The Times Square Alliance and Playbill joined forces to present the Broadway Grand Gallery exhibition, a Times Square art installation featuring 21 giant Playbill covers from currently running shows that launched April 7 at the Broadway Plaza between 47th and 48th Streets.
An unveiling event welcomed performances from Broadway favorites Jessica Vosk and Alex Newell and host Donnie Kehr, along with remarks by Times Square Alliance President Tom Harris, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Playbill Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Alex Birsh, and Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin.
At the kick-off, Playbill caught up with cast members from Mrs. Doubtfire, Little Shop of Horrors, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, and Six. Newell started the conversation and opened up about being invited to perform at the event. "I do what I can do to bring attention to Broadway and share that we're fully functioning again," said the Once on the Island performer.
"We're letting everyone know that we were gone for a while but now we're back. We're happy to be back, and we're stronger than ever." Newell sang "Only In New York" from the Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie and impressed audiences with his three key changes.
In his opening remarks, Mayor Adams said, "Every time we print a Playbill, that is because a play is building back our economy, our spirit, and our energy." He went on to encourage New Yorkers and tourists to come to the city and watch a show because "when the lights are on on Broadway, the lights are on in America."
"Broadway is the cultural engine of New York. Our goal with these magnificent structures is to represent and showcase that important role to this city, saying to all that walk through, 'Broadway is here. Broadway is strong. It is as vibrant and as exciting as ever,'" said Birsh.
Check out photos from the kick-off below.
Catching up with four of the new Hillard children of Mrs. Doubtfire, these new-to-Broadway actors told us their initial reaction to hearing about the 10-foot Playbill covers. Ava Gail Prince, who shares the role of Natalie with Austin Elle Fisher, said, "I feel really excited. When I saw the picture of our Playbill, I was like, 'Whoa, that is so big.' I am very excited to speak into microphones." Fisher added, "When my mom told me last night, I was like, 'oh em gee, what is happening with my life?' I literally was speechless." Titus Landegger and Tyler Wladis share the role of Christopher Hillard. Langegger shared, "If there is a word bigger than ecstatic for happiness, that would have been me." Wladis also felt "excited" because "every time I go to the theatre, the first thing I do is open up the Playbill and read everything."
But what message does this installation send about the reopening of Broadway? According to Mrs. Doubtfire's Rob McClure, "This is letting people know that Broadway is happening. All of these beautiful theatres and marquees that you're walking past are alive inside. Those shows are going on, tickets are available, and live stories are being told."
"Broadway and theatre in general is about being together and having the shared experience," added Analise Scarpaci. "It's a beautiful experience and an exchange of energy that we were missing for all that time. We're really excited to be back."
"I love that this installation is right in the heart of Times Square. It's the best proof that Broadway is back and bigger than ever," said Tina star Nkeki Obi-Melekwe. "I'm so excited about Tina's contribution to this and how we're being highlighted."
"Broadway is truly something special and magical. Without it, we wouldn't have the beauty of entertainment. This represents that Broadway is still standing strong," said Six performer Adrianna Hicks
Cast members from Off-Broadway's Little Shop of Horrors also relished in the moment. Tiffany Renee Thompson said, "This is sending the message that Broadway is bigger than ever." Jana Dejenne Jackson continued, "I think it's big. We're in a really small theatre, but we take up so much space with our story."
Represented in the installation are Playbill covers from Aladdin, The Book of Mormon, Come From Away, Company, Dear Evan Hansen, Funny Girl, Hadestown, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, The Little Prince, Little Shop of Horrors, MJ The Musical, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Mr. Saturday Night, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Phantom of the Opera, The Play That Goes Wrong, Plaza Suite, Six: The Musical, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. Each cover includes information about the show, a QR code leading to the production's Playbill Vault page, and a QR code for buying tickets. Maps show theatre fans where they can find their favorite show's cover. The giant Playbill covers will remain on display through June 15.
View the gallery at Playbill.com/Grand-Gallery.