Last month’s Allegro, published fairly soon after the World Trade Center disaster, described the tragedy’s impact on the music community. As this issue goes to press, two months after Sept. 11, there are more positive signs on Broadway and in the hotel field – both areas that rely strongly on tourism.
While Broadway has continued to rebound from the Sept. 11 attack, industry grosses and attendance figures remain somewhat below their level a year ago. The decline reflects a slump in tourism, as well as a faltering economy that was beginning to become evident earlier this summer.
October grosses for musicals totaled $35.6 million this year, a decline of about 8 percent from last October’s $38.5 million.
The good news, however, is that many of the shows that received wage cuts during the most difficult weeks in late September and early October have paid back all or part of the cuts. Orchestras, casts and crews at The Full Monty, Chicago and Rent have already been made whole for the cuts in salaries. At Les Miserables and Phantom, half of the cuts were paid back. Musicians at Kiss Me Kate have been paid back all of the 25 percent union-sanctioned cuts, but not the additional voluntary 25 percent contributions made to purchase tickets for the show. At The Music Man no reimbursements have been made. The Rocky Horror Show, which closed temporarily after the Sept. 11 attack, reopened on Oct. 31 at full salary and plans are to run until the end of the year.
Going into the holiday season it is expected that all of the currently running shows will make it to January. Besides The Rocky Horror Show, which has already announced it will close at the end of the year, The Music Man and Kiss Me Kate will also close at year-end.
January and February are typically slow months on Broadway. The real test of Broadway’s recovery will come in the spring of 2002, when several large shows are slated to open. These include Oklahoma at the Gershwin, Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Minskoff, Into the Woods at the Broadhurst and Sweet Smell of Success at the Martin Beck.
Hopefully, New York-area audiences will maintain their strong support of Broadway, and tourists will return in large enough numbers to support both these shows and the longer-running hits that remain.
THE HOTEL FIELD
The first signs of an economic slowdown late last year had an immediate effect on the number of musicians employed on a steady basis in Manhattan hotels. Beginning in the late fall of 2000, several long-time steady musicians’ engagements at midtown hotels were terminated. Many other engagements were subject to decreased hours or days.
Statistics on hotel occupancy rates since the beginning of 2001 have indicated a slowdown in tourism and the number of corporate events that typically take place at midtown hotels. Musicians, as well as many hotel workers, became victims of the sluggish hotel industry. This trend continued until the tragic events of Sept. 11. In the weeks immediately following the World Trade Center disaster many remaining steady musicians found themselves canceled, as hotels – along with many other New York businesses – scrambled to deal with an even more uncertain future. Also feeling the pinch were club date employers, who suffered scores of last-minute cancellations.
Surprisingly, for hotel musicians, there has been a resumption of live music in a few midtown hotels. Recently, two hotels that were previously dark have decided to engage five musicians, and two others that had issued notices of termination to musicians have decided to continue live music. In both the latter cases, hotel management told Local 802 that clients have asked what happened to the music. It seems that music lifts the spirits. We could have told them that.