Broadway on-screen: The show must go on!

The beloved musical 'An American in Paris' was revived on Broadway in 2015.

When lockdown was in place in Cayman, people were keen to find ways to entertain themselves, as heading out to restaurants, bars and the cinema just wasn’t an option.

It has been the same for everyone else around the world, which is why online services like Zoom, big-budget movie premieres in the home market, and virtual concerts have become hugely popular as a way to fill the void.

Being able to watch films at home is one thing, but what about live theatre? Thankfully, the Cayman Drama Society and the Cayman National Cultural Foundation have been able to stage productions since the end of last year (‘Noises Off!’ and ‘Rundown’ were big hits), but for anyone craving the Broadway experience, The Great White Way is not scheduled to reopen until September.

Luckily, there is a way to have one’s cake and eat it too, thanks to sites like Broadway HD.

I first heard about this website by chance when I was taking advantage of the Metropolitan Opera’s free streaming service last summer. The organisation decided to make some of its most famous operas available online for a limited period of time, and I was keen to see what was on offer. In one of my Google searches, the Broadway HD site came up, so I went down the rabbit hole.

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Unlike some US streaming services, you are not required to have a VPN for this one; however, if you do have VPN access, you will see a different selection of shows. For example, when using a US IP address, you’ll suddenly find ‘Kinky Boots’ available, whereas logging in without one makes that particular production disappear off the radar.

That being said, you won’t be disappointed with the offerings either way. You can watch Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’ – famously with an all-male cast – or the revival of ‘An American in Paris’. See ‘Fame’ live from London’s West End, or David Hasselhoff in ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, followed by ‘Into the Woods’, ‘Peter Pan’ starring Cathy Rigby, and ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith. You may be familiar with the film of the same name with these cast members, but this is actually the live production with Patricia Routledge in the role of Ruth, played by Angela Lansbury in the movie.

Love your Shakespeare? You’ll find multiple versions of ‘Macbeth’ to choose from, with a couple of ‘King Lear’s, along with other favourites like ‘The Tempest’, ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘Hamlet’, all starring some of the theatre greats such as Patrick Stewart, Harriet Walker and Sir Ian McKellen.

Once I began going through all the titles, I was thrilled to find so many I’d heard of, but never seen. I’d missed the chance to see the fabulous Kevin Kline in Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’, and now here it was on the list at Broadway HD.

Seeing Elaine Stritch live had been a bucket list item for me for years. The brassy, brash singer and actress was known for her wit and comedy, but she passed away in 2014. Now I could watch her in ‘Elaine Stritch at Liberty’.

Even those who prefer ballet over plays or musicals will be happy to see ‘Giselle’, ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Nutcracker’, among others on the menu.

There are many different categories to peruse and hundreds of hours of performances to explore, all for the price of US$8.99 per month. I know I’m beginning to sound like an infomercial (“And, if you act now, we’ll throw in a commemorative Broadway mug – just pay shipping and handling!”), but I think it is such an invaluable online service for anyone who appreciates the theatre. As each is a recording of a live production, you hear the reactions of the audience, making it a more immersive experience, and you also have the best seat in the house so you don’t miss an expression or a word.

Of course, I am not saying that Broadway HD is a proper substitute for seeing a show live; do that whenever you can. I went to see ‘Noises Off!’ here and it was a fantastic night out with a strong cast and impressive set design.

The only real difference between seeing that comedy in the Prospect Playhouse versus a US theatre was the cost of a glass of wine. Broadway will take your firstborn for a cocktail, some nuts and a bar of chocolate.

Speaking of the Prospect Playhouse, the Cayman Drama Society is hosting a Teen Theatre Club night on Friday, 9 July, with a screening of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde, followed by a post-show discussion with Kirsty O’Sullivan. This is for 13-18 year-olds and the fee is $10 per child to cover the cost of pizza and overheads. Dropoff time is 6:30pm with pickup at 10pm. Book a space online at www.cds.ky.

If you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to Broadway HD, but want to get a taste of watching a recording of live theatre from Broadway or the West End, you can get tickets for Culture at the Cinema, happening once a month at the Camana Bay Cinema. The next show will be ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ starring James McAvoy, screening on 17 July at 8pm. Tickets are $40 and include a glass of bubbly. Visit www.bigscreen.ky for the upcoming schedule.

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