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Philadelphia's Avenue Of The Arts Alive Again With Live Music, Entertainment And New COVID Precautions

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Avenue of the Arts came back alive Tuesday night after COVID forced theaters across our area to close more than a year and a half ago.

You could feel the energy. The sidewalks were bustling Tuesday night as three different theaters welcomed fans back, but not without several noticeable COVID safety changes.

Live music and entertainment had audiences lined up early along Broad Street Tuesday night. Guests Eyewitness News spoke to came ready for several new COVID requirements.

"You have to have the vaccine, you have to have the mask to go in, and then you put your bling bling and you look fabulous," Fishtown resident Susana Kuemmerle said.

At the Wilma Theater, the countdown was on to curtain up. Across the street at the Kimmel Center, this night had extra meaning for the Philadelphia Orchestra and headliner Yo-Yo Ma, who were greeted with a standing ovation.

"The last performance was in here on March 12, 2020, and that morning there was a directive from the city no public assembly greater than 250 people," President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association Matías Tarnopolsky said.

The orchestra's CEO called the time away transformative, not only in their look -- white formal wear swapped for all-black attire -- but also in their message.

"It's really speaking to important issues of our day, social justice, creative equity, racial justice," Tarnopolsky said.

With more than $4 billion in revenue generated from arts and culture in Philly every year, getting the lights back on here matters.

"We promised to be here to help our community thrive on the other side of COVID and here we are," Tarnopolsky said.

More than half of the economic impact from a live show comes from dollars spent in nearby restaurants, hotels and shops, so many along South Broad Street are desperate for the show to go on.

The Wilma Theater along the Avenue of the Arts was also bustling with something it hasn't seen since the onset of the pandemic -- a live performance in front of a live audience.

"Tonight is our first night with audiences live and in-person back here at the Wilma on Avenue of the Arts since March of 2020," Wilma Theater Managing Director Leigh Goldenberg said.

Excitement filled the air as staff members prepared the theater for the show, with plenty of COVID protocols in place.

"We will have a member of our front-of-house team here to greet you," Goldenberg said.

Audience members were greeted with hand sanitizing stations and masks, which are required. Vaccination status is also a must.

"We will be requiring proof of vaccination for all audience members. We are asking audience members to wear masks while enjoying the performance. We have reduced capacity in the theater from our typical 300 seats down to 150," Goldenberg said.

Once you've gotten approval to enter, your hand stamp gets you clearance into the theater.

"You'll show your digital ticket and come on into the theater," Goldenberg said.

It's a new normal for theatergoers, but organizers hope they get the same joy that only live performances can stir.

"Personally, I began this job just as that last show as closing so I have been working here at the Wilma fully on a digital capacity and while we have created amazing digital work during this period of in-person event shutdown, we are so excited to get back to what we are meant to do, which is perform live for audiences here on stage," Goldenberg said.

CBS3's Alicia Roberts and Natasha Brown contributed to this report.

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