Returning shows give Broadway a happy glow

Robert Feldberg and Matthew Van Dusen
The Record (Hackensack N.J.) (MCT)

NEW YORK -- They weren't brushing up their Shakespeare, but Broadway's actors were very busy Thursday honing their other theater skills.

After the 19-day stagehands strike finally ended late Wednesday night, producers were eager to get going again - and start making money - and they reopened all 26 struck shows Thursday night.

The musical "Chicago" offered a special deal: All seats that had not been previously sold went for $26.50. After the house was sold out by Thursday afternoon, the deal was offered again for Sunday's matinee.

Broadway's performers had little time to prepare for their return, and they spent varying amounts of time Thursday getting back into the swing of things.

All shows had rehearsals. "Grease" had a call for 2:30 p.m. "Wicked" scheduled a brief run-through at 7 p.m., just an hour before curtain time.

"I'm so happy to get back to the theater; after all, there's no place like home," said Annaleigh Ashford, who plays Glinda in "Wicked,"` a quasi-prequel to "The Wizard of Oz."

Around Times Square, the scene was chaotic as thousands of theater fans milled outside TKTS, the discount ticket outlet on the ground floor of the Marriott Marquis hotel.

Dori Scallet, 22, of Chicago planned to see a preview of Aaron Sorkin's "The Farnsworth Invention," a play about the beginnings of television that will debut Dec. 3.

Scallet, an actress herself, made do during the strike by watching off-Broadway shows, but was happy to see a big production.

"It's still the mecca of theater, though it's very commercial," Scallet said.

Moraima Hamue, 47, and her daughter, Kristen, 17, of Weehawken, N.J., made last-minute plans to attend Thursday night's performance of "Chicago" after reading about the strike's resolution on the Internet on Thursday morning. Hamue asked her husband, who works in Manhattan, to pick up a pair of $26.50 tickets. She had assumed - incorrectly, it turned out - that there was a two-ticket limit.

"We met him, he gave us the tickets, and he went home," she said.

Before the curtain went up for the "Chicago" performance at the Ambassador Theatre, producer Barry Weissler thanked audience members for their patience.

"We're sorry if we frustrated you for a short while," he said. "We're back where we belong, and you're back where you belong."

Karen Garcia of Cherry Hill, N.J., and her friend Chris Westhaver of Boston hoped to see the show "Jersey Boys" now that the strike was over. On Thursday, however, they were off to see "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which resumed its limited holiday run last week after a court order cleared it to reopen.

"We wanted to get seasonal," Garcia said.

Long-running shows were able to pick up where they left off, but things weren't so simple for productions that had had to cancel their openings because of the strike.

They scrambled to announce new dates, not wanting to wait too long, yet needing at least a few preview performances before welcoming the critics. The result is a fairly jammed schedule of openings.

"August: Osage County," a domestic comedy-drama written by Tracy Letts, will follow on Wednesday. ("I'm delighted. I'm ecstatic!" was Letts' reaction to the strike settlement, which allows him to make his Broadway debut.)

Next up, on Thursday, will be "The Seafarer," an Irish drama by Conor McPherson.

"Is He Dead?" a rediscovered comedy by Mark Twain, will debut Dec. 9.

The revival of Harold Pinter's drama "The Caretaker" has put off its opening from Dec. 13 to Dec. 16.

Disney's "The Little Mermaid" canceled its planned Dec. 6 opening during the strike, and has now pushed it back to Jan. 10. It will continue to perform in previews.




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