How We Stayed Theatrical During a Year of Lockdown
How do you measure a year in quarantine? In streamed shows, Broadway musicals online, global theatrical accessibility, online concerts, and so much more. Even though theaters around the world have been shut for the better part of a year, we’ve still managed to stay connected to our beloved theatre community and keep things theatrical at home.
From blockbuster shows like Hamilton streaming online to inventive new takes on what remote theater can look like to learning new skills and expanding our minds, there have been plenty of ways this year “without theatre” has been full of, well, theatre. While theatre, as in the physical space, has been closed for, theatre, as in the art form, can take whatever shape you want it to, and this year, it took many new shapes.
Our resilient community has found ways to keep the arts alive all year, and in this moment of community and togetherness, we have hope for the present and the future, whether we gather in person or at home.
Check out some of the theatrical highlights from a year in lockdown below!
Before lockdown, you could really only see theatre in your home city on a specific day and time. With the emergence of streaming this year, we got to experience shows from all around the world, from the Australian Symphony to the Old Vic to even Broadway. You no longer need a plane ticket (or passport) to experience the global stage, and we hope our world stays connected even after the theatre buildings reopen.
Only in lockdown could a viral TikTok trend become a full-fledged musical, and Ratatouille did just that. What started as a song on the social sharing platform became a phenomenon, and we were there to help bring the show to life with a little help from the TikTok creators and Broadway stars like Tituss Burgess, Andrew Barth Feldman, Ashley Park, and more. We also raised over $2 million for The Actors Fund.
Broadway shows on mainstream streaming platforms
Hamilton on Disney +? Check. What the Constitution Means to Me? Check. The Prom movie on Netflix? Yes, please. This was the year we really saw Broadway come to the mainstream via streaming, and whether it was a live capture of the actual production, or a film adaptation, we’re here for it. We have so many more streams to look forward to, including Diana on Netflix, and In the Heights and West Side Story films are coming up this year!
Rent 25th Anniversary Gala
Right as we closed in on a full year at home, the trailblazing musical Rent celebrated its 25th anniversary with New York Theatre Workshop. The musical inspired so much change in the Broadway community — and even pioneered the ticket lottery — and the virtual celebration showcased how the show inspired a new generation of theatregoers and theatre makers. In this time of immense change and paradigm shift, Rent proves that change can only help the theatre community, and that’s what this moment is all about.
New theatre streaming services
If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that a global shutdown of theaters doesn’t mean no more entertainment. Companies have innovated the way we watch shows for the future — London productions are now adding dedicated streaming times to their shows. There’s tons of new services too, including National Theatre at Home, Stage2View and immersive theater with LIVR.
The Old Vic In Camera
What did creatives do when they couldn’t stage new shows? Revisit old favorites, of course. The Old Vic in London held a series of socially distanced revivals that were performed to an empty auditorium. Instead, audiences could tune in to live performances of Lungs, Three Kings, Faith Healer and even A Christmas Carol. Capturing the magic of an intimate performance while livestreaming around the world is no mean feat, but the Old Vic was showcased online in all its glory.
Songs for a New World
“It’s about one moment” is one of the opening lines in Songs for a New World, and that’s a sentiment that rings true for London theaters. In October, the London Palladium was home to concert performances of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, with the voices of its star coast soaring throughout the auditorium. Sadly, its West End run was cancelled at the Vaudeville Theatre, a sign of the times for everchanging Covid regulations. But, this musical really did usher in a new world of theatregoing that we can look forward to in the not too distant future.
BBC Musicals: The Greatest Show
West End theater has been stop-start for a year, with shows having to close after a few performances. But, the BBC stepped in to provide a night of pure, unadulterated musical joy with BBC Musicals: The Greatest Show. Hosted by the Funny Girl herself Sheridan Smith, we took a walk down memory lane with shows like Mamma Mia! and Wicked. There were even teasers for new musicals coming soon, like the world premiere of Cinderella.
Theatre at Awards Shows
We might not have had the Tonys yet, but that didn’t stop theatre from making its mark in awards season. From the Golden Globes to the BAFTAS, Critics Choice Awards to a virtual Oliviers, there were plenty of winning moments that showcased just how incredible our favorite stars really are.
Listening to cast albums on your daily walks
Getting out for some fresh air has become more important than ever. But, the playlists we made at the start of lockdown became stale pretty quickly. Cast albums have provided the musical inspiration we need to keep walking and rack up our step counts. Now, after a year of closed shows, we’ve got a new playlist filled with songs celebrating the power of today that can accompany the hours spent outside.
Karaoke and sing-alongs on Zoom
We’ve spent hours catching up with friends, family and colleagues on camera. Anything is now possible on video calls: murder mysteries, quizzes are the norm, but we’ve been loving the karaoke sessions. Well, we’d burst out into song whenever, but singing your heart out on Zoom isn’t so strange anymore.
Household activities became theatrically inspired
Looking at the same four walls gets tiresome pretty quickly. Know how to resolve this? Easy. Just imagine you’re leading a Broadway cast. Baking bread? You’re Jenna Hunterson from Waitress. Administering your own Covid test? You’re Heidi Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen. Anything can be theater if you try hard enough.
Learning musical routines to keep fit
Staying active has never been so fun with a little bit of musical inspiration. Throughout the past year, we’ve spent hours limbering up like we’re in the cast of Hairspray, Anything Goes and even pretending we’re a Newsie with a bit of help from online dance lessons. We’re even dancing in the grocery store like we’re in a Glee flashmob.