NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) – David Byrne’s Tony award-winning Broadway production American Utopia has not let COVID-19 stop the show. The former Talking Heads singer adapted his 2018 solo album of the same name into a Broadway production, opening at the Hudson Theatre on October 20, 2019, closing in February 2020. After a September 2020 delay in heading back to Broadway due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it began a six-month run in September 2021 at the St. James Theatre.
The week leading up to Christmas, producers of the show had cancelled five performances. Due to the continuing pandemic and Omicron variant surge, several members of the cast are or have been isolated at home with positive COVID-19 test results. However, instead of cancelling, David Byrne gave the audience a choice. They could get complete refunds for their tickets or see the show in an amended format and come they did. Byrne himself gave the announcement.
“Fortunately, the vaccinated band members and crew who have tested positive don’t have severe symptoms and are staying home following the CDC guidelines,” he explains. “Unfortunately, they can’t come to the theatre for the next week or so, which means we’ve chosen to make some creative changes to enable us to put on a show.” What we are doing could be called “Unplugged,” or maybe “Unchained. We are adding some songs by Talking Heads as well as songs from my solo catalog, that will supplement songs already in American Utopia. “I know it’s going to be a “Once in a Lifetime” experience, that will only be seen for a few performances. We are ready to have a good time!”
And having a good time is exactly what audiences have come to expect from Byrne and he from himself along with not taking it too seriously. In a recent Late Night with Seth Meyers remote appearance, Byrne said, “I think audiences really liked it. It was not slick and perfect,” Byrne told Meyers, “There were times where I had to stop and ask the band, ‘Who starts this song?’ And the audience loved that! They would applaud for stuff like that.”
The late-night host inquired on how the audience had handled the scaled-back format and Byrne replied, “They are getting up and dancing, even to this kind of unplugged version that we’re doing … It says something about audiences; That they really want to be together. They really want to … express themselves, and dance, and have a good time.”
The New Yorker reports that Byrne and Co. had to work extremely hard to pull off the modified show, with songs and arrangements that some of the musicians had never played. “It got hectic as f**k – the show we’re putting on is completely different. We’re doing songs that basically none of us, outside of David, have ever played before—like, thirteen new songs.” Bobby Wooten III (bassist) as quoted by The New Yorker. “We literally had eight hours of rehearsal the Sunday before and we had four hours the day of. And then each person put in a lot of time outside of that.”
Byrne just might be, “the hardest working man in show business” today as American Utopia is being turned into a film by none other than Spike Lee, he’s coming out with a book of art that contains drawings done throughout the pandemic and American Utopia, which he wrote and stars in, will return in full theatric form eventually. Until then, American Utopia: Unchained will continue through January 9. Head to their official website here for tickets and show information.