CHICAGO — As the sun shines in Chicago and vaccines finally begin to flow to the younger population of artists, optimism is increasing for the return to work. There is good reason. Assuming the theater community puts its focus on its audience, both new and returning, and gives them both what they want and need as they recover from this hellish era, live shows are about to come roaring back to full houses.
There’s real evidence now of pent-up demand. Consider what is happening in Las Vegas.
Cirque du Soleil, which has emerged from bankruptcy protection and put its famous productions of both “Mystere” and “O” on sale last week under the headline “intermission is over,” has seen colossal demand for tickets for performances beginning June 28 for “Mystere” and July 1 for the aquatic “O,” a spokesman has told me. “Blue Man Group” is coming back to Las Vegas this summer, too, and while no announcement has been made about the Chicago production at Briar Street Theatre, another spokesman said that the show also will return to Chicago. For sure. And that will be a big relief to the large number of artists who work for that hugely popular attraction.
Also in Vegas: Comedian Dave Chappelle sold 13,000 tickets for his July 2 concert. The Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny had 45,000 people in his waiting room, all trying to buy tickets at once (his tour also brings him to Rosemont in March 2022).
Get the drift, Chicago entertainment peeps? People are ready.
In New York, Broadway shows are returning in the fall and I’m expecting an on-sale announcement to happen in two or three weeks. The naysayers will, I think, be surprised at the size of the returning slate: a few shows won’t be reopening (they’d have been closed by now anyway) but the vast majority very much fancy their chances in a booming fall, especially since New York has announced a huge investment designed to help the tourism sector recover.
A large number of visitors is crucial to the arts, so we can only wish that Chicago and the state of Illinois soon will announce a similar recovery effort.
It’s also a good moment for Chicago theaters to pay attention to blooming network TV plans to celebrate the return of the business we call show. How does this town get a piece of that action? Could there be a local equivalent?
Get off social media, suspend any and all infighting and make a plan. Booms don’t last forever and you can sleep through them with perfect ease.
Some folks are getting with the program. Second City is still planning on returning, albeit with baby steps, in a couple of weeks. The Loop circus show Teatro ZinZanni is plotting a reopening the second regulations ease, replete with Frank Ferrante at the heart of the show. I expect ticket sales to be great, we all need to laugh.
Steppenwolf is coming back with the rest of the run of the David Cromer production of Tracy Letts’ “Bug,” later in the fall. That’s a great, proven show and I’ll wager all of those available tickets will be out the door faster than you can say Namir Smallwood and Carrie Coon. Just watch.
And as sure as vaccines protect us, God bless us every one, the Goodman Theatre will be doing “A Christmas Carol” with an opening around Thanksgiving. Count on it. In person, kids. No Zoom account needed. No audio-only experience. Just be sure you have a couple of well-timed jabs before you head to the box office.
We’re going to have a healthy set of other options in the Loop, too. I’m expecting at least one pre-Broadway tryout to set up shop here before the end of 2021, which is not anything I thought I would be typing three months ago. “Six” will be back at the Broadway Playhouse and Disney’s “Frozen” will be chilling at the Cadillac Palace. And that’s only a piece of what’s in store. Union local crews and musicians will be relieved. Restaurants will be calling back their servers and, let us hope, the streets soon will be humming.