Broadway's Back-Up Plan: Streaming services
Since the pandemic closed Broadway theatres, as well as theatre troupes throughout the country, professionals in the industry have had to find other ways to pay the bills. Audiences, too, have needed to go elsewhere to get their fix plays and musicals. New streaming companies, like this one, are only one way that theatre is not only surviving but being reinvented. Yet, forward-thinking producers have begun to explore other avenues for their shows to reach paying audiences.
In July, Hamilton premiered on Disney+, and finally let people across the globe in on the biggest thing to hit the Great White Way since Oklahoma! (and for a lot less money, too). Even before Lin-Manuel Miranda's magnum opus, though, other recordings of staged shows had tested the waters; streaming website BroadwayHD ramped up their offerings this past spring; The Spongebob Squarepants Musical had a limited two-week engagement on, obviously, Nickelodeon, while just last week, Ryan Murphy's film version of The Prom also hit Netflix. While all these projects were in the work before COVID-19, you can certainly expects more streamers to be offering Broadway musicals before theatres reopen.
While not full-length musicals, both Disney+ and others have thrown together live specials honoring musicals. NBC aired a pre-recorded staged version of The Grinch Musical and ABC television did a cabaret-style show featuring out-of-work Broadway actors and celebrities singing the biggest hits from recent shows. And that's not to mention the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade performances which, despite the canned music, is always a welcome distraction from the rest of the festivities.
But it's not all online. Several theatre companies have returned to the boards outdoors. This past summer, a theatre near me did an entire show in their parking lot for a socially-distanced crowd. It being winter makes that option unfeasible, but the return to performances a la Shakespeare in the Park will likely resume as soon as the warmer weather returns in a few months.
And in case any Broadway professionals are reading this, allow me to offer a suggestion: record new cast albums. Whether it's a show that was about to open on Broadway, like Hugh Jackman's production of The Music Man, or entirely new and unproduced shows, get the songs down and out to audiences to build hype for when they can eventually take the stage.
Do you have any suggestions or thoughts about how Broadway can live on with theatres dark? Leave your comments below!