Next season will look a little different for Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Instead of starting its new season this fall, the league has pushed back all of its productions until 2021 as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic, it announced today.
The league will present four shows at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple as part of its season package: “Waitress,” Feb. 25 to 28; Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” April 9 to 11; “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory,” June 4 to 6; and “Cats,” July 30 to Aug. 1.
It also will present three special productions outside the season ticket package: “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles,” Feb. 10; “Stomp,” April 27 and 28; and Blue Man Group, June 15 and 16.
League Executive Director Frank Blasi said they originally scheduled shows for later this year but decided to push them back based on what Broadway has talked about with its own reopening. With so much uncertainty still surrounding the coronavirus, Blasi said, the league decided to delay the season rather than have to reschedule fall shows should there still be pandemic issues.
“We figured the safest bet was to push everything into 2021 (and) make sure everyone is ready for it,” he said.
And, Blasi said, they want everyone coming to the theater to feel OK doing so. The league is staying in touch with the cultural center as it develops precautions to keep guests safe.
“We’re playing into August next year, which we never do, but we felt that in order to give the best flexibility for everybody, we’ll start after the first of the year,” Blasi said. “It’s probably an abundance of caution, and I’m hopeful that when (next year) comes around, people will feel more comfortable and more energetic about going into a theater to see a show.”
John Cardoni, cultural center general manager, said the facility is trying to make sense of the different safety directives and erring on the side of caution.
“For now, since we don’t have events, we have the luxury of kind of assessing what everyone else is doing and what those procedures are,” he said. “We expect that even by the beginning of 2021 we will not have had enough screening or a vaccine, so there will need to be some kind of monitoring done of audience members as well as our cast and crew for their safety.”
Currently, all staff and guests who enter the cultural center must wear masks, and the staff has to adhere to other requirement. Cardoni said they will continue to expand on the amount of hand sanitizers available.
“I expect that we’re going to have yet another adjustment in all this, whether it’s adjusting to a new norm of people being comfortable taking a risk until there’s a vaccine or what the industry itself decides to do. … It’s all kind of up in the air,” he said. “We’re hoping for the best.”
Prior to the start of its next season, though, the league will wrap up its current one. It had three shows remaining in the 2019-20 season when the pandemic hit, but it will present one of those shows, “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” from Jan. 22 to 24, 2021. Tickets already purchased for that show will remain valid.
“It’s actually been rescheduled from last season,” Blasi said. “Even though it’s going to be in 2021, it’s the remaining of what’s left.”
People who bought single-show tickets for 2020’s “Fiddler on the Roof” and “An American in Paris” already have received refunds, Blasi said. Anyone who bought season tickets for 2019-20 will receive a credit from those unplayed shows that they can put toward season tickets for 2021. That credit will be noted on their ticket renewal forms, which the league expects to send out this week. If they do not want to apply the credit toward the new season, they will get a refund, Blasi said.
Season tickets for 2021 cost $175 to $315, and season ticket-holders will receive first dibs on tickets to the three special productions, which cost extra. Individual show tickets will go on sale closer to their dates.
While the league always gave people the chance to pay for season tickets in installments, Blasi said, this year it also will let them add on the specials and pay for those over time, too, because it knows some people are facing financial hardships thanks to the pandemic.
“We wanted to give everybody the opportunity, if they’re interested, to spread out their payments and allow us to move forward,” he said.
Blasi thinks people will enjoy the variety of the 2021 season, and he noted all of the shows except for “Waitress” are kid-friendly.
“We have kids’ shows, we have classic shows, we have new shows, so we’re pretty happy,” he said.
The special productions have visited Scranton before and were popular, Blasi noted.
“The reason why we have those specials in there is we want to have the most productions out there as possible,” he said. “We want to give everybody as many options as we can to see shows next year.”
The league is excited about the shows it has lined up, Blasi said, and it misses its patrons.
“We’ll do anything in our power to help them to renew and get back into the theater,” he said.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest