Times Square looked like its bustling old self on Friday.
After a full year of New York musicals and plays being dark, Broadway artists commemorated the occasion by putting on a starry surprise concert for a small-but-mighty crowd in the middle of the Theater District.
Its defiant message for an industry that has been pummeled by the COVID-19 pandemic was made clear by the event’s title: “We Will Be Back.”
“It’s a time to reflect on what we’ve lost and who we’ve lost over the past year, and recall how far we’ve come,” Tom Harris, acting president of the Times Square Alliance, told The Post. “Just think — a couple of short months ago, we had 35,000 people walking through Times Square [a day]. Now, we have 100,000.”
Many Broadway stars were on hand for the uplifting show, including Matthew Broderick and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
“I can’t tell you how novel and wonderful and great it is to see so many friends and colleagues in three dimensions!” said Tony Award-winning Mitchell as he introduced the first performance, “On Broadway.”
The half-hour program featured three additional songs — “Home” from “The Wiz,” “Magic To Do” from “Pippin” and an original tune called “We Will Be Back” by Allen René Louis — sung by the likes of André De Shields, Lillias White, Derrick Baskin and Nikki M. James, and backed by spirited dancers. All wore masks or face shields.
Friday wasn’t the first time Broadway has gathered in Times Square to show strength during hard times. Tony Award-winning director Jerry Mitchell was reminded of the iconic Broadway commercial he choreographed after the Sept. 11 attacks, when stars such as Nathan Lane, Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters sang on that very spot.
“The last time I remember this [type of] event was 9/11, when we did ‘New York, New York,’ ” Mitchell told The Post. “And seeing the community come together — it’s a little different this time because we’re all wearing double masks — but it certainly is hopeful.”
Broadway began the longest closure in its history on March 12, 2020, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a ban on events of greater than 500 people. The hiatus was supposed to last one month. Now, the latest best-case-scenario timing for full-capacity performances to resume is early fall.
Actor Joel Grey told The Post that being back in a temporarily busy Midtown was a shock, “but you gotta take baby steps.” The 88-year-old actor, clad in a “Willkommen” mask given to him by the assistant choreographer of his off-Broadway “Fiddler on the Roof,” said he was recently vaccinated.
At the end, an effervescent Chita Rivera took the stage to voice her support, and get a few laughs.
“I began my career in the theater over 70 years ago,” Rivera, 88, told the crowd. “And I know what you’re all thinking: I don’t look a day over 60!”