Bruce Springsteen made his triumphant return to Broadway on Saturday, as Springsteen On Broadway became the first show to reopen on The Great White Way since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, when theaters went dark.
Many fans said they were so excited to see their first live music performances in over 15 months, that they bought tickets to multiple performances of the show this summer.
“I’m thrilled to be here to support him, but more than that, it’s still about supporting Broadway and being here for the first show when we opened,” said Marc Keller, who traveled from King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania for the show.
Springsteen has been “the soundtrack to my life,” said 27-year-old Giancarlo Dimascio. “There’s always a song for whether I’m up or down, and there’s nothing better than being in the pit on a hot summer night at like MetLife Stadium with Bruce, but tonight should be pretty awesome.”
Dimascio said that he felt comfortable being in a crowd again knowing everyone is vaccinated, adding, “This is a great return to normalcy to be here tonight.”
Of course, having gone through a pandemic of this magnitude, there is a new normal to get used to. And on Saturday, that came in the form of a group of anti-vaccination protesters raging against the St. James Theatre’s policy requiring that everyone has to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination to attend.
That included people holding incendiary signs (“Bruce Springsteen is for segregation on Broadway”), chanting “shame on Bruce,” and a hilariously bad and shambolic attempt at singing “Born Not To Vaccinate” in the style of “Born In The U.S.A.”
Less amusingly, there were ludicrous and offensive speeches and chants comparing COVID vaccination cards to the policies of the Nazis (including yellow stars). Some protesters could be heard yelling “gas chambers ahead” and “Nazi Germany, take out your papers,” as you can see in the video below.
As for the actual show, Springsteen stuck to the basic structure of the 236 performances over the course of 2017 and 2018. There were a few nods to the current moment: at one point, Springsteen talked about everything he did during the pandemic, including making the new album Letter To You, a podcast with Barack Obama, his radio show, and his DWI arrest. (Those charges have since been dropped.)
“I didn’t wake up one morning, get on my motorcycle and say, ‘I think I’ll drive to jail,” Springsteen said according to Rolling Stone. “And then I had to go to Zoom Court! My case was the United States of America vs. Bruce Springsteen. That’s always comfortable to hear, that the entire nation is aligned against you. ‘You have managed to engage in an act so heinous that it was offended the entire fuckin’ United States! You, my recalcitrant, law-breaking, bridge-and-tunnel friend have drunk two shots of tequila.’ New Jersey, they love me there!”
There will be more performances of Springsteen On Broadway through September 4th.