▶ Watch Video: The Big Apple returns in “New York State of Mind”

COVID’s various variants are still casting an ominous shadow over the nation’s recovery, but that light at the end of the tunnel you see just might be the lights of Broadway.

It was unprecedented, like most things in the last 18 months or so. When Broadway went dark, the whole of New York City dimmed, too.

The silence was almost reverential, as it should have been. The city has recorded over 33,000 deaths from COVID so far – enough souls to fill over half of Yankee Stadium. The city’s workforce lost a higher percentage of jobs than any other big American city.

And yet, this metropolis whose spirit has been tested time and time again wasn’t about to disappoint.

Symphony orchestras, dance troupes, theater companies, and opera houses all found a way to perform anyway. They lifted our spirits from the depths of their own lockdowns, out of living rooms, bedrooms, backyards, even windowsills. 

Soon, the show spilled out onto its streets, with the city’s vibrant community of artists reminding us that no virus is as infectious as the creative spirit.

And now, they are returning to their rightful spots on stage … and fans are returning to their rightful spots, in the audience. And some of New York’s brightest stars are rolling out the welcome mat.

“The city can’t be its best self until we can all go to the theater, and then talk about it afterwards over a drink,” said CBS’ own Stephen Colbert, who hosts his late-night show from Broadway’s famed Ed Sullivan Theater.  “The arts are the oxygen of New York. And Broadway opening is like the city can breathe again,” he said.

It’s a sentiment shared on both sides of the footlights. “Oh yes, we are all chomping at the bit!” said Tony-winning performer LaChanze. She said most artists have missed audiences as much as audiences have missed them.  “I am so ready to get back on stage, and ready to have that amazing exchange that only performers and audience participants can have each and every night,” she said.

Colbert and LaChanze both appear in a new video making its premiere right here on “Sunday Morning.” Produced by the volunteer organization NYCNext, it celebrates the city’s return, featuring a familiar song and an unmistakable message, courtesy of songwriter Billy Joel:

I know what I’m needing
And I don’t want to waste more time
I’m in a New York state of mind

To watch the extended version of “New York State of Mind,” click on the video player below. Video directed by Joshua Seftel. Orchestrated and arranged by Tom Kitt.

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Produced by Robert Marston and Jay Kernis. Editor: Mike Levine.