The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in dark days for many in entertainment. With productions shut down and venues closed, paychecks have stopped for thousands of artists and behind-the-scenes workers. While both artists and audiences are stuck at home, however, entertainment of all kinds has shifted online. From concerts to opera, to movies, comedy, music, and theater, there’s never been so much great digital content available at every price level.
The best part? You can eat, drink and even misbehave while you watch and no one will shush you. Also, many of the online presentations are fundraisers to benefit the sidelined artists and organizations, so you can show your support for your faves by making a donation if you can.
Fear not. Theater will be back. Sure, it’s hard-hit. But already artists are finding unique and wonderful ways to share their talents with the world. In the meantime, it’s not always live and it’s not always in a theater, but writers gotta write, actors gotta act, and theater people can’t survive if they’re too far from their true home. Here are some rapidly deployed offerings from elsewhere in the U.S. and the world, worth checking out:
- Broadway insiders are hosting interviews featuring great backstage stories and live singing. Try Broadway.com and Stars in the House (which will feature the fabulous Randy Rainbow on Sunday).
- BroadwayHD has prerecorded stagings you can watch on your own schedule, as well as live watch parties. At only $8.99 a month, it’s a great deal with a wealth of offerings. And the Geffen Playhouse has made it an even better deal; see below.
- The just-launched Play-PerView offers one-time-only streams of theatrical events and original series. Virtual tickets start at $5. On Sunday, March 29th at 4:00 pm, Tony Award winner Alice Ripley will reprise her solo performance in Elise Forier Edie’s The Pink Unicorn.
- The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA is streaming Much Ado about Nothing, with other Shakespearean livestreams to follow.
- The National Theatre of London will release a series of watch-at-home plays on its YouTube channel every Thursday starting April 2. It kicks off with James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors.
- Netflix has lots of classic and recent plays and musicals, such as American Son, Springsteen on Broadway, Shrek the Musical, and Jersey Boys. And Netflix Party lets you share your viewing with friends virtually.
- Amazon Prime also has theater offerings, some included with membership, others costing more. Examples: Newsies, She Loves Me, Rent, Company and Billy Elliot.
Los Angeles theater folk are also stepping up. So place an order with your favorite local restaurant, make your choice and throw some bucks their way if you like what you see:
- The most thoughtful response has been from the Geffen Playhouse, temporarily renamed the Geffen “Stayhouse.” The Geffen is putting up exclusive and original content every Wednesday until the theater reopens. Geffen Playhouse titles available on BroadwayHD include Long Day’s Journey Into Night with Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek, Thom Pain with Rainn Wilson, and Benjamin Scheuer’s The Lion. Weekly original programming created by Geffen alumni will follow. And for all those other lonely hours, they’ve arranged for a 30-day free trial (as opposed to seven days) for BroadwayHD. Just register, select “subscription” and then the $8.99 monthly plan. On the next screen, enter the promo code GPHFM.
- Center Theatre Group just launched its Art Goes on Project, kicking off with a video by Carmen Cusack. Cusack was thisclose to opening in Flying Over Sunset at Lincoln Center when the shutdown went into effect. She sings a song from the very LA-centric James Lapine show about Claire Booth Luce, Cary Grant, Aldous Huxley and LSD in 1950s Los Angeles.
- LA Theatre Works has posted audio recordings of a series of science-themed plays called The Relativity Series.
- The Jewish Women’s Theatre’s “Inside Our Time” series includes an original piece about life during a pandemic written by troupe member Don Goldberg read by actor Cliff Weissman (of Matzo Ball Diaries fame)–see #5.
- Until the end of the month, Cahuenga Boulevard-based Theatre of Note performance artists and friends face the world in “The 12 Days of Quarantine” on Facebook. You can also watch past streams.
Local comedy venues are also getting into the online act:
- On April 1, the Groundlings will launch a podcast called “Breaking Ground” on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. The first episode features an interview with Groundlings (and Friends) alumna Lisa Kudrow. Next up are Tracy Newman and Jonathan Stark on April 15.
- Over at The Laugh Factory, comedians will be performing live and streaming free to a virtual audience every weekday at 2 p.m. on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
And these times definitely call for music:
- The beloved Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the LA Philharmonic, provides commentary on his favorite selections and tales from behind the baton on At Home with Gustavo.
- A March 16th concert by Ladysmith Black Mambazo at UCLA’s Royce Hall is available here.
- For the ravers, there’s a weekend-long electronic music livestream at Club Quarantine. The schedule of DJs from around the world (including Los Angeles) is here. Wear your best to be admitted – there’s a virtual velvet rope.
If you want something ultra mainstream, major movie releases are also shifting dates and locations: out of theaters and into your home. First-run screenings are scattered all over, so check your preferred satellite, cable, or streaming service, such as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Disney+ or Fandango Now.
Here are some to watch out for:
Currently available: The Call of the Wild (Harrison Ford), Emma, 1917, Just Mercy (Michael B. Jordan), Downhill (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell), The Invisible Man (Elisabeth Moss) and Frozen II – plus plenty more.
Friday, April 3 Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Tuesday, April 7: Birds of Prey (Margot Robbie)
Did we miss anything? Please share your recommendations with us.