As the Great White Way reopens, Scott Montgomery has the role of a lifetime: COVID Safety Manager for the Broadway company of Chicago. The musical by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb reopened to a full house Tuesday night with Montgomery working to make it a safe event for the audience.
“Reopening night was so cool. For the first time in a long time, you could feel that Broadway buzz again,” Montgomery said. “It’s a new normal, but we’re so happy to have it and we have this chance to go back to the theater.”
Montgomery grew up in Graham, Texas and majored in theater at University of North Texas. Performing in a production of Godspell in McKinney cemented his love of theater. He performed with Repertory Company Theater in Richardson, was an intern at Theatre Three in Dallas and worked backstage at Lyric Stage in Irving.
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He moved to New York in 2010 to attend Circle in the Square Theatre School’s Conservatory, a professional two-year program for musical theater and acting. He returned to Lyric Stage to perform in its production of Oliver!
When not acting, he worked as a bartender and eventually a merchandise manager at several Broadway theaters. Montgomery loves his work. “There’s just something about being in the building when this magic is literally happening onstage,” Montgomery said. “And you get to witness people day-after-day, eight shows a week coming out of there sometimes a different person than when they walked in.”
Montgomery was a merchandise manager for Hamilton for its first year on Broadway. “I can’t tell you the amount of reactions I’ve seen from kids, elderly people who are so moved by what they’ve just witnessed. Celebrities too. They come up to me and want to talk to me about the show and I’m like, ‘I know! It’s incredible!’” Montgomery said.
From September 2018 to March 2020, Montgomery was the merchandise manager for the national tours of Hello, Dolly! starring Fort Worth native Betty Buckley and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. He was working on Summer in Toronto when the pandemic shut down the production. He thought the musical would be closed for three weeks.
Because someone was subletting his New York apartment, Montgomery returned to Graham and stayed with his parents. He remained in Graham for five months, doing some work for his father and watching the pandemic ravage New York. “Seeing how it affected New York was tough to see from a distance,” Montgomery said.
When he returned to New York City, he could see the pandemic’s toll. “It was desolate. The Theatre District, Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen wasn’t what I remembered,” Montgomery said.
The desolation made Montgomery determined to be part of Broadway’s renewal. “I really wanted to be of use to the reopening of Broadway. I wanted to be part of it, and I wanted to be helpful in any way at all,” Montgomery said.
In his new full-time job, Montgomery’s focus is the audience. He works with a team of audience facilitators who check the vaccination status and identifications of everyone entering the building.
He also monitors the audience to make sure they are always wearing a properly fitted mask, even after taking a sip of a drink. “My job would be to remind them, ‘Hey, would you mind putting up your mask please?” Montgomery said. “It’s just a friendly reminder because some people forget they are in a space that requires constant monitoring. My team and I have become experts on how an audience can safely return to Broadway and see a show without worry about transmission of the virus.”
Montgomery received training and is certified as a COVID Compliance Officer. He is also familiar with COVID safety protocols after having worked as a background actor on television and film sets when he returned to New York.
Broadway’s protocols are simple. Vaccinated patrons must show identification and proof of full vaccination. Being fully vaccinated means fourteen days after receiving a second dose of the vaccine. “Not ten days. Not eleven days. Not nine days. Fourteen days – two weeks! No exceptions!” Montgomery said.
Unvaccinated patrons, including children under the age of 12, must show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours or a negative rapid test within six hours. All patrons must wear a mask covering the mouth and nose, regardless of vaccination status.
Neck gators, masks with vents and bandanas are not considered appropriate face coverings. Montgomery provides PPE for patrons without masks. “You can’t go wrong with a KN95,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery is learning a lot on the job. When a patron arrived at the theater with a CDC card documenting only a second dose of the vaccine, Montgomery explained he needed to see documentation of the first dose. The patron became flustered but eventually produced another CDC card with a record of a first dose. “My years of customer service has really come in handy in this situation,” Montgomery said.
Because Chicago attracts an international audience, Montgomery is aware of vaccines from other countries. He has verified a vaccination record from Mexico, and he recognizes vaccines from China and India.
Montgomery sees his work as helping restore an industry and a community of artists he loves. “It’s holy ground, Broadway theater. It’s a church practically. It’s very sacred,” Montgomery said. “I put blood sweat and tears into this industry. It’s a community and we need the community again or we’re kind of lost.”
For everyone who loves theater, he has two recommendations. “Please, please get vaccinated. The Broadway community would not be able to do what we’re doing if we were not all vaccinated, period,” Montgomery said. “Go see a show. Go support your local theater.”
Learn more: https://chicagothemusical.com/