McCollum’s move, which will enable the production to stop paying salaries and most other expenses, is a novel Broadway response to the Omicron surge, but has a parallel in London, where Andrew Lloyd Webber has shuttered his new “Cinderella” musical for at least seven weeks. (It is slated to reopen Feb. 9.)
“Mrs. Doubtfire,” like all Broadway shows, has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The production, in development for years and capitalized for $17 million, had gotten through just three preview performances in March 2020 when Broadway shut down; it was closed for 19 months before resuming previews in October, and then opened in December, bolstered by a nearly $10 million grant from the Small Business Administration.
The show opened to tepid reviews — and a pan in The New York Times — but sales were nonetheless promising, McCollum said, until the Omicron variant, which was detected in New York just days before the opening, caused a spike in coronavirus cases. (The Broadway League has stopped reporting show-by-show box office grosses, making it difficult to track a production’s ups and downs with any precision.)
Jan. 2, 2022, 6:20 p.m. ET
As coronavirus cases spread among Broadway workers, “Mrs. Doubtfire” had to cancel 11 performances during the normally lucrative holiday season, continuing to pay workers while losing all box office revenue. And then, McCollum said, the show, like many others, faced a high number of consumers canceling their tickets at the last minute because of concerns about safety, confusion about what was still open and difficulty complying with vaccination rules. (“Mrs. Doubtfire” is a family-friendly show, so it is particularly affected by the evolving vaccine mandates for children.)
“You’re asking me to plant a sapling in a hurricane,” McCollum said.
So long as “Mrs. Doubtfire” is open, its expenses are about $700,000 a week, whether or not performances actually take place, because employees are paid even if a performance is canceled. And expenses have recently risen because of increased testing, along with additional costs associated with keeping a show going when staff members test positive.