Groundhog Day’s Andy Karl Injured. History of Infamous Broadway Injuries.

Saturday’s matinee of Groundhog Day was canceled, and the evening performance went on with an understudy, after the show’s star Andy Karl injured himself at its Friday evening performance.

Update:Producers said the Broadway musical will open as plan
ned on Monday, and injured star Andy Karl will lead the cast.

“I’m home now and I have no broken bones but tweaked my knee after a poorly landed leap frog,” Karl wrote on Twitter and Instagram, after returning from the Emergency Room Friday night. “Finishing the show for all the @groundhogdaybwy fans and audience members was something I had to do.” He continued: “I’m gonna get it looked at by specialist before I go back on stage, but know I love this show and this company and everyone that supports me more than you’ll ever know…”

On Monday, an hour before curtain, he wrote on Instagram again:

“As some of you have already heard, last Friday I took a leap onstage I’ve made more times than I can even count and caught a bad landing. My doctor has confirmed it’s a torn ACL — just one of those crazy flukes that can happen when doing a physically demanding show like this. Good news it can be managed with rest and physical therapy, which I’ve already begun. The whole crew at “Groundhog Day” have been working our butts off to get this show up and running so, as they say, "the show must go on." I can’t wait to see everyone on our opening night and am so grateful for the continued support.  Let's do this!!!! @groundhogdaybwy”

If Karl’s injury is the most high profile on Broadway for a while, it is far from unusual. . Many are never publicized. The possibility of injury during live theater is viewed as an occupational hazard – “as serious as injuries in a factory,” a spokesman for Actors Equity told me. “Factory workers are not working on a raked stage, and they’re not flying.” Overall, the incidence of recorded injuries among entertainers is almost 50 percent higher than for the average worker, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A perhaps typical injury was the one suffered by Gabriel Olds, who played Rodolpho opposite Brittany Murphy and Anthony LaPaglia in the 1997 Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s play, “The View from the Bridge.”  The injury wasn’t….dramatic. “It was a repetitive stress injury from wrestling with Anthony LaPaglia eight times a week,” he told me.  “This is pretty standard for doing a Broadway play for nine months.”

But superstitious Broadway buffs might view the role of Rodolpho as cursed.  Earlier, James Hayden played the character,  a romantic Italian immigrant, in the 1983 Broadway production, and died of a heroin overdose shortly afterward.

Later, Santino Fontana, hired to play Rodolpho in the 2010 Broadway revival starring Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, had to drop out of the play when during a preview performance he was injured in a boxing scene, leading to a concussion.

It was a far more serious injury that he at first realized, and he was forced to withdraw from the production. “From an MRI it looked like I had been in a car accident,” he told me years later. (Santino Fontana: The Unluckiest Lucky Actor in New York.)  “The doctor flat-out said ‘we don’t know how much your memory will come back.’ I couldn’t get through the alphabet without stopping. I got migraines. I couldn’t use my eyes for three weeks; I had to stay in dark rooms.”

Even when he started to recover, it was a tricky time to try to get a new role. “You don’t want to appear injured – but you don’t want to get re-injured.”

It took him six months before he did a reading. It was for Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet. “I read ‘It’s been a bad year’– that was the character’s last line – and I lost it.” He started sobbing. “They probably thought ‘Oh, we’ve got a really good actor.’

Some of Broadway’s other  headline-making injuries:

Rehearsing the flying in “Peter Pan” in 1960, Mary Martin smashed into a wall, breaking her left elbow in two places. “The man who was supposed to pull me back was new, and he got so thrilled he forgot,” Martin recalled decades later.

In 2004, Nathan Lane suffered bruised and gashed legs when he slipped through a trapdoor in The Frogs.

In 2005, Idina Menzel fell through a trap door during one of her final performances of Wicked and broke a rib.  The show was halted for 45 minutes while her understudy Shoshana Bean took over for her, and played the next two performances as well, Menzel was unable to participate fully in what was supposed to be her final performance, but did come out for the final scene – not made up in green but in a red track suit.

In 2007, James Carpinello broke his leg in three places during a preview performance of Xanadu. He was replaced by Cheyenne Jackson, who took over the role for the 15 month run of the show.

Adrian Bailey

In 2008, Adrian Bailey, who was performing in his 13th show on Broadway, The Little Mermaid, fell over 20 feet through an open trap door during a matinee performance, suffering severe injuries, including a shattered pelvis, two broken wrists and a broken back.

In 2009, three different performers suffered injuries on “Fela!”  two weeks after its opening, forcing the musical to cancel a performance while they recovered.

There were so many serious injuries during the run of Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark – T.V. Carpio, Daniel Curry, Natalie Mendoza, Joshua Kobak and Christopher Tierney – that it became both a local outrage and a national joke. In December 2010, Andy Samberg appeared as “the fourth understudy of Spider-man” on Saturday Night Live, hanging upside down from the ceiling. “The first one broke his wrist, the next guy shattered his leg, the next guy just exploded,” he said. “It’s a musical; it happens.You know how many people die every year doing Jersey Boys?” But it wasn’t funny to the performers, none of whom have been on Broadway since.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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