In Australia, a Peek at Broadway’s Comeback


When The Times staged a musical number for their live event series, the performance served as a sneak preview of the theater world preparing for takeoff.

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In March, Zoe Gertz, an Australian actress, was asked if she would be interested in singing the rising anthem “Me and the Sky” for an episode of her offstage event series, which examines the theater industry during its pandemic hiatus. does. The number is from an Australian touring production of the 9/11 musical “Come From Away”.

After the teams worked on in-house music and stage direction, Ms. Gertz played a simple stage rafters cheering for the rafters at Her Majesty’s Theater in Melbourne, without an audience, but with six musicians and the production’s female ensemble. Backed by five artists. And it all came together in just two weeks.

“I’m suddenly separated,” Ms. Gertz sang with an irrepressible smile as she spoke of her character’s love for flying.

The sentiment seems to be spreading. Broadway’s reopening will now take place in August. In Australia, “Frozen,” “Hamilton” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” were running at or near full capacity in Sydney and Melbourne for months (although masks were still required) until recently in Melbourne. I didn’t show lockdown in that city. On hold again. The Times event’s performance served as both a preview of the theater’s vitality and energy to come during the pandemic.

The musical number began to take shape in early March after theater reporter Michael Paulson of The Times suggested recording a special video of the inspirational song for the series offstage, which was streamed live on April 29 and is still on for the Times. can be viewed by customers.

“We wanted a song that was good and was out of context for people who hadn’t seen the show,” said Mr. Paulson. “It’s also a song that works without a very elaborate band or orchestra and is essentially a solo number.”

The four-and-a-half-minute track follows the story of real-life American Airlines pilot Beverly Bass, who was among the pilots on a plane full of passengers that were diverted to Newfoundland on September 11, 2001.

“One of the many emotions captured in this song is for Beverly to come to terms with the job she loves, and not know when she might fly again,” said Rachel Karp, director of programming at The Times, Beth. Plan the event with Weinstein and Rachel Cezipo. “We saw some parallels to the experience of theater workers in Australia and around the world last year, as their industry was brought to an almost complete halt by the pandemic.”

Ms. Karp said the events team began discussing ideas for the episode with Mr. Paulson in early January; Scott Heller, then theater editor for The Times; and Sydney Bureau Chief Damien Cave. Mr Cave and Mr Paulson were working on a story about the return of Broadway shows in Australia, which has been much more successful in controlling the virus than the United States.

“Last year, I spent a lot of time writing about the breakdown of things,” Paulson said. “This year, I’ve been writing a lot about putting things back together – and Australia is the first place where this is happening in a big way.”

For the “offstage” number, Mr Paulson said he expected an American audience to engage with the intimate setup of a bare stage and just a few instruments, which he compared to a cabaret performance.

Nevertheless, around 35 people were needed to stage the number, including the Melbourne production crew. The cast and crew were tested weekly during rehearsals, and microphones and equipment were sanitized before and after each use. This was the theater’s first performance since March 2020.

Liam McIlvain, the resident director and choreographer of the Australian production of “Come From Away”, was instrumental in coordinating the chorus of bass, guitar, piano, violin, cajon and silver whistle.

They also stipulated that the theater’s ghost lights – a single light that is traditionally kept on when a theater is empty – would remain on during performances to honor all the places around the world that were still dark. .

“When I went inside and saw that ghost light, I burst into tears,” said Ms. Gertz.

In the middle of the night, thousands of miles away in New York, Ms. Karp watched the recording in progress via Zoom.

“It was strange to see a bustling production set – the actors, the crew, the camera people – so close to each other without worry,” Ms Karp said. But it may not be awkward for long.

“All of a sudden, the wheels go up,” sang Ms. Gertz.

The next episode of “Offstage” is on July 8, which is York will present an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda, focused on signs of hope in the theater community. For more information and to sign up for subscriber-exclusive events, visit nytimes.com/offstage.

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