Broadway is back, the stages have been saved — and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was in Times Square to take a bow and pull the curtain up on a free three-day outdoor event.

Senator Schumer tells the audience in Times Square about his “Save Our Stages” mask. All Photos and Videos: Phil O’Brien

Senator Schumer took to the stage lauded by the Broadway community as a “hometown hero”, wearing a “Save Our Stages” mask, telling the crowd: “This is the mask I wore on the floor of the Senate that day we passed the bill.” Schumer had pushed through the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant (SVOG) that has pumped in over $488 million to the local theater community.

“There are two ways to fight COVID. One is to get your vaccine and the second is fill the seats on Broadway,” he told the Times Square audience. “We depend on the arts. We depend on Broadway. It is the heart of our economy. And when people fill the seats here they go to the restaurants, they stay in the hotels, they shop in the stores. It’s been my honor to work to save our stages. It’s been my honor to work to save Broadway.”

Senator Schumer was welcomed as a “hometown hero” for his work on the SVOG funding for the Broadway community.

The Senator was clear his actions were not just for the actors and theater owners. “I want to thank all of those who work on Broadway backstage. All of those who are part of IATSE [International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees], Local One and CWA [Communications Workers of America] because we are a proud union town and these are good paying jobs,” he said.

After the speeches, there were special performances by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Jessica Vosk. Vosk entertained the crowd with an impromptu rap after technical difficulties meant the accompanying piano playing of music director John McDaniel could not be heard. She went on to sing Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie. Stokes Mitchell finished off the launch event with There’s No Business Like Show Business from Annie Get Your Gun.

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Curtain Up! launched this morning with a kick-off event hosted by Chicken & Biscuits stars Norm Lewis and Michael Urie, featuring speakers from organizers Playbill, The Broadway League, and Times Square Alliance. Between now and Sunday, the Festival will see 22 events take place on stages in Duffy Square (7th Avenue & W47th Street) and between W45th & W46th Streets.

The event began the countdown to the official start — The Jimmy Awards Reunion Concert! — which begins at 5.30pm in Duffy Square. Hosted by Jelani Alladin, the concert brings together alumni of the famed Jimmy Awards/National High School Musical Theatre Awards program and includes the two top winners from the virtual 2021 Jimmys making their New York performance debuts. 

Chicken & Biscuits stars Norm Lewis and Michael Urie hosted the event in Times Square.

Other program highlights include Saturday’s Black to Broadway – It’s “Play” Time panel and a ¡Viva! Broadway When We See Ourselves concert,  a musical celebration of the joy, diversity, and extensive contributions of the Latin and Hispanic Broadway. The festival finale is the star-studded Curtain Up: This is Broadway! concert, at 11am Sunday, which features performers from 18 of Broadway’s top musicals and plays, from Hamilton and Come From Away to Pass Over and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Throughout the celebratory weekend, Broadway fans will have the unique opportunity to join with a wide variety of interactive experiences and intimate concerts peppered throughout the festival, including Broadway sing-a-long’s, The Sing For Hope Piano, variety shows, after dark events and special Broadway Podcast Network recordings.  

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“It is thrilling for us to welcome back Broadway and its beloved fans with Curtain Up!,” said Alexander Birsh, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Playbill. “Our theatre community has been through so much since March 2020, and we are excited to bring the joy of theatre to the center of Times Square. We can’t wait to celebrate the return of Broadway with Curtain Up!” 

“Broadway’s reopening is like a huge welcome mat for New Yorkers and visitors to return to Times Square, which has the brightest lights in NYC and is an international symbol for the city as a whole,” added Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance. “With Broadway’s return and theatres bringing back live entertainment and artists to their stages, it will also create a domino effect and help to continue to bring back guests to neighborhood restaurants, hotels, retailers, and independent businesses which have all been waiting for Broadway’s return.”

Playbill’s Philip Birsh chats with Times Square Alliance President Tom Harris (right) after the event.

You’ll find full program details on the Times Square website

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