NEW YORK (AP) – Javan M. Jackson recently has to do something he has been longing for for months – sing and dance with the Broadway crew again.
Jackson is one of the stars of “Not too proud – life and times of temptation” and he reunited with the castrates for the first time since the theaters closed to prepare for Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on Thursday.
“I was most pleased to just see all my old friends I hadn’t seen in months, some who flew in specifically for the show to do so,”
The pandemic, which closed theaters in March, may have broken most traditions this holiday season, but the annual parade in New York will continue with balloons, dancers, floats, Broadway shows and Santa Claus – albeit heavily edited for safety.
“Traditions like this are comforting and uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a difficult city. It bounces. He takes his blows and then continues. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. No matter what happens, New York must be this beacon of light in the dark, and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that. “
Macy’s Parade has been a traditional start to the festivities for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up half a dozen deep down the route to entertain about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, artists and orchestras. At last year’s parade, the big fear was a strong wind. This time it was a pandemic that made the crowds insolvent.
The biggest change this year is that the usual 1 1/2 mile route through crowded Manhattan has been removed in favor of concentrating events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the merchant’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances are pre-recorded and most parade performers will be based locally to reduce travel.
In addition to “Ain’t Too Proud”, the parade will include performances by Broadway bands “Hamilton”, “Mean Girls” and “Jagged Little Pill”, a musical built around the music of Alanis Morissette. Broadway performances were recorded days before the parade.
Things felt very different for actor Derek Klena, who was at the parade in 2017 as part of the cast of “Anastasia.” This year, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in “Toothy Pill.” and helped perform “You Learn” from the Tony-nominated show.
The cast was quarantined for two weeks before being recorded and regularly tested for the virus. The members of the roles rehearsed in masks until the cameras began to rotate and remained socially distant. They sang live this time, instead of years ago when the casts were in sync.
“Although the circumstances were very different, it was still so magical and fulfilling to share this experience with your colleagues after you were so far away,” Klena said.
“I think it was important for everyone to find a way to continue to celebrate this event and to celebrate the shows and companies that everyone can take part in this amazing event.”
Both Jackson and Klena said they all adhere to the show’s strict safety protocols – applying the 6-foot rule, frequent tests and requiring face masks plus face shields, and a new mask after their performance. “I appreciate it because it was created to protect you,” Jackson said, although he noted that “dancing in a mask is a difficult feat.”
This year’s range of balloons includes Snoopy, Diary of a Dirty Kid, The Elf on the Shelf, Chase of Paw Patrol, Pikachu, Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants and Trolls. New this time are “The Boss Baby” and Red Titan from “Ryan’s World.”
The giant balloons with cartoon characters will be operated without the traditional 80 to 100 rope pull manipulators assigned to each inflatable, and will instead be attached to specialized vehicles.
Pentatonix, Ally Brooke, Keke Palmer, Sofia Carson, Leslie Odom Jr. will perform. and Jordin Sparks, and there will be floats from Blue’s Clues, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Lego. There will be a ballerina from the New York Ballet with a performance from The Hazelnut Crusher, an all-female samba drum and acrobats from the Big Apple Circus, and Rockettes will take effect. The parade ends with the appearance of Santa Claus.
Another change this year was the decision to highlight many of the New York parades that were canceled in the spring and fall due to the pandemic – St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Mermaid Parade, Puerto Rico Day Parade and the Pride March in New York York
“We will emphasize them and really give them a chance to shine,” said Tercero. “You’ll be able to see the creativity in this fun come to life, which has been kind of latent for the last seven months.”
For Broadway performers, there are changes this year. Usually on Thanksgiving, they froze in Midtown after waking up at dawn and dancing and singing for hours. This year they are watched by the warmth of their apartments – already well done.
“This is the first Thanksgiving in a few years, when I either don’t have a show or I’m not filming,” Klena said. “So this way it will be fun to just celebrate with some of my friends here in town and my wife.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits