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576 days later, Broadway performances return to the Orpheum

Theatre launches national tour for upcoming show, something they haven’t done in a decade
Published: Oct. 2, 2021 at 9:39 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Up until this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orpheum Theatre has been unable to see its full potential, for obvious reasons.

There have been some smaller shows over the last few months, mostly concerts, but Tuesday will be a return of what the historic downtown theatre is meant for, Broadway shows.

“It’s really exciting,” said Brett Batterson, the theatre’s President & CEO. “It’s exciting for the city. It’s exciting for the Orpheum. It’s exciting for subscribers.”

Sunday, a few hundred Mid-Southerners, a small crowd by Orpheum standards, attended an invited dress rehearsal for the upcoming Broadway show Come From Away.

The musical about thousands of air passengers from across the world stranded in a small Canadian town in Newfoundland, following the tragic terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, was once performed across the world before the COVID-19 pandemic made its appearance.

It’s now relaunching it’s North American tour from Memphis, where a Broadway tour launch hasn’t happening for a decade.

“To start back up Broadway with Come From Away, followed by three weeks of The Lion King, followed by two weeks of Hamilton, I don’t think we could’ve had a better schedule to restart the theatre,” said Batterson.

What’s more is Come From Away was a part of the theatre’s 2019-2020 show schedule, pushed back because of the pandemic, and several tickets were already purchased.

Batterson tells us those ticketholders remained loyal to the theatre.

“They didn’t ask for a refund. They just waited patiently for the show to come, and now we’re going to have it. I couldn’t thank those people enough,” Batterson said.

“To have all these Broadway musicals, Broadway shows, just a really...it’s just amazing,” said Arlington resident Maggy Louderback. “I can’t even describe it.”

Louderback and Terry Bondurant, both from Arlington, were among the crowd for the dress rehearsal, clearly excited to have live shows back in the Mid-South after eighteen months without it.

“We’ve enjoyed coming to a lot of the shows here,” Bondurant said. “I think it’s great that the Orpheum is here and is a great resource for Memphis and to see national tours that we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.”

It’s not a complete return to normal, however, as masks are required throughout the performance, and because of that concessions will not be sold.

“We’ve done a ton of retrofitting to make the theatre safe,” Batterson said. “We brought in more outside air. We’ve upgraded our filters, so the air quality in our building is quite a bit higher.”

Those who attended the dress rehearsal didn’t seem to mind the requirements.

They were just happy that Broadway has made its return to Memphis and the Mid-South.

Come From Away takes the stage on Tuesday at 7:30 and leaves Memphis on its tour Sunday October 10th.

Tickets can be purchased on the Orpheum’s website.

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