To celebrate Broadway’s official reopening since the pandemic, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment presented the Off-Broadway in the Boros event for the first time as a five-day festival.
This year, the stage traveled to audiences across all five boroughs to connect them to theater and live performances just off the Great White Way.
“A couple of years ago, we put together a small study that showed theaters smaller than Broadway generate $1.3 billion in economic activity for the city,” said Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
“We thought bringing these performances to the boroughs would be a great way to connect people to the resources in their communities,” she added. “It’s really important to remind people of what’s so inherently unique about New York and how we have talent in every nook and cranny.”
Various acts performed throughout the five days, including the Gazillion Bubble Show, Hell’s Kitchen Happiness Krewe, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the cast of “TORCHED!” from Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.
Deni Yang of the Gazillion Bubble Show kicked off the Jackson Heights event in a way that was whimsical enough to make a person of any age feel like a kid again.
The Gazillion Bubble Show was started in New York in 2007 by the Yang family. Ever since, they’ve found ways to make it better.
“At first, my parents and I were traveling around in a circus act, which then developed into bubbles because we got more into the science side of things,” said Yang.
The Gazillion Bubble Show holds two Guinness world records, one for the world’s largest bubble and another for the most people put inside a bubble, which is 181.
Yang said that he was delighted to perform at the Off-Broadway in the Boros fest and see so many families and children having fun.
Folks who attended the festival had the opportunity to enjoy a preview of the musical “TORCHED!” performed by Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.
Writer and director Rosalba Rolón said the musical is still in development and will make its debut on December 2.
“TORCHED!” is a story about what Bronx residents went through during the infamous fires in the ‘70s, and much of the soundtrack is influenced by Latin music.
“I think the idea of Off-Broadway in the Boros is that we need to honor multilingualism, not only bilingualism,” said Rolón. “Artists have a way of communicating so that if someone doesn’t understand a word in a specific language, there is the imagery and the music so they do.”
Guests then got to sing along and tap their feet to tunes of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and Frank Sinatra sung by Hell’s Kitchen Happiness Krewe, and were kept on the edge of their seats by the sword swallowers and contortionists of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.
Castillo said that one of the best parts of her job is being able to see all of the different parts of the city, but it has also been a privilege to bring the performances of Off-Broadway in the Boros to places hardest hit by COVID-19.
“Arts and culture are what make the heart of New York City beat,” she said. “It’s a global parameter and what makes it the greatest city in the world.”
Regarding last week’s sudden closure of Broadway’s “Aladdin,” Castillo said that it was caused by the few cast members who were affected by the virus, combined with a lack of understudies to perform those roles at the time.
“Being in the creative community means that you come up with creative solutions every time,” she said. “From what I’ve seen across all of the creative community, they’ve been really diligent about the protocols and being safe.”