A powerless New York City west side. Photo credit: Angel Chevrestt/NY Post.
It takes a lot to cancel a Broadway show, but that’s exactly what happened Saturday night in New York City.
Due to a major power outage on the west side of Manhattan, most midtown blocks west of Broadway from about 30th Street to 72nd Street were without electricity from around 7:15 pm until close to 11 pm.
And of course, with no electrical power, there are no Broadway shows.
Along with tens of thousands of New Yorkers, Broadway and Off-Broadway performers and their subsequent audiences were directly impacted by the outage. Of the over 40 Broadway houses located in New York City, only four were able to go on with their scheduled shows. ‘Beetlejuice’, which plays the Winter Garden Theatre, ‘Be More Chill' at the Lyceum, ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, and the play ‘Burn This’ at the Hudson Theatre continued their performances as their spaces retained power, but most weren’t so lucky.
Reports to the cause of the outage initially varied by sources, yet it seems that the loss of power was ultimately due to a fire resulting in the downing of six electrical transformers. Those transformers reportedly handle most of the power on Manhattan’s midtown-western grid — including Times Square and the Theatre District.
Even with most performances canceled Saturday night, some casts took it upon themselves to provide their audiences with just a taste of their respective shows.
Off-Broadway’s ‘Rock Of Ages’* delighted bummed out fans with a street performance of the show’s finale song, Journey's “Don’t Stop Believing”.
Tony winner André De Sheilds and the cast of ‘Hadestown’ provided fans outside the Walter Kerr with a version of their opening song, “Road To Hell”.
The Tony-winning musical ‘Come From Away’, also offered fans a short performance of their opening number, “Welcome To The Rock”.
Jennifer Lopez, who had just begun a concert at Madison Square Garden, was forced to cancel the remainder of her performance, too. Audience members in attendance at MSG were literally left in the dark when the power went out and eventually forced to evacuate the giant midtown venue shortly after emergency lights came on.
A group of young performers from the Millennial Choir Organization who were scheduled to sing at Carnegie Hall Saturday night, also took to the streets to share their gifts with audience members and passersby.
I guess this is what they call a New York moment. After being trapped on the F for an hour because of the power outage I emerged to see dark restaurants & traffic lights, civilians directing traffic, & an evacuated Carnegie Hall concert happening in the street. #nyc #Blackout pic.twitter.com/3p9UWtRrel— Briallen Hopper (@briallenhopper) July 14, 2019
New York City, known for its rough exterior and gruff residents, showed some of its most resilient and caring qualities during the event, however. Neighbors checked in on each other, shelters opened to provide air-conditioning for stranded residents and the homeless, and the energy in town was calm, attentive, and patient.
Regular citizens even took to the streets to direct traffic — some with cellphones, flashlights, even lightsabers.
Lake Escobosa, a 23-year-old dancer who lives in Brooklyn, was one of those helpful citizens.
Lake Escobosa. Photo credit: Justin Reid.
According to a CNN report, Escobosa “spent nearly an hour directing traffic, marshaling cars, ambulances, and pedestrians through a busy, three-way intersection near New York's Lincoln Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side.” A skill, she said, she learned from her father, a former NYPD officer who worked in Coney Island, New York.
"I know how tricky it is when it comes to that intersection and I just saw in my mind car accidents people getting hit, people screaming," Escobosa reportedly told CNN. "So I felt like I should have just tried.”
ConEd, the energy provider in New York City, said 72,000 customers — mostly in midtown and the upper west side of Manhattan — were without power. The number of people directly affected by the outage, however, was significantly higher.
The blackout also fell on the 42nd anniversary of the city-wide power outage that occurred in 1977. During that electrical loss, though, the city did not respond as well, as widespread looting and crime took place.
With a concerned and anxious citizenry, the city that never sleeps was happy to see the lights finally return around 11 pm. A huge collective sigh of relief was breathed around Midtown as residents saw the power flicker and surge back into the businesses, residences, and traffic signals — and cheers could be heard on the streets as residents and tourists alike celebrated the return to normalcy.
*Full disclosure, Michael Mahany, the author of this article appears in the Off-Broadway production of ‘Rock Of Ages’ at New World Stages.