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Electric Atmosphere Greets ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Wicked,’ ‘Hamilton’ And Others As Broadway Makes Triumphant Return

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Five shows made their return during Broadway‘s biggest night of reopenings.

Theaters welcomed back audiences Tuesday after a long pandemic shutdown.

Some of the most popular musicals of all time returned to the stage, a milestone not just for Broadway, but for the city’s recovery.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, the curtains lifted on “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Chicago,” “Hamilton” and the new play “Lackawanna Blues.” They joined three other shows currently running.

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The marquis were lit, the theaters were packed and Broadway felt like Broadway again. The energy outside the theaters was nothing short of electric.

It had been 18 months since the pandemic shut down the billion-dollar industry. Theater fans told Bauman they tried filling the void with soundtracks and movies, but there is nothing quite like a live Broadway production.

And with months of rehearsals and new COVID-19 protocols, some of the Great White Way’s most popular shows are finally welcoming audiences back.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda welcomed back the first “Hamilton” audience in a year and a half, as did Kristin Chenoweth for the opening of “Wicked.”

There may be no place like home, but there is nothing like an opening night in New York.

“To be able to experience it together is one thing, but to be able to experience together tonight, like, are you kidding?” said Lauren Koranda of Queens.

“It’s like making history right here,” Junian Ermita added.

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Earlier, the line outside the Richard Rodgers Theater was down and around the block, and Miranda surprised fans with a sing-along.

“Hamilton” and “Wicked” were just two of the blockbuster shows to turn the lights back on Tuesday.

“When I got my tickets I was so excited. It was like opening up a Christmas present,” said Candy Carter, a tourist from North Carolina.

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And these particular opening night tickets were a hot commodity.

“We were sitting in our dining hall at school frantically buying them,” said Kate Munley of Long Island.

“I pulled out my credit card and she was like, ‘Go, go, go, like there’s two left.’ I had my computer open, her computer open,” added Arianna Liebowitz of Long Island.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Broadway Returns

More than 14 million people spent nearly $2 billion on Broadway tickets alone in 2019. When the pandemic shut the theaters down in March 2020, about 97,000 people were out of work.

“It’s really felt so sad to not have Broadway here for a year and a half, and to have it back it just feels like a part of your soul has like reattached itself to your body,” said Rachel Philips of Queens.

Bauman met Tiffany McKinnon-Russell in line to see her 9-year-old daughter make her Broadway debut as “Nala” in “The Lion King.” She was just cast in June.

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“We live in Texas, so we had to sort of relocate temporarily here. But it has been absolutely awesome. She’s enjoying herself and I can’t wait to see her on stage,” McKinnon-Russell said.

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And when the curtain call came, the Minskoff Theater erupted in a standing ovation for the entire cast.

Fans said after all these months, the shows are as mesmerizing they remember.

“The production is next level. The actors are amazing. The singing is amazing. Everything is just amazing,” one man said.

“There’s no words that could explain how amazing it was. It was breathtaking,” a woman said.

The TKTS discount ticket booth also reopened Tuesday. If all goes as planned, about 35 Broadway shows should be open by the end of this year.

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