‘Sweeney Todd’ Broadway Stars Josh Groban & Now Annaleigh Ashford Hit With Covid As NYC Experiences Virus Uptick
Covid seems to be making a return engagement on Broadway, even if in a limited capacity compared to the post-shutdown era of 2021 and 2022. Both Josh Groban and, now, Annaleigh Ashford, the two lead performers in the massive hit Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, have tested positive for Covid and missed performances.
Groban missed performances last weekend and early this week after posting an Instagram video explaining that he began to feel ill during last Wednesday’s show and by Thursday was testing positive for Covid. He missed the weekend performances and will remain out tonight.(In Groban’s absence, Sweeney is being played by understudy Nicholas Christopher, described by Groban as “absolutely extraordinary in the role.”)
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Then just yesterday, Ashford, who plays Mrs. Lovett, the duplicitous pie-baking partner in crime to Groban’s murderous barber Sweeney Todd, posted an Instagram message saying she too had come down with the illness. “Hi friends! To anyone planning on seeing @sweeneytoddbway: I have unfortunately tested positive for Covid,” she writes. “But my very brilliant friend [standby Jeanna de Waal] will be playing Mrs. Lovett with the rest of our magical company. I can’t wait to see you all again soon.”
A note on the show’s official website’s ticket page indicates Groban will not appear in the show today and Ashford will not appear August 23, 24 and 25.
Both Groban and Ashford were Tony-nominated for their performances.
Groban’s absence last weekend appeared to have a significant impact on ticket sales. Box office at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre for the revival of the acclaimed Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler chilling dark-comedy musical dropped by more than $370,000 from the previous week (to a still-impressive $1,325,483) and attendance as at about 80% of capacity compared to its usual sell-out or near sell-out status.
Broadway cast absences due to Covid were all too commonplace in the weeks and months after the industry’s August 2021 return following the nearly year-and-a-half Covid shutdown.
Though Covid rates throughout New York remain significantly lower than during recent summers, the positivity rate has spiked by, according to some reports, as much as, or more than, 50% over recent weeks. With widespread immunization against the virus offering considerable protection, the rate of hospitalizations remains low.
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