Audiences excited over return of live theater in Madison as Broadway reopens

Several popular shows returned to Broadway for the first time in 18 months, and productions in Madison are getting ready to reopen too.
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 11:25 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Broadway is back—several major shows in New York City had their first performances Tuesday night after a year and half of the shutdown. In Madison, live theater is slowly returning as well, and audiences are already excited.

“It has been a really long 18 months,” said Emily Gruenewald, chief communications officer for the Overture Center for the Arts. She added, “We hear it feels so good to be back in the theater.”

At the Overture Center, a handful of shows have already opened. Broadway touring companies will return in November, with a lineup of shows for the 2021-22 season including Hairspray, Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton.

“This feels like a really big milestone now to have Broadway coming back,” Gruenewald said.

For her, there is nothing like a live show.

“Theater is exposing some of those universal themes and stories that we can all relate to,” she explained.

It is all about the connection with fellow audience members and the actors on stage. Gruenewald said that shared experience has been missing during the shutdown.

“After a big, beautiful number, there’s just this moment of silence before the audience claps,” she described, adding those moments are what she is most looking forward to.

Allen Ebert, executive director of the Children’s Theater of Madison echoed the importance of that connection.

“The audience’s heart[s] beat as one,” Ebert said, adding, “You can actually feel the energy between people.”

The Children’s Theater has its first in-person performance Friday in their brand-new theater. After more than a year behind computer screens and Zoom meetings, Ebert said the kids are more than ready.

“It’s just being able to express themselves and being able to be open and to be able to do things,” he said.

The Children’s Theater has future performances planned out, and the kids are already looking forward to those shows.

“We do Madison’s A Christmas Carol every year and so that will be our comeback performance,” Ebert explained.

Ebert and Gruenewald both acknowledge the pandemic is not over, but they are ready to welcome audiences back with open arms as safely as possible.

“We’ll continue meeting them wherever they’re comfortable until we can get through this together,” Ebert said.

Gruenewald added, “Whenever anyone’s ready, we’re here for you now, finally.”

Keeping safety a priority, the Overture Center is requiring audience members to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in the previous 72 hours. Regardless of vaccination status, masks are required in the building. The Children’s Theater has the same requirements in place for their Friday performance.

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