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NY Post
New York Post
16 Dec 2023


NextImg:Flying skateboards! Plummetting meat grinders! Freak accidents during Broadway shows endangering musicians: union

Freak and potentially career-ending accidents are happening more often at Broadway musicals, according to the maestros’ union.

During an Oct. 8 performance of “Back to the Future The Musical,” a skateboard flew from the stage into the orchestra pit near the end of the first act, smashing trumpeter Raul Agraz’s horn into his mouth.

It was the second time the prop landed off-stage.

The mishap resulted in a 2-inch gash to Agraz’s top lip, putting the musician out of work for weeks — and potentially cutting his career short. 

“I saw my lip open …and I thought, ‘I’m done. I’m not going to be able to play anymore,’” he told The Post. 

The 56-year-old virtuoso healed and returned to the Winter Garden Theatre this month.

The American Federation of Musicians Local 802, which reps Broadway performers, pressed the theater to finally install a protective netting above the orchestra.

The Broadway musicians union says that it has received a shocking number of reports about prop accidents threatening maestros’ safety. Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
A “Back to the Future” trumpet player got a 2-inch cut on his top lip after a skateboard flew from the stage and smashed his horn into his face. Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
“I saw my lip open …and I thought, ‘I’m done. I’m not going to be able to play anymore,’” the trumpet player, Raul Agraz, told The Post.  WireImage

“The employer has the obligation to provide for a healthy and safe work environment. When the union comes and says we need protection for musicians and they don’t provide it, it’s a problem,” said AFM International President Tino Gagliardi. 

While Local 802 doesn’t track such incidents, anecdotal reports indicate an alarming number of dangerous incidents this year, the union said.

During a Nov. 17 “Spamalot” show, a fake severed head flew offstage and hit a cellist, bruising their shoulder, according to the union’s newsletter.

A 10-pound part of a meat grinder prop from “Sweeney Todd” landed in the orchestra pit where a substitute musician sat at the next show.
The American Federation of Musicians Local 802, which reps Broadway performers, pressed the theater to finally install a protective netting above the orchestra. J.C. Rice

In an April 20 performance of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” an estimated 10-pound part of a meat-grinder prop popped off and rolled into an empty section of the pit, where substitute musicians usually sit, according to one orchestra member. 

On Oct. 20, when a conductor for “Wicked” fainted roughly five minutes into the show, stage management decided to continue the performance while musicians frantically dialed 911 and tended to their colleague’s medical needs, according to a player at the Gershwin Theatre that night.

“I hope I don’t have a heart attack in the pit because they’ll let me die,” the musician said.

Management for the theaters did not respond to requests for comment.