It’s still hard to get into The Producers, even with Nathan Lane on vacation. The line outside the St. James Theatre snakes its way down 44th Street, and at 6:30 p.m. last Tuesday, Sally Ann Anctio and Carolyn Mulloy, both 70 years old, are at the head of it. They’ve been waiting for three and a half hours, hoping someone has released tickets. They came from Boston (on the Amtrak) to celebrate Sally Ann’s birthday. The train ride was lovely, thank you. The service at the restaurant where they had dinner was so nice, too, and it was so easy to get a cab. Sally Ann and Carolyn gleefully collect their tickets while Robert Young, who works the line for the theater, cheers them on – they are helping keep things in this city moving, after all – even as he admits his misery: “I’m having nightmares. You don’t know why people aren’t here, why people are canceling. Every time you see an empty seat, you have to wonder why it’s been left empty.”
“When we came back on the Thursday after the attack, the theater looked full at first,” says Matthew Broderick. “But then you’d realize that the sound of your own voice was different. It was the sound against empty seats.”
Comparatively, though, The Producers is packed. Five Broadway shows have closed since September 11, and shows that haven’t been forced to close are still suffering. “Cabaret never had a losing week in three and a half years – until two weeks ago,” says Todd Haimes, the artistic director of the Roundabout Theatre Company.
At 1:30 last Wednesday, Janine La Manna, a star of Kiss Me Kate, is having her makeup done for the matinee, staying positive. “Maintaining any sense of normalcy is really important,” she says. “We’re not trained medical technicians or firefighters or policemen – our job is our talent. We have to keep going. We have to show that they cannot do this to our economy, to our American spirit.”
At 3:30, she called back. The show had been closed.