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1 Year After Great White Way Went Dark, Pop-Up Performances Breathing New Life Into Broadway

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's been a year since Broadway shut down, leaving thousands without jobs and costing the local economy billions of dollars in losses.

As CBS2's John Dias reported, we're now seeing glimmers of hope for the future, including a surprise pop-up performance Friday in Times Square.

They're calling it a "lost year," but the performers didn't need a map to find they way back home to Broadway. The captivating performance at the Crossroads of the World surprised New Yorkers and tourists who have been counting down the days until Broadway returns.

"I really miss it. I work in the city, so I would come in with my friends," said Mary Barlow, of New Rochelle.

The Times Square Alliance hosted the special "We Will Be Back" live show, with Broadway legends like Tony and GRAMMY award winner André De Shields.

"The old norm is not salvageable for us. It's what kicked us in the butt and said, 'Get out of here, try something new,'" he said.


The pop-up show commemorated the one year anniversary of when COVID turned off the bright lights on Broadway. On Friday, each actor finally got paid.

"I went from having five auditions lined up ... to everything shut down. It was literally within a matter of overnight," actor Bre Jackson said. "When we initially shut down, everyone turned on Netflix and television and streaming services for arts. The arts were what kept everybody sane, if you will, and we weren't kept."

Jackson is one of the thousands of theater professionals still out of work, having to find a different way to make ends meet.

"I'm a contractor for a therapy firm," she said.

The shutdown has had a $15-billion impact on the city's economy, but Friday was about looking to the future. While major Broadway performances are still suspended through May 30, the acting president of the Times Square Alliance recently called the activity in the area "very encouraging."

"We have seen signs that Times Square is waking up, with pedestrian counts over 100,000," said Tom Harris.

That includes Noah Summerhays and his college friends visiting from Utah, taking advantage of cheap flights.

"Our ticket here was $57 roundtrip," he told Dias. "Just the fact that we were able to at least be here in the city is just magical."

The Times Square Alliance says it will be hosting more of what it's calling "surprise, small-scale programs" in the area but won't be advertising them. The organization wants to keep the performances intimate, because large crowds could spread COVID.

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