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Welcome to today’s special New Year’s Eve dition of ShentonSTAGE Daily, coming out of its temporary hibernation (and official COVID-induced Quarantine!) to bid farewell to 2021. (Please feel free to forward this e-mail to friends, and invite them to be added to this list!)

So much virus inside
That her microscope slide
Looks like a day at the zoo

That’s Adelaide’s Lament, of course, from the 1950 Broadway masterpiece GUYS AND DOLLS. But it pretty much sums up where Britain is right now. Today over 189K new COVID positive infections were reported in the UK — with nearly 2000 new hospital admissions.

Though I am not currently in the UK, and therefore have not made it onto these charts, I returned to Miami on Wednesday from a cruise to the Caribbean and Bahamas, and later that day tested positive myself for COVID.

I only found out because I needed to get a ‘fitness to fly’ negative test to try to return to the UK overnight last night, but am now in COVID self-isolation in a friend’s apartment in Hollywood, FL instead.

I was originally due to go on to New York yesterday, and then fly home from there on Sunday, but had decided to come home early for reasons related to my ongoing back pain, which has severely curtailed my movement.

But if I hadn’t decided to do this, I could have happily and freely boarded the internal domestic flight I’d booked, and then gone to the theatre on Broadway last night as I’d also booked, even though it turns out I’m now COVID positive, because all that is needed for both is proof of vaccination status, not a current negative test.

All of which is crazy enough. So there’s a flaw in the system right there. Broadway, like the West End, is in a freefall of uncertainty right now — the show I’d booked to see last night, MJ the Musical, e-mailed in the afternoon to say the performance was cancelled anyway (though I’d already released my tickets and requested a refund on them).

It is one of numerous shows falling over on both sides of the Atlantic right now, despite the heroic efforts of producers, performers and theatre staff to try to keep the shows on. Earlier this week understudy Kathy Voytko stepped in for Sutton opposite Hugh Jackman in THE MUSIC MAN — who he paid tribute to in a curtain speech.  Since then, Jackman has himself tested positive as well — and all performances are now suspended till January 4.

At COME FROM AWAY on Broadway last Sunday, 8 out of 12 roles were played by understudies and swings, with another performer Marika Aubrey joining from the national tour. It has since cancelled all performances up to and including January 2, with performances now set to resume on January 4.

This week, too, the Toronto production of COME FROM AWAY was closed down entirely: as its husband-and-wife co-writers Sankoff and Hein tweeted,

This pattern is being repeated of cancellations and early closures have been disrupting shows on both sides of the Atlantic. DREAMGIRLS, which recently opened its national tour at Liverpool Empire, cancelled all of this week’s performances:

On Broadway, AIN’T TOO PROUD — THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS has also announced it is calling it a day on Broadway, where it will close January 16; but at least there’s one silver lining: it is the first new Broadway musical in almost two years to have recouped its initial investment and repaid its investors.

And yet it has been amazing to see understudies and swings — and former cast members — stepping up to rescue shows all over the country, both in America and the UK.

In the UK, there’s a wonderful Twitter account, @WestEndCovers, that lists all the understudies that take over in shows in London and elsewhere.

But it’s not just performers who are pulling together, but musicians, front-of-house teams and stage management.

As Kaisa Hammarlund, currently starring in SHE LOVES ME at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, tweeted:

As a friend tweeted,

Goodbye 21, hello 22(Changes down below, up above….)

As we bid farewell to 2021 tonight, we look forward to 2022 now with some trepidation, inevitably….

What’s clear, of course, is that vaccines are not, after all, the way out of this mess that we’re in. I’m relieved to be triple vaccinated, of course, so my COVID outcome is likely to be merely inconvenient rather than life-threatening.

But as THE TIMES offered in a brilliant cartoon the other day:

Finally, a little celebratory game was born on Twitter the other day, in which people were asked to name the ten musicals to know them by.

My initial choices were here, but inevitably I’ve realised I’ve made at least a couple of egregious omissions — so with apologies to MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and GRAND HOTEL that have now had to be removed, but I have to replace them with GROUNDHOG DAY and (of course) GUYS AND DOLL. So here is my final list again!

What’s yours? 

Another social media game: posting pictures of yourself in 2011 and now 2021. Here’s mine…..

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a great New Year’s Eve (or as good a one as is possible in the circumstances). This newsletter will next appear as circumstances and news dictate, but in the meanwhile, you can find me on Twitter @ShentonStage