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    James Bond Saved the World, but Can He Rescue U.K. Movie Theaters?

    The 25th installment of the Bond franchise has brought record-breaking numbers of people back to British movie theaters, but pressures on the industry continue.LONDON — By the time the 25th James Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” premiered to an audience of stars, members of the royal family and key workers here last week, it seemed to have the full weight of Britain’s movie theater industry on its shoulders.The industry has endured 18 months of on-and-off closures while desperately trying to avoid running out of cash as Hollywood studios delayed would-be blockbusters because of coronavirus restrictions overseas, and sent movies to streaming platforms, sometimes bypassing a theatrical release entirely.Expectations and hopes for “No Time to Die,” therefore, were high: Daniel Craig’s two previous Bond films, “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” are the second and third highest-grossing films ever at the British box office, and the franchise is a beloved — if sometimes bemoaned — fixture in British cultural life.“We’ll look back on Bond as being a watershed moment for the industry,” said Tim Richards, the founder and chief executive of Vue, the third-largest movie theater chain in Britain.At the Vue theater in the West End of London, branded popcorn for opening night.Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York TimesTheaters were full for the 25th Bond film.Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York TimesA moviegoer dressed up in honor of the suave spy, sipping Champagne.Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York TimesBut with pressure from streaming services and the financial toll of the pandemic still in play, it remains to be seen in what direction this watershed moment will take the British movie theater industry in the longer term.After a thrice-delayed release, “No Time to Die” has successfully ushered people back into theaters. Over the opening weekend — from Thursday through Sunday — it made £26 million, or $35 million, at the box office, not just breaking pandemic records, but also surpassing the opening weekends of the two previous Bond films. This puts it in the top five opening weekends for movies in Britain ever, according to data from the British Film Institute.Across the country, movie theaters made a spectacle of the 163-minute, $250 million-budget film. Some London big chain theaters scheduled dozens of screenings a day, and others hosted live music to entertain viewers as they waited. There were opening night parties, which encouraged viewers to dress up in black tie for cocktails and canapés at £50, or $68, a person.Jack Piggott, 31, was among the first to watch the film at the 0:07 a.m. screening at the Curzon in Mayfair, part of a small chain of movie theaters, which was for the first time putting on midnight premieres. Not only is Bond a major moment in British film, it’s also Craig’s last outing as the spy and “you might as well go all in,” he said on Thursday as he waited for the movie to start.Despite the late hour, the lure of Bond pulled in passers-by like Canset Klasmeyer, who made an impromptu decision to see the film even though she had tickets booked for Monday. “It’s a big event,” she said.Even as ticket sales rise, there are many challenges, and Richards doesn’t expect Vue to be back to where it was in 2019 until late 2023.Some of London’s big chain theaters scheduled dozens of screenings a day.Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York TimesAcross the industry, British theaters will have to find ways to recover from the financial blow of the past 18 months, which saw them take on heavy loads of debt or ask shareholders for cash. It’s still unclear how much the pandemic might permanently change consumer behaviors, as people reconsider what types of leisure experiences they want to have outside their homes.And critically, the influence of streaming has fundamentally changed the industry as studios make big budget films available sooner through on-demand services. For years, movie theaters enjoyed a period of screening exclusivity that lasted about three months. That’s being cut in half by recent negotiations as streaming services balloon.In the two years before the pandemic, British movie theaters were experiencing their best years since the early 1970s, thanks to a flow of big budget films, as well as major investments into recliner seating and high-tech sound systems. Stopped in their tracks by lockdowns, companies tried to stem the outflow of cash by furloughing staff members and deferring rent payments.At the end of August 2020, during an interval in Britain’s lockdown, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” was released in cinemas. It was just a fleeting moment of hope. Not long after that, as restrictions tightened, S&P Global downgraded the credit ratings of Vue and Cineworld, Britain’s largest movie theater chain — which also owns Regal Cinemas in the United States — and gave them a negative outlook. And the pandemic dragged on.It has been a painful time for all, including independent movie theaters like Peckhamplex, a southeast London institution that sells tickets for just £5. It used almost all of the government support on offer, including furlough, tax referrals and a grant for independent movie theaters, according to John Reiss, the chairman of Peckhamplex.But to stay afloat the movie theater also spent money that had been painstakingly set aside for more than a decade for major refurbishments, and it could take another year for the movie theater to return to prepandemic sales, Reiss said.At the Odeon theater in London’s West End, people queued to get into opening night screenings of “No Time to Die.”Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York TimesFor some moviegoers, evening wear wasn’t enough: they also donned masks of Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig, who star in the film.Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York Times“It’s a big event,” said one viewer who saw the film on opening night.Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York TimesBond has given a meaningful boost to the industry — in one weekend it eclipsed the total box office earnings for the previously highest-grossing film of the pandemic, “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” — but “No Time to Die” is still just one film. The theater industry’s credit ratings and outlook are “very unlikely to change based on the great success of any particular movie release,” said Abigail Klimovich, a credit analyst at S&P Global. There is still an uncertain path to recovery for movie theater earnings, she said.Among the hurdles is the virus itself, which is especially troubling as the days get colder and it gets harder to keep physically distant. Britain has a high vaccination rate, but daily case numbers are averaging more than 30,000. At the same time, many households are expected to face a squeeze on their incomes from high energy prices, rising inflation and cuts to benefits and other income support.For Philip Knatchbull, the chief executive of Curzon, change in the industry couldn’t come soon enough. “There’s an existential threat to cinema generally, as we know it,” he said.For one, independent cinema has long been pushed out of many large movie theaters that had to make room for the long releases of big-budget films, Knatchbull said.Curzon has a different model, in which 14 plush movie theaters are just one of three strands of the business. It’s also a film distributor, releasing a catalog of predominantly independent and foreign language films, including Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” in Britain. And for the past decade, it has embraced streaming with its own on-demand service.Soon Knatchbull hopes to be offering movies on the Curzon on-demand service from other distributors like Sony, Paramount and Universal.Amid all of this upheaval, Vue’s Richards sounds relatively relaxed. The old exclusivity period was “prehistoric,” he said, adding that he hopes the new 45-day release window will encourage streaming services to release more of their movies in theaters.“I know it’s clichéd, but I do believe we are about to enter into a second golden age of cinema,” he said. Several factors are coalescing here: The audience has returned, there is a promising slate of new and delayed films to be released over the next year and having an exclusive, albeit, shorter release window works, Richards said.Knatchbull, speaking from Curzon’s more disruptive position in the industry, also seems optimistic. “During the pandemic, all the changes I anticipated happening over maybe over a five-year period were just accelerated,” he said.Now, he said, there’s “a lot of experimentation, a lot of hurt, a lot of anger, a lot of opportunity from different parts of the film industry.” More

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    Carnegie Hall Counts Down to Its Reopening

    “The biggest variables — box office sales and venue rentals — are moving in a good direction,” says the director of the hall, which opens its season Oct. 6.The pianos have been tuned. The crimson carpets have been cleaned. The crystal chandeliers have been dusted.After nearly 19 months without concerts, Carnegie Hall, the nation’s pre-eminent concert space, plans to reopen its doors to the public on Oct. 6.With the coronavirus still omnipresent, the reopening is a logistical feat, involving questions about air-ventilation systems, crowd control and hand-sanitizing stations.It’s also an emotional moment for Carnegie, which lost millions of dollars in ticket sales during the pandemic and at one point was forced to reduce its staff by nearly half. The hall is grappling with an anticipated budget deficit of up to $10 million and is planning a lighter-than-usual season of about 100 concerts (versus the usual 150) as it tries to gauge demand.Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s executive and artistic director, inside hall’s archives.Michael George for The New York TimesClive Gillinson, the hall’s executive and artistic director since 2005, says Carnegie is ready for the challenge. The hall has added entrances, upgraded ventilation systems and increased the frequency of bathroom cleaning.“We have to keep adapting to whatever the situation is, not only to look after people as best we can, but also for people to feel as safe as they can,” Gillinson said. “It’s reality as well as perception. Both are equally important.”In an interview, Gillinson discussed the new season, which begins with the Philadelphia Orchestra and its music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the virtuoso Yuja Wang alongside works by Valerie Coleman, Iman Habibi, Bernstein and Beethoven.Gillinson also spoke about the lack of racial diversity in classical music and the return of the arts amid the pandemic. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.Carnegie has been closed for the longest stretch in its history. Are you confident audiences will come back, especially given the continuing spread of the virus and the need for added safety protocols?Without doubt some people will be concerned. All I can say is the reaction we’ve had has been the opposite. It’s been that everybody is so thrilled that things are coming back to life again. When we opened the box office, beginning to start on the road back, we had people in tears because they were so excited about actually being able to buy tickets again. But at the same time, we feel we’ve got to look after the people who have still got concerns.During the height of the pandemic Carnegie was forced to make substantial cuts, including reducing its staff to 190, from 350. How are you planning the new season amid all the uncertainty?The biggest variables — box office sales and venue rentals — are moving in a good direction at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we count anything as done until we’ve completed the season. You have to be working incredibly hard all the time. You have to be responding to everything that’s happening every day because life just does change every day during Covid.What are you seeing so far in terms of ticket sales?The opening concerts look really strong and very positive. The others will continue to sell as we go along.We deliberately didn’t over-pack the fall. It’s much busier from the new year onward because we just wanted to make sure audiences had time to build up their confidence, and time to really get re-engaged with going out again. So it’s a very deliberate strategy.Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra will reopen the hall in the first of their seven Carnegie concerts this season.Chris LeeSince announcing the season earlier this year you’ve added a few concerts to the schedule, including a complete cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies with Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra that was supposed to happen last year. How did you decide what to revive?When we had to cancel because of Covid, I spoke to Yannick and said, “Look, I promise that we will bring this back in the future.” It was something that meant a huge amount to him. The Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned some contemporary works to go alongside the cycle that would actually have some sort of reflection on the world we live in today and look at Beethoven through that light.The minute we were able to open and the governor gave everybody permission to open with full seating, the first thing I did was phone Yannick to say: “This is it, if there’s any way you can do it. I promised you we would bring this back. How about now?” They jumped at it.At the same time there are many artists whose concerts were canceled who you haven’t been able to reschedule. How are you dealing with that?We do feel an obligation to try and bring people back who we haven’t been able to bring back so far. So that’s going to take some time, because if you lose a year and a half of concerts, there’s a lot of concerts. Sometimes the world can move on as well and they’ll be doing other things and there’ll be other repertoire. But we are looking to do the best we can in terms of looking after the people we had to cancel.The Sphinx Virtuosi perform at Carnegie on Oct. 15.Stephanie BergerDo you worry the pandemic has hurt the careers of rising artists whose engagements at Carnegie or elsewhere were canceled?One of the things I’ve always felt about what we do is that the great artists will always come through and they’ll always succeed. They’ve got something to say that is really important to people. Something like this clearly will have changed plans and will have delayed very early-days careers. But the reality is, I think talent and great artistry are never lost. That never, ever goes away.What about smaller venues and less established artists, who suffered a great deal during the pandemic. Do you think they will make a comeback? Has the pandemic fundamentally changed which kinds of artists and groups can survive?Some of the most innovative, interesting, imaginative work that’s ever happened is going on in New York. It’s the most dynamic scene we’ve ever seen.They’re very entrepreneurial people. They’re very creative people. And they’ll find a way to survive. It’s not like all us large organizations where we have massive overhead, much of which we can’t change.The pandemic has made it very difficult for many ensembles to go on extensive global tours, with stops at Carnegie and other venues. How do you think the pandemic will change touring?You’ve got all the issues like climate change and so on. I think there are going to be a lot more question marks about orchestras at least asking themselves how much touring they should be doing. And I think what they do, they will want it to have greater significance than it had before.It’s not just a question of touring and saying, “I’ve appeared in this city and that city.” It’s: “What have I left behind? Is there is there a legacy or is this something important that came out of my having been there?”This season Carnegie will prominently feature Valery Gergiev, the Russian conductor and friend of Vladimir Putin, who will perform a series of concerts with both the Vienna Philharmonic and the Mariinsky Orchestra. How do you respond to those who think he shouldn’t be given such an opportunity, given his silence on abuses in Russia?Why should artists be the only people in the world who are not allowed to have political opinions? My view is you only judge people on their artistry. If somebody was a racist or somebody said things that were clearly abusive of other races or other people in certain ways, that is completely different and that is unacceptable. But in terms of them being entitled to an opinion which happens to be a political opinion, they have every right as every other single member of society has.What do you make of the current debate around the idea that classical music, which has long been dominated by white, male composers, is racist, and that it has not adequately grappled with questions about representation and diversity?If you think of Western culture, literature, painting, music, the bulk of it was done by people who were white in one form or another. And it’s not invalidated. I always worry when people try and apply today’s values to the world of 100 years ago, 200 years ago, 300 years ago, because the fact is, what people were trying to do at that time was completely different and it was relevant for its time. We’ve got to be relevant for our time. Diversity is unbelievably important. That is central to the sort of society we must live in now. And that doesn’t invalidate the fact that there was great art created, and OK, a lot of it was created by white people, and some of it was created by people who were racists.Carnegie was one of the first institutions to impose a vaccine mandate for audiences. Did you meet any resistance?I’ve had a very, very small number of emails from people saying: “This is ridiculous. You’re being paranoid. It’s completely unnecessary.” But we know the world we live in has very, very different views on this. We can only have one view, which is, how do we look after people?How do you see the future of the arts in light of the pandemic?How people are likely to feel, nobody can judge that. We can’t tell. But I do think the arts will come roaring back.Why do people live in New York City? Why do the big companies want to be here? Why do the headquarters want to be here? Why is there all this tourism? Culture is the magnet that actually makes New York New York. More

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    Bicycle Diaries: Cruising With the ‘American Utopia’ Family

    Our intrepid reporter and photographer biked through Queens with David Byrne and some of his castmates ahead of their return to Broadway. Then the skies opened up.On a dock in Queens, David Byrne’s musical bike gang was gearing up to go.“Are we ready?” Byrne called.It was a Saturday in late August, and the gang — three percussionists, a guitarist, a bassist and me, along with a daredevil photographer and lighting assistant — were sitting astride bicycles as Byrne, our fearless two-wheeled leader, outlined the plan.He wore a brimmed, pith-style helmet and a tour guide’s relaxed confidence: He’d done this route before, from Astoria to Flushing. The destination was the Queens Night Market, a paradise of global food stalls at the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. He’d already been talking up a ceviche stand and the all-women samba drumline he’d seen the last time he’d pedaled through.The market, in its diversity, “is really extraordinary,” he said — the kind of endeavor that seems like an antidote to our current social divisiveness. “In that context, you really go, ‘OK, this is not impossible, we can do this.’” It’s a message of community-as-uplift that Byrne, the former Talking Heads frontman, has been big on recently, with his hit theatrical concert “American Utopia,” a mostly joyous pilgrimage through his music. Even the act of extreme weather that ultimately derailed our ride didn’t curb his ability to find revelation locally.From left, the percussionists Tim Keiper, Jacquelene Acevedo and Daniel Freedman. “We would go on these adventures,” Acevedo said of the rides with Byrne. “It’s great. You come back six hours later, exhausted, like, ‘Where did I go?’”Byrne is, of course, a devoted cyclist: He’s written a book about it, and even designed bike racks; last week, he took an e-bike to the Met Gala (so he wouldn’t get sweaty!) and checked his helmet at the door. In the Before Times, I could sometimes clock the velocity and verve of my nightlife by how frequently I intersected with him speeding to some event along the Williamsburg waterfront bike path. He was easy to spot, often dressed in somehow still-pristine white — as he was on this evening, stepping off the East River ferry in white pants, a blue guayabera shirt and brown fisherman sandals. His whole crew, castmates from “American Utopia,” had been onboard, too.On the dock, he gave a few general instructions — hang a left at the big brick building, “go down for, like, a couple miles; should I say when our next turn is? Sixty-first, we make a right” — and then we peeled off. In interchanging pairs or spread out, our expedition took up half a city block. “Riding in New York is — hoo-hoo!” trilled Angie Swan, the guitarist, who had moved here from Milwaukee to work with Byrne and was now dodging through a crowded bike lane.From left, the guitarist Angie Swan, Byrne, Freedman, Keiper and the bassist Bobby Wooten III. The band members got matching folding bikes during their tour.It was the weekend before rehearsals began for the Broadway return of “American Utopia.” But the cast had already been convening throughout the pandemic for these miles-long, leisurely (or not) bike rides around town, led by Byrne, who is 69 and has the stamina of an athlete and the curiosity of a cultural omnivore. Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island: He traversed the city a couple of times a week at least, trailing bandmates alongside him.“That kind of pioneering spirit that he has in music is the same as he has in his bike rides,” Jacquelene Acevedo, a percussionist and Toronto transplant who lives in Manhattan, said as we pedaled along, passing beneath the rumbling train and only-in-Queens intersections like the corner of 31st Avenue and 31st Street. She said she got to know the city on these socially distanced rides. “We would go on these adventures,” she said. “It’s great. You come back six hours later, exhausted, like, ‘Where did I go?’”From left, Freedman, Byrne and Swan. They landed in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with the rest of the group as the sun was setting.That Saturday, we pulsed through Jackson Heights toward Corona — two neighborhoods, Byrne observed later, that had been hit hard, early on, by the coronavirus — and saw the city’s rhythms change. We spun through families barbecuing on pedestrian blocks and dinged our bells along to the streetside cumbia and reggaeton. It was, in a word, glorious.We might’ve blown a few stoplights, too, and caused some double-takes as Cole Wilson, the photographer, and his assistant, Bryan Banducci, cycled ahead of the group but peered backward to get their shot. Byrne was always in the lead; as soon as traffic disappeared, he removed his helmet, revealing his signature silver coif.By the time we landed in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the sun was setting. Byrne led us to his ceviche spot. Moments later, the skies opened up: Tropical Storm Henri, arriving far earlier than the forecast predicted. We were quickly drenched. So, so drenched.A night that was meant to be a dreamy celebration of this multicultural city and its serendipitous connections, experienced from atop a bike seat, wound up in a (very) soggy group subway ride home. But even that became a moment for Byrnian wonder, thanks to a subway preacher and her acolytes, and an unexpected bit of ecstatic dance — the civic and the divine aboard the 7 train. Byrne clocked it all, surrounded by his bikemates.This group of musicians had toured with “American Utopia” when it was a more traditional rock concert a few years ago, and their matching bikes — a folding model made by Tern — came along then, too. The bikes had their own compartment on the tour bus: “Even when we went overseas, the bikes would come,” said Tim Keiper, a drummer. They would sometimes ride 25 miles before soundcheck, added Daniel Freedman, another drummer. (There are more than four dozen percussion instruments in the show.) “David would find the cool thing,” Freedman said, “and be like, there’s a restaurant or a museum or something bizarre, funny — ‘Cumming, Iowa! We’ve got to go!’”For Byrne, the rides kept him “sane on the road,” he told me later, “and inspired and stimulated.”It also gave his cast and crew a connection that was rare among performers. The original run of “American Utopia” ended in February 2020, just before the coronavirus shut down the city’s live performance spaces. During lockdown, Annie-B Parson, the show’s choreographer, saw the “American Utopia” crew a lot more than anybody else, she said. The cast’s emotional closeness onstage? “It’s not acted.”“Bike riding is a nice metaphor,” she added, “because there’s a kinship. There’s a group moving together, but everybody’s in their own space. But there is a unison. It’s a dance, for sure.”Tropical Storm Henri arrived earlier than forecasted. But the group did manage to finally try the ceviche and some of the other fare at the market.Days after drying out from the Queens ride, the group gathered for rehearsals. “American Utopia” is now playing at the St. James Theater, a bigger Broadway venue than its previous home, the Hudson. Parson, a downtown choreographer known for her attention to form and multimedia detail, was thrilled to learn that the stage is a rectangle, as she’d originally envisioned for the piece. “To me, a square shape is a warm shape that faces in, because there’s symmetry on the sides,” she explained. “A rectangular shape implies infinity, because it reaches out on the sides. They’re both beautiful. This show, and David, to me, I associate with a rectangle.”So Parson polished the choreography, much of which is done by the musicians while they’re playing. (Chris Giarmo and Tendayi Kuumba, standouts onstage and in Spike Lee’s filmed version of the show, are the main dancers.) In one rehearsal, Parson directed Byrne to amplify a moment by turning to face his castmates, giving an extra beat of connection there — the pandemic had underscored a theme of the show, “that we’re not atomized entities,” Byrne said. “Being together with other people is such a big part of what we are as individuals.”As a collaborator, Byrne leads with praise. Watching his percussion circle, he danced along with his very core. “I love the first half where you change up the groove, but it still keeps all the momentum,” he told them.In Byrne’s recent eclectic career, “American Utopia,” which will receive a special Tony Award at this Sunday’s ceremony, has taken up a bigger chunk than other projects. It may be because it makes him happier. “It’s a very moving show to do,” he said, “and a lot of fun” — not least because audiences shimmy with abandon a few songs in.And it pulls from the panoply of Byrne’s interests. There’s neuroscience, civic history, and Brazilian, African and Latin instrumentation. The visual and movement references span the world: the Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer; ’70s Japanese movies; a Thai king’s coronation; and, after our Queens odyssey, a scene from the 7 train, when a woman pulled out a mic and an amp, plugged in and began proselytizing.Byrne, unrecognized beneath his mask, stood near her, holding his bike. Across the way, her companion suddenly began doing impassioned hand motions that were reminiscent of some “American Utopia” moves, waving and snapping her wrists around her face. “Annie-B should see this!” Byrne said, almost to himself. Someone taped a snippet, and he sent it off to her to check out.“There are no words to describe how adventurous David is,” Parson said. “He always finds the most profound way to interact with a place with his bicycle, and he always invites others, graciously, to join in.” More

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    'Hamilton' Reopens on Broadway to Giddy Crowds

    Kristin and Matt Collins, a couple from Annapolis, Md., were standing in line at the Richard Rodgers Theater on the reopening night of “Hamilton” with two extra tickets to give to anyone who wanted them.A few feet away, Chris Graham and Addie Trivers, two musical theater students, were standing watching all the opening-night excitement, wishing they could afford tickets for the show inside.Then Collins approached the two college juniors and asked if they might want to see “Hamilton” tonight. Yes, in fact, they did.“Either he’s telling the truth or we’re being kidnapped,” said Trivers, who used to go from theater to theater asking for cheap tickets before the pandemic, “and either way I’m going with him.”Those two tickets were among the most sought after on Broadway’s night of big reopenings.At the start of the show, the creator of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, walked onstage to a standing ovation. “I don’t ever want to take live theater for granted ever again, do you?” he said. “You can mouth along, all you like, no one can see your mouth moving.”The musical sensation, which opened on Broadway in 2015, was the industry’s highest grossing show when the pandemic hit. The week before Broadway shut down, “Hamilton” grossed $2.7 million, more than any other show by far. That week, more than 10,700 people scored the sought-after tickets — and then the production, with the rest of live theater, was forced to a sudden halt.The musical, which won 11 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, managed to find an even wider audience during the pandemic. In July 2020, Disney+ started streaming a film of the musical with Miranda in the title role. Its release reignited interest in the musical and revived debate on some of the controversies it had sparked, including its treatment of slavery.Judging by the energy of the crowd on Tuesday night, “Hamilton” fever seemed ready to pick up right where it left off.The television personality Al Roker stood on the sidewalk pumping up the crowd, shouting, “Are you ready?”“We had just watched Al Roker walk by and I thought that was the peak of the night,” said Graham. The one downside of getting impromptu free tickets to “Hamilton”: He was worried that he was underdressed in his T-shirt and shorts.Farther down the line to enter the theater, Lauren Koranda, 20, was far from underdressed. She was wearing the floor-length shimmering gown that she had worn to senior prom. On the day the “Hamilton” tickets went on sale, she and her best friend, Maura Consedine, had used about six devices to make sure they got a pair.“It’s such a big night for New York City,” Consedine said. “The city truly feels alive again.” More

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    ‘Wicked’ Returns With a Surprise Guest: Kristin Chenoweth

    “Ladies and gentleman,” a disembodied voice announced from the stage, bringing the crowd, which had gathered for the reopening of “Wicked,” to its feet: “Kristin Chenoweth.”That brought an even louder roar from the audience, as Chenoweth, who originated the role of Glinda when the show opened on Broadway in 2003, strode out onto the stage of the Gershwin Theater.“Things like this don’t just happen,” Chenoweth, wearing a glittering dress, said. “It takes a lot of people.”“My personal favorite relationship is probably between the actors and the audience,” she continued, “which is probably why I’m in therapy.”The audience burst into laughter.Chenoweth brought a little star power to the return of “Wicked,” which chronicles the frenemy-ship between Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. It is a revisionist back story for “The Wizard of Oz.”Even witches needed to show proof of vaccination. Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesThe musical, which opened on Broadway in 2003, has been seen by more than 60 million people in 100 cities around the world. It also became the first touring Broadway production to reopen since the pandemic, beginning on Aug. 7 in Dallas. More

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    Ruben Santiago-Hudson Brings ‘Lackawanna Blues’ to Broadway

    About six months ago, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the creator of the play “Lackawanna Blues,” asked a friend to open a vacant theater for him.“I just needed that — to sit in the seats, to walk on the stage,” Santiago-Hudson said in an interview this week. “For the past 50 or so years, I’ve had some time every year in the theater: to see a play, to be in a play, to direct a play, to write a play. All of a sudden that was taken away.”On Tuesday, Santiago-Hudson got to return to theater in a big way: “Lackawanna Blues” — which he wrote and directed, and in which he plays every part — began previews on Broadway, in a Manhattan Theater Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater on West 47th Street.The play, which was first presented Off Broadway in 2001, and adapted into a television movie in 2005, is a reminiscence of Santiago-Hudson’s youth near Buffalo, and is centered on the character of Nanny, who ran a boardinghouse and imparted strength and morality to generations around her.At a ribbon ceremony outside the theater on West 47th Street, where ticketholders and gawkers dodged rush-hour traffic, Representative Carolyn Maloney offered an unabashed New Yorker’s defense of Broadway. “What would New York be without Broadway?” she asked. “Seriously, it’s what makes the city feel so great. If we didn’t have Broadway we might as well be in Chicago or some other big city.”S. Epatha Merkerson, who played Nanny in the television movie of “Lackawanna Blues” (and was a longtime fixture on “Law & Order”), was on hand for the preshow festivities.“We’re baaaack!” she said, referring to Broadway.A Broadway production of “Lackawanna Blues” by Manhattan Theater Club had been planned for a couple of years. Lynne Meadow, the company’s longtime artistic director, said in an interview she saw it as a celebration of “heroism,” which she said is even more apt now. The play was presented with music by Bill Sims Jr., as performed by the blues guitarist Junior Mack.“This is a play about healing,” Santiago-Hudson said. “This is a play about community, about how we help each other, about what generosity means. This is what we need.” More

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    Lin-Manuel Miranda Sings ‘New York, New York’ Outside ‘Hamilton’ Theater

    Three hours before showtime, Lin-Manuel Miranda — the “Hamilton” creator who wrote the music, book and lyrics for the hit musical — burst out of the front doors of the Richard Rodgers Theater with a bullhorn and was met with the shrieks and applause of a crowd gathered on West 46th Street.He was there to lead a group of Broadway performers in a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Theme From ‘New York, New York,’” creating a sort of mood-setting overture for the night ahead.New York New York!!!! pic.twitter.com/iEW3tUxL0H— Luis A. Miranda, Jr. (@Vegalteno) September 14, 2021
    “Get a mask, get vaccinated and come see live theater!” said Miranda, who also played Alexander Hamilton in the original Broadway cast.The appearance was not publicized until about 4 p.m., when Miranda tweeted a photo from inside the theater and announced a so-called Ham4Ham, which, before the pandemic, was a performance by “Hamilton” cast members outside the theater that accompanied a lottery for tickets to see the show. (There would be no free tickets today, Miranda said.)Passers-by and Broadway superfans rushed to the scene as soon as they saw the social media announcement.Eva Ferreira, a 10-year-old “Hamilton” fan who has memorized nearly every word of the musical, watched with her parents, who had taken her to New York City for her birthday.Four teenagers — all aspiring Broadway performers who had spent the day in class at Steps Conservatory — sprinted to the theater from the subway after they saw Miranda’s tweet. They stood in the crowd in awe of the group of performers — the kind that they hoped to be one day.Jessica Payne and her husband ran down from their hotel room to catch Miranda and the other performers. Their spring 2020 trip was canceled because of the pandemic, so they had flown in from Colorado recently to see eight Broadway shows in six days after “a year and a half of heartbreak” while the industry was on pause.“We both cried when the plane landed,” Jessica Payne said, listing the shows the couple was planning to see (“Wicked” is on the schedule tonight). “We’re so happy to be here.” More

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    Lindiwe Dlamini Returns to 'The Lion King' Stage

    Lindiwe Dlamini has spent 24 years of her life with “The Lion King.” She was with the show when it tried out in Minneapolis, and has been in the Broadway production for its entire run.Needless to say, the last 18 months have been jarring, and she’s happy to be back.“Oh my God — it’s a huge one tonight,” she said. “I’m excited and anxious and every emotion you can think of. Mostly it’s really exciting to be back. We’ve been away a long time.”In an industry that loves its superlatives, “The Lion King” has more than its share. It’s the highest grossing show in Broadway history (nearly $1.7 billion) and its worldwide grosses (more than $9.3 billion) exceed those of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in history.The show has over the years had 25 productions around the world that have played to nearly 110 million people; it has been performed on every continent (except Antarctica) and in nine languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese).All of its productions closed during the pandemic, but with tonight’s Broadway reopening there are now five productions of “The Lion King” open, and by January there should be 10, in New York, London, Paris, Hamburg, Tokyo and Madrid and touring in North America, Britain, Japan, and elsewhere around the world.The musical, which opened in 1997 (and won six Tony Awards, including best musical) is the third longest running Broadway show (after “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Chicago”) and Dlamini is the only member of the original cast still performing in the show. She became an American citizen through the show (she is from South Africa), married another cast member and made a life around her work here; she is in the ensemble, and tonight plays a hyena, a lioness, a flock of birds and a square of savanna.How was it being out of the show for the first time? “It was weird,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years now, and to just stop out of nowhere! I was on a bus, on my way to work, when I got the call, and I had to get off at the next stop.”The shutdown has also been traumatic. Her husband, daughter, son and sister all got Covid (they recovered), and back in South Africa, a cousin and her husband died of the disease.“I’ve been so worried about people back home, and I couldn’t go home and be with my family,” she said. “It was tough, and it was very emotional.”And what is it like being back? “Really, really emotional,” she said. “It’s such a huge part of my life.” More