Earlier this week, I settled into my seat a few minutes before the show was due to start. It had only taken a moment to get a drink at the bar, and the journey here from work was much quicker than normal.
Going to the theater on a Monday evening wouldn't normally have crossed my mind. But with the world in coronavirus lockdown, discovering that a whole range of shows, musicals, ballets and more are available to watch online (often for free) quickly changed my mind. Of course, coronavirus lockdown also meant the 'bar' was my kitchen, and that speedy journey was from desk to sofa.
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I'd decided to watch Romeo and Juliet, broadcast on YouTube by Shakespeare's Globe. Like many other venues faced with zero ticket sales for the coming weeks, The Globe makes use of YouTube's Premiere function, where a video is set to begin at a certain time, complete with live (and optional) chat function alongside.
As I got comfortable, 5,000 others were doing exactly the same. The comments section was full of fellow viewers from the UK, but also from the U.S., Brazil, Italy, Greece, Nepal, Germany, and many more. The show began just after 7pm, with a steady audience of around 6,000 for the three-hour duration, and ended in a sea of hand-clapping and red rose emojis in the comments section.
It may only have been a YouTube video of an old Globe performance, but the sense of watching with a real, engaged audience, all at the same time and in the same situation, felt altogether more real. Comforting, in a we're-all-in-this-together kind of way.
With that in mind, here is a guide to what's available now (and coming soon) from the arts to keep you entertained during coronavirus lockdown:
Globe performances are available to watch on-demand for 14 daysGearBrain
The London venue is premiering a pre-recorded play on YouTube at 14:00 EST every other Thursday. They each remain online for 14 days before being removed. The aforementioned Romeo and Juliet is available now until May 3.
Upcoming plays from the Globe are:
The Two Noble Kinsmen (filmed 2018)
- YouTube premiere May 4, 14:00 EST, available until May 17
The Winter's Tale (filmed 2018)
- YouTube premiere May 18, 14:00 EST, available until May 31
The Merry Wives of Windsor (filmed 2019)
- YouTube premiere June 1, 14:00 EST, available until June 14
A Midsummer Night's Dream (filmed 2013)
- YouTube premiere June 15, 14:00 EST, available until June 28
The National Theatre shows are available on YouTube for seven daysNational Theatre
London's National Theatre is also using the YouTube Premiere system, with full-length shows added every Thursday at 14:00 BST, and available for a week.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Available now until April 23
- YouTube Premiere April 23, 14:00 EST
Andrew Lloyd Webber has teamed up with Universal to create a new YouTube channel called The Show Must Go On. The channel is showing full-length recordings of past shows every Friday, which are then available on-demand for 48 hours.
Past shows include The Phantom of The Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, with more in the pipeline.
It isn't clear how many shows will appear on the new YouTube channel, but for now we know Phantom follow-up Love Never Dies is next, and Webber's By Jeeves (1975) will make an appearance at a later date.
Love Never Dies
- YouTube premiere April 24, 14:00 EST, available for 48 hours
The NYCB is publishing new performances twice weeklyNew York City Ballet
The new Digital Spring Season from the New York City Ballet runs from April 21 through May 29, and will see two digital streams a week, plus a collection of other online programming to keep ballet fans entertained during lockdown.
Shows premiere on YouTube every Tuesday and Friday at 20:00 EST, and are available to watch on-demand for 72 hours afterwards.
The NYCB's schedule includes:
Allegro Brillante by George Balanchine (filmed 2017)
- Available now, until April 24
Rotunda by Justin Peck (world premiere, filmed February 26, 2020)
- YouTube Premiere April 24, 20:00 EST, available until April 27
Apollo by George Balanchine (filmed 2019)
- YouTube Premiere April 28, 20:00 EST, available until May 1
Ballo Della Regina by George Balanchine (filmed 2016)
- YouTube Premiere May 1, 20:00 EST, available until May 4
Sadler's Wells performances premiere on Facebook and YouTube weeklySadler's Wells
Dating back to the late-1600s, Sadler's Wells is a world-renowned London dance theater. New performances are shown in full on Facebook and YouTube every Friday, premiering at 14:30 EST and available to watch on-demand for seven days afterwards.
Shows are introduced by Sadler's Wells artistic director and chief executive, Alistair Spalding.
Sadler's Wells schedule includes:
The Thread by Russell Maliphant and Vangelis
- Available now until April 24
An Evening With Natalia Osipova
- Premiering on Facebook and YouTube April 24, 14:30 EST
Breakin' Convention by The Jazz re:freshed Sonic Orchestra
- Premiering on Facebook and YouTube May 1, 14:30 EST
8 Minutes by Alexander Whitley Dance Company
- Premiering on Facebook and YouTube May 8, 14:30 EST
Moon Water by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
- Premiering on Facebook and YouTube May 15, 14:30 EST
Performances premiere every Friday eveningAlvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is showing full-length performances on YouTube, along with accompanying behind-the-scenes footage, talks and workshops. Performances premiere at 19:00 EST on Fridays and are available to watch on-demand for 48 hours afterwards.
Alvin Ailey's schedule includes:
- YouTube Premiere April 23, 19:00 EST, available until April 26
- YouTube Premiere April 30, 19:00 EST, available until May 1
The Winter's Tale premieres on May 1 Johan Persson / Royal Opera House
London's Royal Opera House is uploading full-length performances to keep fans entertained from home. Performances are premiered on YouTube every Friday at 14:00 EST, and so far are not being removed after a couple of days, unlike most other venues.
Royal Opera House schedule includes:
Cosi fan tutte, by Mozart
- Available on-demand now
The Metamorphosis, by The Royal Ballet
- Available on-demand now
Gloriana, by The Royal Opera
- YouTube Premiere April 24, 14:00 EST
The Winter's Tale, by The Royal Ballet
- YouTube Premiere May 1, 14:00 EST
Other options for at-home theater and dance
A seven-day free trial is currently availableBroadway HD
Away from impromptu YouTube showings by venues that are temporarily closed, there are several ways to pay for theater to enjoy at home. These include Broadway HD, which is usually $8.99 a month but is currently offering a seven-day free trial. The service includes:
- Kinky Boots
- Peter Pan
- Swan Lake
- The King and I
- Henry IV
- The Tempest
A 14-day free trial is now available at Marquee.tvMarquee TV
Another option is Marquee TV, which is currently offering a 14-day free trial. Shows available here include:
- Richard II
- The Importance of Being Earnest
- An Ideal Husband
- Death in Venice
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
- The Nutcracker
- New York City Ballet in Paris
Fleabag live is available on Amazon PrimeAmazon
Finally, Amazon Prime has a small range of theater options included with a Prime membership, or available to purchase separately.
- Les Miserables: The Staged Concert
- Les Miserables: 25th Anniversary
- Hamlet: One Shot to Broadway
- The Phantom of the Opera at the Albert Hall
- Fleabag Live (from the National Theatre, London; all proceeds go to charity)
Amazon Prime Video