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Broadway Musicians Face Surge in Violent Attacks, Sparking Safety Concerns

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Broadway Musicians Face Surge in Violent Attacks, Sparking Safety Concerns

Edited by: Fern Sidman

Broadway musicians, revered for their contributions to iconic productions like “The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” are sounding alarms over a surge in violent attacks at the stage doors of theaters, as was reported by the New York Post. The alarming incidents have left performers injured, traumatized, and questioning their safety in what was once considered the heart of New York City’s entertainment district, the report added.

 

Video footage obtained by The Post captured the harrowing moment when a violinist with the Disney production of “The Lion King” was violently shoved to the ground in the breezeway of the Minskoff Theater, according to the Post report. The attack occurred after the musician exited a matinee performance on August 5, resulting in a severe wrist injury that nearly ended her decades-long career. The Post also reported that another violinist from “The Lion King” has also been targeted twice by criminals outside the theater, facing attempted theft and physical assault.

A substitute drummer for “Aladdin” faced a particularly traumatic incident on March 10 when a stranger wielding a tree branch-like weapon struck him on the head as he entered the New Amsterdam Theatre, the Post reported. Despite playing that evening, the musician later experienced slurred speech and difficulty walking, leading to an ER visit and a diagnosis of a concussion. The assault has kept him from performing on Broadway since, the report added.

The unsettling trend of violence against Broadway musicians reflects broader safety concerns in the Theater District. Felony assaults in the Midtown South Precinct, encompassing theaters like the Minskoff and New Amsterdam, have skyrocketed by 114% compared to pre-pandemic times, according to the Post report. Through December 10, the precinct reported 456 attacks, a significant increase from the 213 reported in all of 2019.

The escalating violence has left the Broadway community on edge, with performers expressing fear and anxiety about their safety in a district that was once synonymous with entertainment and cultural vibrancy, the Post report noted.  Cellist Deborah Assael-Migliore, who has been performing on Broadway since the 1980s, noted the increased presence of unhinged individuals and a lack of control by law enforcement.

The surge in assaults poses challenges for law enforcement in the Theater District, grappling with the complex dynamics of a densely populated area and the unpredictability of assailants. The Post report said that performers, who contribute significantly to the cultural tapestry of Broadway, are now demanding more robust security measures to ensure their safety as they navigate the stage doors after performances.

A shocking video has emerged capturing a violent assault on a 66-year-old female violinist outside the Minskoff Theater, sparking concerns about the safety of Broadway performers as they navigate the bustling Theater District, the Post report added. The distressing incident has left the veteran musician with an injured wrist and has prompted discussions within the Broadway community about the need for enhanced security measures.

The disturbing video clip shows the violinist, whose identity is being withheld, leaving through the stage door with a friend. As they step into the breezeway under the theater, a man wearing a gray “I Love New York” hat and a black sweatshirt aggressively shoves the violinist to the pavement without breaking stride, the Post reported. The musician clutches her injured wrist in agony, while a theater guard communicates with colleagues via a walkie-talkie. The friend of the victim pursues the attacker.

The assailant, identified as Michael Allen, 34, has a concerning criminal history, including 15 prior arrests for offenses such as assault, menacing a stranger with a baseball bat, and harassing a former partner, according to the Post report. Despite this history, Allen was charged with felony assault and released without bail, raising questions about the judicial system’s handling of repeat offenders.

A veteran Broadway musician criticized the state’s 2019 bail reform law, which limited the crimes for which judges could set bail. The musician argued that this legislation contributes to a cycle where repeat offenders like Allen are swiftly released back onto the streets after committing acts of violence.

The violinist, currently undergoing physical therapy, has not yet returned to her role in the pit, according to union leaders, as was reported by the Post. The incident has highlighted the vulnerability of Broadway performers, who often find themselves in harm’s way while navigating the Theater District. The attack has prompted discussions about the mental health struggles of individuals in society and the need for increased security measures to protect those working in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

Greg Smith, a French horn player for “The Lion King,” expressed the challenges Broadway musicians face, citing a rise in random attacks and unexpected incidents near the breezeway. The Post reported that Smith recounted a personal experience with an angry CD seller throwing a disc at him, emphasizing the need for additional security measures. He noted that the Nederlander Organization, which owns the Minskoff Theater, has increased the presence of plainclothes security guards in response to the August attack.

Broadway performers, often working six days a week, face inherent risks associated with their frequent presence in the Theater District. According to the Post report, Smith expressed concern about the potential for more incidents, recalling a near encounter with a shooting between shows in April.  He also noted that the Nederlander Organization has responded to the heightened threat by increasing the number of plainclothes security guards.

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