David Byrne Plans Unplugged ‘American Utopia’ Due to COVID Cases

David Byrne has temporarily reimagined his ongoing Broadway show as American Utopia: Unchained due to “several” positive COVID-19 tests within his band and crew.

The revised “unplugged” set — featuring songs from Talking Heads, his solo catalog and American Utopia — will run for six performances at New York City’s St. James Theatre: Dec. 28 at 8PM ET, Dec. 29 at 8PM, Dec. 30 at 5PM and 9PM, Jan. 1 at 5PM and Jan. 2 at 3PM.

Byrne announced the creative shift in an Instagram video.

“Several members of our company, band and crew who are fully vaccinated have tested positive for COVID,” he said. “Fortunately these band members and crew don’t have severe symptoms, and they’ll be at home isolating according to CDC guidelines, and we hope that they’ll be back with us in a few weeks. Unfortunately, though, right now they can’t come to the theater — and they can’t help us make this show. So rather than canceling our shows, we’re looking at this as a kind of opportunity to, well, honor our commitment to the audiences who are coming in the coming weeks and creating something special.

“We’re gonna do a show,” Byrne added. “Well, we’re just gonna come up with a show. Hey, let’s make a show! This is our opportunity to make lemonade from COVID lemons. … It will be something unlike anything we’ve done before. It’s not quite the show, but it’s gonna be something special. I don’t think we’ll be able to do it again. We’re only gonna do it for a few weeks and we hope then we’ll all be back.”

A subsequent Instagram clip teased a rehearsal of the 1985 Talking Heads tune “And She Was.” You can watch both videos below.

The original American Utopia — which shares a title with Byrne’s 2017 solo LP — opened at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre in October 2019. The production spawned a Spike Lee-directed concert film, along with a cast recording album that earned a 2021 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album.

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