Return of NYC’s Broadway signals bounce back of American economy

Exclusive: As noted by Tony Award-winning actor James Monroe Iglehart, the job loss on Broadway went beyond actors and musicians. Now, the road to some semblance of normalcy begins.

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Broadway is back! The return of the nation’s famous theater circuit stands to signal a bounce back for the American economy. 

In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Tony Award-winning actor James Monroe Iglehart, who portrays Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway hit, Hamilton, said the reopening of shows signals the return of the nation’s economy. 

James Monroe Iglehart attends "Hamilton" Broadway Opening Night
James Monroe Iglehart attends “Hamilton” Broadway Opening Night at Richard Rodgers Theatre on August 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

According to Iglehart, during the months that Broadway was shut down, countless numbers of jobs and businesses were halted and in worse cases lost entirely.

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“When you talk about the numbers of people on Broadway, you don’t realize how large it is because it’s not just the actors, it’s not just the musicians. It’s not just the crew,” Iglehart said. “Broadway facilitated jobs for all of those smaller businesses that are around Broadway … the hotels, the restaurants, the bakeries, all little sandwich places.” 

Speaking of restaurants, the food industry has been so severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic that President Joe Biden unveiled an initiative for restaurant revitalization at a tune of $28.6 billion as part of his COVID-19 relief package. 

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about updated CDC mask guidance on the North Lawn of the White House on April 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Restaurant owners are applauding the administration’s efforts, but believe the initiatives will not be quite enough to make them whole from the devastating impacts of the pandemic. 

“The restaurant revitalization fund is definitely a good program as business owners are allowed to used it to cover virtually most expenses, but by any means, this will not be enough in repairing the damage done by the pandemic,” said Melba Wilson, owner of famed Southern restaurant in Harlem, Melba’s. “The recovery will be long, and we need all levels of government to continue to be active and support our small business community.”

Although the government is working to rebound industries, Broadway exemplifies the talent loss the country still faces regardless of a return to normalcy. 

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Iglehart worked with various organizations to help raise money for actors and all those in the theatre community whose pockets were hit hard by the COVID shutdowns. But despite the aid, many in the arts faced a crossroad — passion vs. payment. Iglehart confirmed many actors may not be coming back to work. Instead, they have sought employment options that are less susceptible to discontinue if the virus persists. 

“If you choose to do something else, that doesn’t mean you failed,” added Inglehart. “That means that a different path opened up for you. And sometimes that different path is where you need to be.”

In the latest jobs report, 266,000 jobs were created with restaurants and leisure industries experiencing the highest jumps in employment numbers for the month of April.

Ocean 10 restaurant
Ziyad Abdalla, a worker at the Ocean 10 restaurant, clears off a table and prepares to close the restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

When it comes to jobs in the leisure sector, people are ready to get back to work on Broadway. Theatres are selling tickets for opening night across Time Square for shows. 

At a time when President Biden is pushing for job expansion amid a wave of inflation with spiking gas and grocery prices and fears of gasoline shortages, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is actively seeking opportunities to block the president’s proposed infrastructure and jobs plan. 

As Americans await federal intervention, Broadway’s seasoned entertainers are gearing up to pick up after frontline workers who have supported the country for more than a year. 

Iglehart is excited to get back to the stage on Sept. 14 for the opening night of Hamilton. 

He believes the energy of Broadway’s reopening will be electric as the cast plays off of the energy of the Hamilton audience. Tickets for Hamilton and other Broadway shows are on sale now.  

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