The Westchester Broadway Theatre will close it’s doors after 45 years of business due to COVID 19. The work that WBT has done over the years has been truly historic and will go down in history, not only in Westchester, but in the theatre industry as New York’s longest running Equity theatre. Over the years, WBT has produced 217 musicals, hosted numerous concerts, benefits and fundraisers, employed 5,000 theatre professionals, many who have gone on to Broadway and beyond, and served over 6 million customers.
As the world has been plugged into an intense emergency; we have determined there is no way we can reopen when the ban is lifted on live theatre. Dinner- theatre, because of social distancing requirements, will be the last entertainment category to be given permission. Our landlord does not want to continue supporting our lease. Sadly, the interior is to be destroyed and the building turned into a warehouse. “It is with a great sadness that we say goodbye. We wish you much good will in the future. We will miss you!” said Bob Funking, Bill and Von Ann Stutler, founders of the Westchester Broadway Theatre, in a letter to employees.
The art of presenting live theatre is one of NY State’s largest industries. It has been greatly affected by the pandemic leaving many shows on hold, 12 million people out of work, and numerous patrons with outstanding tickets to shows.
However, Westchester residents will still have a professional Equity theatre in their backyard to attend when restrictions are lifted. The White Plains Performing Arts Center, which is located in downtown White Plains, has used this down-time to make many new renovations to accommodate the “new world of theatre” when Governor Cuomo authorizes theaters to reopen. Everything from air purification systems, to advanced cleaning solutions and social distancing has been put in place.
“As someone who grew up seeing and working on shows at WBT, it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our colleague. The work they have done over the years was remarkable. When we heard of this news, we knew we had to do something to not only honor their legacy but also make sure we keep professional theatre alive in Westchester. We are honored to have the torch passed to us at White Plains PAC to take on that task!” said Stephen Ferri, White Plains PAC’s Executive Producer.
White Plains PAC has generously offered to try assisting affected WBT ticket holders by honoring outstanding tickets and gift cards for a future WPPAC show. This will be a way to give back to the community and keep the industry alive; as well as fulfill the outstanding obligations to patrons. Eligible patrons will be contacted in the coming weeks with details about the exchange program.