It was expected that Broadway would excel at streaming during the Coronavirus pandemic, but only Andrew Lloyd Webber has delivered a product worth watching
Broadway theatres have been closed since Thursday, March 12, 2020 and many Broadway producers decided to entertain audiences with a new medium during the Broadway shutdown. Many of the grand streaming plans have been scuttled due to ownership rights, union agreements and other considerations. The only person who consistently delivers a cohesive and compelling service is Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has managed to show a number of his great shows on his Youtube channel, which has put the rest of New York’s Broadway to shame. Other entertainment performances have managed to deliver some compelling content with ballet, classical music, dance and opera which can be seen on streaming mediums.
Best and Worst Of Broadway Streaming During the Shutdown
The High Notes:
The entertainment enterprise, Universal, decided to partner up with Andrew Lloyd Webber in late March, 2020, to create ‘The Shows Must Go On!’ Youtube channel. This partnership, made up of one part musical genius and another, a tremendous production company, is the reason why the video and stream quality has been so high on the Youtube channel. ‘The Shows Must Go On!’ has been uploading a free Broadway musical every week from Webber’s significant back catalog. Each video stream remains viewable for only 48 hours and the streams have included:
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which is a musical based on the biblical story from the book of Genesis. This show also streams on the BroadwayHD pay subscription service, but fans were able to watch it for free on Youtube
- The Phantom of the Opera, which has been one of Broadway’s longest running shows, with over 3,500 performances and seven Tony Awards
- Love Never Dies, Lloyd Webber’s 2010 romantic musical sequel to The Phantom of the Opera
- Lloyd Webber's 50th birthday concert celebration show from 1998
The next few Broadway shows Lloyd Webber could upload include: Sunset Boulevard, Evita, Cats and By Jeeves. Revenues from ‘The Shows Must Go On!’ Youtube channel are donated to The Actors Fund which is based in NYC.
BroadwayHD has been showing great quality, previously recorded Broadway shows since before the shutdown and during the shutdown. The Broadway shows include:
- Billy Elliot
- Kinky Boots
- Les Miserables
- Bye Bye Birdie
- And many more...
Although technically not a Broadway show, another great live stream performance was Buyer & Cellar which was performed by Michael Urie (known for his Broadway roles in Grand Horizons and Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song). The live stream of Buyer & Cellar was a one man comedy performance which was streamed out of Urie’s New York City apartment, living room. The stream was a fundraising event which ended up raising over $200,000 for the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund.
The Low Notes:
Most of the bad Broadway streams are the ones performed directly from Broadway performer’s homes. Many Broadway streams are just actors sitting on their computers talking about what they used to do on Broadway, only some streams are performance related and very few of those are compelling.
It should also be noted that these Broadway actors often run into technical problems, because theatre people are typically not tech savvy. Many of them use low quality cameras, microphones and other mediocre computer equipment for their streams. Unlike a live Broadway theatre show there is not a full staff of stage crew ready to help in case there is a technical issue during the show. Some of the worst Broadway streams include:
- Legally Blonde sang songs which were fun for the hardcore Broadway fanatic, but it lacked mass appeal as it was somewhat boring to other fans looking to watch the show. It was uninteresting despite the fact that the content was shot with high end video equipment at the Studio 54 theatre with some of the original actors
- Broadway cast reunions (like the cast reunion of SIX the Broadway musical) have been streamed over Zoom, Facetime and Skype and do very little to further Broadway or engage fans. Hearing about where stars get their morning cup of coffee lacks any compelling content except for hardened Broadway fanatics, of which there are now fewer
- Broadway.com’s Youtube channel has been releasing sub-par content that has mostly consisted of a laid back news segment, guests appearances and “Broadway Stars” singing show tunes to their computers from their personal bedrooms. The videos lack professionalism and are low-energy, compared to the enthusiasm the stars give in an actual stage performance
- William Shakespeare's Birthday was on Thursday, April 23rd, and many theatre geeks have been hosting Zoom live streams for the week leading up to it where they perform dreary read alouds from some of his greatest works
- Be More Chill, Six, As You Like It, Legally Blonde, Twelfth Night and Sweeney Tood: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street are some of the Broadway shows who have hosted live streams consisting of their Broadway casts or their songs
Despite the low quality of many of these Broadway live streams, some of them have been used as fundraisers to either support the arts during this pandemic or to help create relief funds for hospitals that have been on the front lines as they fight for the lives of the hundreds and thousands of COVID-19 patients in NYC.