Winnipegger opens musical on Broadway after waiting out 19-month COVID-19 shutdown

Andrea Macasaet joined the cast of "SIX" as Anne Boleyn when the show debuted in North America in 2019, completing runs in Chicago, Boston, St. Paul and Edmonton. (Source: Joan Marcus)

The road to performing on Broadway can be a long and winding one for many artists.

Winnipegger Andrea Macasaet’s path to the Great White Way included four out-of-town stops, months of workshopping, a year and a half COVID-19 shutdown, and one big Broadway opening years in the making.

“The opening felt like a big exhale,” Macasaet told CTV News by phone from New York. “It felt like a big weight had been lifted off all of our chests.”

Macasaet’s moment came Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York at the official opening performance of the musical “SIX.”

Technically, she had already performed weeks of previews for the show on Broadway, but a dramatic turn of events ripped from a Shakespearean tragedy hampered the official premiere of the show.

"SIX" was penned by Cambridge University students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. The show reimagines the six wives of Henry VIII as Tudor queens and pop princesses. It started as a cult hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017, and then weaved its way up the theatre ranks to a limited run at a London theatre, to the West End, to North American and UK tours.

Macasaet joined the production as Anne Boleyn when the show debuted in North America in 2019, completing runs in Chicago, Boston, St. Paul and Edmonton.

In 2020, Broadway came calling.

“Our whole cast from Chicago got the Broadway transfer,” Macasaet recalled.

After weeks of previews, the official opening was set for March 12.

It’s a date that will live in infamy in the theatre history books; hours before Macasaet and the rest of the cast was set to hit the stage, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio shut down Broadway amid rising COVID-19 cases.

"SIX" cancelled its opening night and postponed its run indefinitely.

“What we thought was a month break turned out to be a 19-month-long break,” Macasaet said.

Macasaet returned to Winnipeg where she focused on her physical and mental health, and on giving back to the Filipino community. She supported herself through teaching virtually. She credits the musical's fervent fan base with keeping her afloat.

“I had the opportunity to connect with fans and students from around the world,” she said. “I got to create projects in my hometown that amplified Filipino voices. Throughout the last year, those are what helped me get through and come back to Broadway with a new sense of self and just a bigger sense of grounding.”

She got word in the spring of 2021 that "SIX" would take another run at officially opening on Broadway in the fall.

Macasaet began rehearsals again in August, stepping back into Boleyn’s heeled boots and fishnets after months away from the role.

“It was very weird, weird because we all came back as different human beings after what we’ve all experienced in the year. So it’s the same show, we’re just different people,” she said.

“There was initially a fear of ‘oh my gosh, can my voice, can my body, can it do it again? I don’t know.’ But after the first week—I think day four we had done a run-through of the show—we were like, ‘Wow, we got this.’”

When the curtain rose Sunday night on SIX’s 19-month delayed official opening, Macasaet felt pure relief.

“This was two years in the making, from Chicago to Sunday night. We’d all been working so hard. We’d all gone through so much, and to finally get to that point was like, ‘Wow, here we are,’” she said.

Macasaet described the energy from the audience as ‘pure magic,’ saying strict COVID protocols gave the crowd a sense of ease to safely celebrate the return to Broadway.

“We all need to experience that joy, and I think having that one hour or two hours of your evening to sit and get shot up with adrenaline from just being in a theatre as a community, it’s very exciting,” she said.

“Broadway is definitely back, and it’s full of joy.”