The Move from Theatre to Tablet: How Traditional Theatre Viewing has Changed

Because of COVID-19, Broadway theaters have been tentatively shut down through January 2021 amid New York’s Phase 2 reopening plan, which prompted other theatres to go “dark “ all across the country.

These shutdowns have had a negative impact on an entire artistic field. Theaters have had to move quickly to finalize agreements to allow productions to be seen online through streaming services.

Video-conferencing services, such as Zoom, are being used to provide students and performers an alternative to perform on a digital platform. Theatre artists are having to adapt to these changes by facing these challenges head-on. With that, the commercial theatre industry is adapting too. Streaming companies are offering a chance to take theatre to the next level by offering shows to be seen on their platforms, allowing for more accessibility for fans to view upcoming shows.

Netflix has agreed to a deal with the producers of the upcoming production of “Diana,” to stream the musical ahead of its opening on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on May 25, 2021. The show is based on the life and death of England’s most respected royal, Princess Diana.

This will star Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles and Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth.

“Though there is no substitute for the live theatre, we are honored to be a part of the quality entertainment that Netflix provides its subscribers worldwide,” said the producers of “Diana” in a joint statement. While the news of the upcoming performance is gratifying for fans across the world, Netflix hasn’t released a date for its screen debut.

Based on the reactions of “Hamilton” being released on Disney’s newest streaming service, Disney Plus, there is a trend of theatre productions heading for the screen and especially classic performances.

Playbill has published an article ahead of the streaming releases of three classic stage performances, “Present Laughter,” “Carousel,” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”
The Muny Theater, St. Louis Missouri’s most prominent amphitheater, had recently streamed clips from previous productions of their last seven seasons. These clips were part of “The Muny Summer 2020 Variety Hour Live!” on YouTube from July 22 to Aug. 17.

The Muny had previously never been able to share those shows publicly, a first for the historic landmark.

However, in a post-COVID world, one can’t help but wonder if streaming theater will affect how productions are produced, marketed, distributed, and even creatively developed for the future. It wouldn’t completely shock audiences to see companies and production teams start offering virtual tickets in addition to in-person tickets.