Tap Room Manager // SingleCut North

Duluth, Michigan. The Depression. Skeletons in the closet. 

Not exactly what comes to mind when you think “escapism”, right? 

That’s what I thought as I settled into my seat on March 11, 2020 at the Belasco Theatre to witness Girl From the North Country, a stirring and evocative musical utilizing twenty of Bob Dylan’s songs as characters wove in and out of a boarding house and created a tapestry of life that was heartbreaking and honest.

I had won my cheap-seat lottery ticket earlier that day and as the lights went down, I couldn’t help but notice that the orchestra section where I was seated was only half full, an unsettling thought I pushed from my head as the curtain rose. For the next two and a half hours, characters sang about lost loves, demons they were running from, and lives they would never live. It was exactly the balm I needed; because for those two and a half hours I wasn’t thinking about travel bans, looming shutdowns, and Tom Hanks. Instead, I was transported through the storytelling to a time and place I will never live, and yet I came out of feeling I knew intimately. 

Little did I know that March 11 would be the last night the Great White Way would be lit until August 2021. I have not been back to a Broadway theater since. My Playbill binder is frozen in time from that now-infamous date.

Broadway has a long history of escapism. Take, for example, the tragedy of September 11. Those stuck in the city due to cancelled flights wished to escape the dust and ash outside. Police and firefighters needed to escape from the horrors downtown, if only temporarily. What did everyone have in common? They wanted to smile. They wanted to laugh. It’s no surprise that feel-good shows such as The Producers and Kiss Me, Kate were two of the most-attended musicals from that uncertain, tumultuous time. Everyone pushed aside whatever fears they had about gathering inside to the side, for the sake of the city. Kiss Me, Kate even let in first responders and their families at substantial discounts. Mamma MIa!, which was one of the first shows to open that unprecedented 2001-02 season was panned by critics, didn’t win a single TONY, but ran for fourteen years. Les Miserables, one of the biggest musicals of all time, on the other hand, shuttered in 2003. Greek Islands and disco versus war and destruction…it’s easy to see what post-9/11 audiences gravitated toward.

Now here we are in 2022. This past holiday season, usually one of the most lucrative times of the year for Broadway, was the opposite due to Omicron. And yet, as they say, the show must go on. Understudies and swings stepped into roles at a moment’s notice. New theatrical experiences emerged and triumphed, from livestreams, to shows taking place in non-traditional, socially-distanced venues. Just this week, it was announced a play that never made it to opening night in Spring 2020 is coming back to Broadway. The spring, always a flurry of openings before TONY cut-off, brings with it the hope of a strong end to what has been one of the most unpredictable seasons. The resilience, determination, and camaraderie of the theatre community never ceases to amaze me, even in the darkest of times. It is not a perfect industry by any means, but, if theatre is meant to hold a mirror to us as a society, then neither are we. Theater has always been a gathering place, and I look forward to gathering at the theater again soon, for as they say in Cabaret, “In here, life is beautiful.”