, New York, USA, 12 March 2021. Broadway shows, and other live entertainment venues, are hoping to reopen later in the year but there are still questions about the financial viability of many shows if seating capacity continues to be limited by worried over the spread of COVID-19. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

May 5 (Reuters) - Live Broadway shows will return to the stage starting Sept. 14 after an 18-month hiatus to fight the coronavirus pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

By Lisa Richwine

Tickets will go on sale beginning on Thursday and theaters will be allowed to fill 100% of capacity, Cuomo said. Broadway theaters are among New York’s biggest tourist attractions.

“Broadway is a major part of our state’s identity and economy, and we are thrilled that the curtains will rise again,” Cuomo said on Twitter.

Live theater is one of the last sectors to come back after the pandemic because of the challenges of social distancing for actors on stage, for crews backstage and for audiences in cramped seating in old buildings.

While New York plans to lift most pandemic restrictions in two weeks, Broadway theaters need more time for rehearsals, marketing to draw crowds and other steps.

“Restarting Broadway is a complex endeavor,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, an industry group. “Today’s green light by the governor to put our shows on sale now for the fall is vital to our success.”

Producers will work with state authorities on what safety measures will be required. It is possible theaters will mandate proof of a coronavirus vaccination for audience members, New York budget director Robert Mujica said.

“Will people feel comfortable sitting right next to another individual without knowing their vaccination status?” Mujica said at a news conference. “What we do know from surveys is that the answer is no.”

Thousands of actors, dancers, musicians and backstage crew were thrown out of work when Broadway theaters closed in March 2020. Some shows, including the hit musicals “Frozen” and “Mean Girls,” have said they will not return.

Thirty-one Broadway shows were in production when the shutdown began, including hits such as “Hamilton,” “The Lion King” and “Wicked.”

Each returning show will announce its re-opening date in the coming weeks, the Broadway League said.

More than 14.8 million tickets were sold for Broadway shows in the 2018-2019 season, bringing $1.8 billion in box office receipts, according to the Broadway League. Some 63% of those going to shows were tourists, from outside the United States or outside New York.

“It’s time to get back to work, and I can’t wait to be back on stage very soon,” said Sara Bareilles, songwriter and star of the musical “Waitress.” (Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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