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.


The Sound of Music Recap

Update: See the entire show below

Does this sound like The Sound of Music to you?

The Sound of Music is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with no overture. Instead there is the first of 22 songs (see song list at bottom) — and it’s not one you’ve hummed a thousand times, like Do-Re-Me (Do a deer, a female deer, re, a drop of golden sun…”), or The Sound of Music (The hills are alive with …). It’s called  Preludium, and it’s sung in Latin….and in a convent. Yet, thanks to Audra McDonald, it turned out to be a great start — even a highlight.

Another highlight: Audra McDonald singing Climb Ev’ry Mountain. Here’s a video of her doing it earlier at Rockefeller Center. Believe it or not, her live performance in the musical tonight was even more moving and powerful.

McDonald played Mother Abbess, which demonstrates what a person of such talent as McDonald can make out of a usually thankless role.

What about the rest of the Sound of Music, the three hour special on NBC?

The idea for a live, stage-version production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, based on the true story of the von Trapp family, came from the two creators of “Smash,”  Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. They recalled from their childhood the memorable live television events of Mary Martin performing in Peter Pan and Julie Andrews in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. And there is no question there was anticipation and excitement in the idea of such an event, even a manufactured one — enhanced rather than undermined by the opportunity to share the experience through Twitter. (The cast did have the unfortunate timing of having to perform just a few hours after the major downer of an actual event.)

It was also smart to use the stage version, which differs from the movie in interesting ways — darker, with a couple of songs omitted from the movie — although only true aficionados might notice. The production also benefited from a luscious design — both the costumes by Catherine Zuber and the set by Derek McLane — and some first-rate players, most of whom had the good fortune of being both major theatrical talents and also familiar faces on television. Above all, besides Audra LauraBenantionTVMcDonald,  this meant Laura Benanti, who played Elsa, the elegant rival for Captain von Trapp’s affection — so fabulous in Zuber’s ensembles that you wondered why the Captain would leave her for the pig-tailed youngster.  But it was a treat as well to see such stage pros like Christian Borle (best-known for Smash but and eight-time veteran of Broadway, most recently in Peter and the Starcatcher) and Kristine Nielsen (who was so wonderful in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) work their magic through six sets captured in the moment by a dozen cameras.

Click on photographs to see them enlarged

But Meron and Zadan seemed to miss a major lesson from the 1950s shows they remembered so fondly. Those shows starred Mary Martin and Julie Andrews.

On NBC, Carrie Underwood, the American Idol winner and country singer, played the lead role of Maria, the would-be nun who becomes a governess to seven motherless and insufferably adorable children, introducing music into a saddened household and falling in love with their father and her employer, the Captain. When Underwood was announced for the role made famous by Mary Martin on Broadway and Julie Andrews in the movie, there was a lot of nay-saying and snark. But the nay-sayers turned out to be largely on target.

Granted, there were some songs Underwood handled well, such as “The Lonely Goatherd” with all the yodeling.

Indeed, her singing was not the problem. It was her acting; she was never believable as Maria. To put this charitably, as my colleague Kevin Daly did, Carrie Underwood might have been better served by a TV version of Annie Get Your Gun, which would have played more to her strengths.

The publicity machine surrounding this “Sound of Music” made sure to let us know that, though Stephen Moyer may be known only as a vampire on True Blood, he has an extensive background in the theater; he’ even sung on stage. This may be, but his Captain seemed to me like a petulant wooden soldier compared to the easy authority of Christopher Plummer in the part in the 1965 movie, even though I haven’t seen that Julie Andrews vehicle in decades.

Was “The Sound of Music” a success? Will it mark the return of live theater to television? That surely will depend on the Nielsen ratings, and I don’t mean Kristine’s.

I call this a recap rather than a review, because nobody reads theater reviews, and everybody seems to consume television recaps avidly.



The Sound of Music

My Favorite Things


Sixteen Going on Seventeen

The Lonely Goatherd

How Can Love Survive?

Reprise: The Sound of Music

he Grand Waltz


So Long, Farewell

Climb Ev’ry Mountain

No Way To Stop It

Something Good

Processional and Maria (The Wedding)

Reprise: Sixteen Going on Seventeen

Reprise: Do-Re-Me (the Concert)

Edelweiss (The Concert)

Reprise: So Long, Farewell (The Concert)

Finale Ultimo: Climb Ev’ry Mountain

End Credits

Update: The Sound of Music dominated the ratings for the entire three hours it aired. Roughly 18.5 million people saw it — better than any three-hour period on NBC in almost 10 years — and about 50 percent more than the attendance at all shows on Broadway for an entire year.