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Lights Come Back
on Broadway

Lights Come Back
on Broadway

Broadway was back. Crowds lined up for tickets and actors and crews converged on once-darkened theaters as dozens of shows came alive again after a 19-day stagehands strike.

Broadway was back. Crowds lined up for tickets and actors and crews converged on once-darkened theaters as dozens of shows came alive again after a 19-day stagehands strike.

''I'm thrilled! For everyone,'' Liz Enright said Thursday, walking away with two half-price tickets to Legally Blonde, one of more than two dozen plays and musicals that were shut down during the strike.

''Broadway is exciting. It's New York. It's alive,'' Enright said as other fans milled around the TKTS discount ticket booth near Times Square, which also reopened Thursday.

She summed up the elation that filled Broadway after stagehands and theater producers reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday, ending a strike that officials estimate cost the city $2 million a day.

''There's a lot of energy. I feel it coming off of Broadway, coming in! I want to go back to work,'' said Vincent Pastore, known for playing Salvatore ''Big Pussy'' Bonpensiero on HBO's mob show The Sopranos, who was making his Broadway debut in Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre.

Chicago held a last-minute afternoon rehearsal to work out kinks before going back on with a new cast that also included Sopranos actress Aida Turturro.

Outside, theatergoers lined up in front of the Ambassador, where promotional tickets for Chicago were going for a steeply discounted $26.50. The show quickly sold out, and the offer was extended to the Sunday matinee.

British tourist Steven Haywood had flown to New York on Wednesday with his wife, Claire, to celebrate their 20th anniversary, unaware of the strike. On Thursday, the couple raked up tickets with glee -- for Chicago, Hairspray, and other shows.

''This is Broadway!'' he said. ''It's a part of New York. It's the razzmatazz!''

Most shows that closed during the walkout were up and running Thursday evening, even if casts and crews were a little rusty after a nearly three-week layoff.

Michael Van Praagh, a stagehand for 34 years, was returning to work on Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll. He said the settlement was a sign ''that we're finally getting the respect we deserve on Broadway.''

Actor Jeff Perry was also relieved the strike was over. He would finally appear in August: Osage County, the critically acclaimed Tracy Letts play that was to have opened November 20.

Perry said the walkout allowed him to spend a lot of ''hand-holding'' time with family and friends over Thanksgiving. But, he added, ''There was that dead pit-of-your-stomach feeling of, 'Don't tell me this play will never be seen by a wider audience.'''

While the theater district was in an ecstatic mood, one somber fact remained: The strike took a big toll on the local economy, affecting actors, stagehands, musicians, restaurants, stores -- even hot dog vendors.

''Business was very bad for everybody,'' said Mohamoud Ali, a Times Square hot dog and pretzel vendor who said he lost more than $1,000 during the strike.

It came during one of the busiest times of the year, when the city is teeming with tourists and Christmas shoppers.

Susan and Rick Harlow, of Kansas City, Mo., were at the TKTS booth facing an odd challenge: They had purchased tickets to two shows for Thursday, just in case -- one for Mary Poppins, which was not affected by the strike, and the other for Grease, which was. They had to sell one set of tickets.

''We wanted the strike to go on one more day so we wouldn't have to do this,'' Rick Harlow said, holding up the four tickets.

The tentative deal came on the third day of marathon sessions between Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers, which had been negotiating since summer. Local 1 is expected to vote on the agreement on December 9. (AP)

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Matthew Van Atta