PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Over the past twenty years, if you’ve seen a show on Broadway, chances are you’ve seen a Hampton Roads native on the world-famous stage.
Because of the pandemic, Broadway remains shuttered, leaving thousands of entertainers, technicians, and producers without a paycheck.
Norfolk natives Anthony Wayne, Deon Ridley, and Derrick Williams, learned how to sing, act, and dance in Norfolk back in the mid-80s as members of the Center Stage children’s theater group.
Since then, they have individually performed in the major musicals of our time — The Lion King, Damn Yankees, Chicago, Anything Goes, and The Book of Mormon — just to name a few.
Weeks into the pandemic, Anthony, Deon, and Derrick are following lockdown orders in the Big Apple. From their homes in the city, they talked to 10 On Your Side and reflected on life with Broadway in the dark.
“I saw a video of Times Square, and it really broke my heart because you don’t see anyone,” said Anthony.
Deon, who was in New York for the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, says the pandemic has created a different type of fear.
“This is a different vibe — 911 was much more sad, but this time people on the streets — it’s a ghost town it’s unlike you’ve ever seen in New York City,” he said.
Derrick is in his seventh year as the General in The Book of Mormon. Williams believes his show will return but recently-opened productions have seen both their opening night and their closing night. Shows will end — and sadly, he worries lives will end.
“I’ve seen at least 30 people I know on Broadway who have the coronavirus,” Derrick said.
Entertainers have joined the millions of Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits.
With Broadway in the dark, many have filed for unemployment benefits, and they’ve turned to the nonprofit organization Broadway Cares.
“No money comes in something like this has never happened in the world ever. For Broadway to shut down, it has to be a catastrophic event. That’s what it is,” Anthony said.
Derrick also played the role of Mufasa in The Lion King. On Broadway, he says you always prepare for feast or famine.
“You are constantly preparing for the time that you are not working–looking for another show,” said the veteran actor.
No one knows how the COVD-19 story will end, but these veterans agree, Broadway may never be the same. If you want to help Broadway entertainers who are now unemployed because of the crisis, you can make your tax-deductible donation at broadwaycares.org/help2020.
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