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Radio City cancels Rockettes’ Christmas shows as Covid spike shutters live performances in New York

The Radio City Rockettes perform onstage during the Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Steven Ferdman | Getty Images

Visitors to New York City can check out the famous outdoor Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center this holiday season, but they won’t be able to walk down the block and see Radio City Musical Hall’s “Christmas Spectacular.”

The stars of that show, the Rockettes, have been sidelined by an outbreak of Covid-19.

Just a week before Christmas Eve, “The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes” announced it would end its 2021 season, which previously would have wrapped up on Jan. 2.

“We regret that we are unable to continue the ‘Christmas Spectacular’ this season due to increasing challenges from the pandemic,” the show said in a statement Friday.

It’s been a hard week for live performances. Show after show on Broadway has been canceled as variants of the coronavirus fuel a new surge in Covid cases in the city.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” nixed its Thursday night performance with audience members in their seats after a company member tested positive.

Productions have been starting and stopping since the theater industry reopened in the Big Apple in September. “Aladdin,” “Chicken & Biscuits,” “Chicago” and “Wicked” as well as “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” have been forced to cancel performances or shut down because of breakthrough cases.

These incidents have been more frequent in recent weeks, however, as the Covid omicron variant has led to an increase in cases, even among those who are fully vaccinated.

On Wednesday, “Tina,” a jukebox musical about legendary singer Tina Turner, canceled both of its performances, the Harry Potter show called off its matinee and “Hamilton” scratched its evening performance.

A sign indicating canceled performances of “Mrs. Doubtfire” due to Covid is displayed in the window of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on December 16, 2021 in New York City.
Dia Dipasupil | Getty Images

“Mrs. Doubtfire,” a new musical adaptation of the popular comedy film, had previously canceled four performances between Sunday and Wednesday. Additionally, “Freestyle Love Supreme” canceled three shows, “Ain’t Too Proud’ scrapped one and the off-Broadway “Little Shop of Horrors” revival abandoned four.

Broadway has taken precautions to ensure that workers and audience members are vaccinated and patrons are required to wear masks during performances. In many cases, company members and workers who have tested positive have been asymptomatic or have shown only mild symptoms. But they are not allowed to return until they are considered no longer contagious.

In some instances, productions have been able to continue even if a cast member tests positive for Covid-19, with understudies or swing players taking their place.

While audiences have largely been understanding of these cancellations, the disruptions are costly to productions, especially those that are just getting underway. While shows with major followings are anchors in the Broadway community and will be able to rebound, the newer productions face steeper challenges.

“Chicken & Biscuits,” for example, a comedy about a family that reunited for a funeral, closed permanently at the end of November.

While ticket holders in the New York metro area may choose to rebook tickets, tourists who often come expressly to see Broadway shows are less fortunate.

In a typical year, tourists account for 65% of Broadway ticket sales. They also spend additional money on transportation, food and hotels. Frequent cancellations, especially during the peak holiday season, could deter these travelers from scooping up tickets for fear that the performance will get called off before curtain time.

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