Hugh Jackman is making a return to the Great White Way.
The actor will be starring in "The Music Man" when the show opens May 20, 2021. Previews will start April 7, 2021.
Broadway shut down on March 12, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but performances are likely to resume in the next few months.
Tony-winner Jackman will team up with stage and screen veteran Sutton Foster, who was set to be his "The Music Man" co-star before the play was delayed.
Like many other Broadway shows, "The Music Man" was originally going to open this fall, but was forced to postpone due to the pandemic.
"Performing on Broadway is a great honor for an actor, in fact, one of the greatest," said Jackman in a statement. "Show One is filled with anticipation, fear and excitement. It's like an opening night eight times a week...The change of dates will not take any of that away. What it will do, however, is help to ensure that 'The Music Man' audiences, and our company, are in a completely safe environment. Can't wait for that day!"
Broadway itself has a lot riding on Jackman's lead in "The Music Man," post-shutdown, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The trade publication reports that Jackman is "the biggest star on Broadway in the past two decades," and has always been a box office draw -- a boon for an industry that has been unable to function during the coronavirus outbreak.
Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, the national trade association for the industry, told "Good Morning America" that although tickets can be refunded or exchanged through Sept. 6, "that doesn't mean that we're going back Sept. 7, unless there's some miracle that happens." The Broadway League has not announced a timeline for reopening, but St. Martin said in an interview earlier this month that "current thinking is possibly early January." Broadway insiders told The Hollywood Reporter that March or April may be more realistic. New York City is currently in phase two of reopening, which includes restaurants that offer outdoor seating and some retail operations. Broadway is not slated to reopen until the final phase: phase 4.
To prepare, St. Martin said that her organization is working with 22 task forces comprised of more than 300 people to determine how to keep casts, crews and audiences safe. One thing they're considering, she said, is rapid, daily COVID-19 testing for those who work on shows, especially because physical distancing is not possible given their jobs. Similarly, audience members will not be able to sit at least six feet apart, as recommended by experts, she added.
"It is unlikely that we will be doing social distancing. The financial model just does not work," St. Martin said. "At this point, we're not talking about that."
There could be changes to the theaters themselves and the overall Broadway experience, she added. Still, specifics are tough to predict, as expert guidance could change, St. Martin noted.
"I think you could assume we'll be in masks for awhile, [and we are investigating] a lot of contact-less changes to the theaters, whether it's contact-less tickets, or contact-less toilets and faucets," she added. "I don't know if we'll open with [concession stands] but what's been discussed is that servers would be wearing masks and you'd get a paper cup -- something you could throw away."
So far, most Broadway shows have survived the shutdown, with only three closing: "Frozen," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Hangmen." The latter two were only in previews on March 12, when the Great White Way closed. "Beetlejuice" is looking for a new theater, according to its Twitter account. However, St. Martin warned, "We know that it's possible that the longer we stay out, the more probable it will be" that shows will shut down permanently.
"Shows that haven't opened yet and don't have a brand or reviews that say, 'You've got to see this,' are certainly more vulnerable, and [so are] shows that were struggling before the pandemic," St. Martin added. "But considering we've been out three months, for only three shows to have shuttered is pretty remarkable."