Sunday, June 16, 2024

Broadway COVID Emergency: Actor Knocked Out by Virus, Playwright Steps in and Takes Over Role


What to do when COVID comes for a Broadway cast right before it’s curtain up?

Last night on Broadway the new, highly praised play “Thoughts of a Colored Man” the show had to go on: the audience got a surprise when Keenan Scott, the playwright, appeared on stage in place of the leading cast member, pressed into service minutes before the curtain went up.

What happened? A cast member tested positive for COVID-19 and two non-COVID related illnesses had already knocked down others in the cast. Three actors were suddenly out, and only two trained understudies were standing by.

And the audience was already seated, paid their money, and expected to see a Broadway show.

Some other shows in the last week have actually dismissed the audience from their seats when COVID was discovered lurking backstage. But this group wouldn’t let that happen!

Scott asked producer Brian Moreland if he could go on in the role of “Wisdom,” usually played by Jerome Preston Bates. Was that wise? Moreland figured, why not, who knows the play better?  Scott performed the role script-in-hand — and one plus, he didn’t ad lib! (The playwright never likes it if the actors go “off book.”)

It’s a theater tradition, you know. Shakespeare used to go on as Lady Macbeth all the time when she couldn’t get the damn spot out. (No, just kidding, folks.)

Producer Moreland said afterwards, “It was a thrilling night for a Broadway audience to experience our play.  Keenan Scott II is a bold new voice for now, and last night he exhibited the power and resilience of everyone who makes up the Broadway community.”

Scott  is expected to continue playing the role at least through the holiday weekend.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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