Peggy Dolan treks from Boston to Manhattan twice a year to catch the season's hottest Broadway shows. This time, her costly trip started the same day as the stagehands' theater strike, which has shut down 28 shows on the Great White Way during the lucrative holiday season. "We have tickets to six shows we'll probably be out of luck on," she said on her way out of Xanadu, one of a few shows still open. "We got tickets to Grease, Is He Dead, The Little Mermaid, Wicked and Jersey Boys. All the tickets are hard to get. We'll probably get refunds, but that's not the point. I'm upset, yeah."
The stagehands — behind-the-scenes workers who install and run lights, sets and props — went on strike Saturday after three months of negotiations with the League of American Theatres and Producers. At issue: job security vs. staffing flexibility. No new talks have been scheduled.
City officials say it's too early to estimate the economic impact, but plenty of tourists are already feeling it in their wallets. Ticket holders get refunds, but that's little consolation for those who shelled out for hotels and airfare, too.
Samantha Pincus, 10, from Phoenix, flew in with her father, Bill, and brother Jake, 17, to see the Sunday performance of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which runs only through Jan. 6. The musical was meant to be her 11th birthday surprise present, and she bowed out of performing in a local play so she could hit Broadway instead.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Manhattan | Broadway | Xanadu | Broadway shows | By Seth Wenig, AP | Great White Way | Picket line "I'm sad," she said outside the St. James Theatre with her family, while a dozen or so strikers walked the picket line outside the theater.
Her dad tried to see the positive and enjoy New York.
"We're just hanging out," he said. "We hope to get a refund, but that's the least of it. It's the whole weekend — plane fare and everything associated with that. This is part of the business, and we understand both sides."
The Theater District was decidedly emptier Sunday evening; the line outside the TKTS discount ticket counter was barely in the dozens instead of a crowd. Promoters passed out fliers for Xanadu, Celia and The Fantasticks, shows still on because they are produced by non-profits or are in theaters with other labor agreements.
At the Ambassador Theatre on 49th Street, fewer than a dozen strikers stood outside Chicago, bundled up in parkas and fortified with coffee. They were discouraged from talking to the media, but all seemed resolute and upbeat. Stagehand Paul Delcioppo summed up his situation: "Just cold," he said. "Everyone seems to be behind us 100%."
One tourist unaffected by the strike is Eleanor Stephanson from Bellevile, Ontario, in town to see a different spectacle entirely. "We knew there was a strike before we left home," she said. "We have tickets to The View tomorrow."