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NY Post
New York Post
16 Dec 2023

NextImg:‘Lion King’ cast members being targeted after NYC Broadway shows: ‘Out of control’

It’s the Great Fright Way.

Broadway musicians say they are being preyed upon by violent criminals at the stage door of the beloved “The Lion King” musical and other shows.

Video obtained by The Post shows the moment a violinist with the Disney production was suddenly shoved to the ground in the breezeway of the Minkskoff Theater after exiting an Aug. 5 matinee via the stage door, breaking her wrist in 10 places and nearly ending her decades-long career.

Another “Lion King” violinist was targeted twice in the past year by deranged crooks outside the theater between 44th and 45th streets.

One thief tried to swipe the instrument strapped to his back, according to leaders of American Federation of Musicians Local 802, which represents the Broadway maestros, and the union’s newsletter.

Two months later, the musician was attacked by a different goon, who fled after the violinist decked him.

Numerous musicians from Lion King have reported attacks after the show lets out. J.C. Rice

A fourth attack occurred on March 10 outside of the New Amsterdam Theatre, when a stranger whacked a substitute drummer for “Aladdin” in the head with a tree branch-like weapon just as he was heading inside to perform that evening.

“It seemed like a ‘knock out game’ kind of thing,” the 62-year-old musician told The Post. “He hit me as hard as he could when I wasn’t looking, and ran away.”

The drummer still managed to play despite observing “dents” in his head from the assault, but a few days later, he began slurring his speech and couldn’t walk straight.

He went to the ER and was diagnosed with a concussion. He hasn’t played on the Great White Way since.

A woman was shoved to the ground after playing violin for the Lion King, injuring her wrist.
A 66-year-old violinist was pushed to the ground after leaving a “Lion King” show, resulting a nearly career-ending

“I’ve been playing drums in that area since 1978, doing Broadway stuff since 1990. I’ve never ever been assaulted. Ever,” he said.

Felony assaults in the Midtown South Precinct, which covers the Minskoff and New Amsterdam theaters, have soared 114% compared to pre-pandemic times, jumping to 456 attacks through Dec. 10, compared to just 213 for all of 2019, according to NYPD data.

Through Dec. 10, the precinct saw a less than 1% dip in felony assaults compared to the same time period last year, per police data.  

“I’ve never had a fear of coming into the Theater District until now,” said cellist Deborah Assael-Migliore, who has performed on Broadway since the 1980s. 

“There’s way more unhinged people floating around the theater district who are out of control, it’s way more crowded, and it seems police can’t get it under control.”

The terrifying video clip shows the 66-year-old female violinist, whose name is being withheld by The Post, leaving through the stage door with a friend and stepping into a sea of theater goers in the breezeway under the theater.

A man in a gray “I Love New York” hat and black sweatshirt jets between the pair and aggressively shoves the violinist to the pavement without breaking stride.

The woman clutches her injured wrist in agony while a theater guard speaks into a walkie-talkie and her friend chases after the attacker.

Michael Allen, 34 — whose rap sheet listed 15 prior arrests including for assault, menacing a stranger with a baseball bat, and harassing a former partner— was charged with felony assault before being released without bail.

The violinist is undergoing physical therapy and has yet to return to the pit, according to union leaders. 

The assailant bolted through a sea of theatre goers exiting a matinee before shoving the “Lion King” musician.

“There’s a lot of random people struggling mentally these days and it comes out in aggression,” said Greg Smith, 59, a french horn player for “The Lion King,” adding that the Nederlander Organization, which owns the Minskoff, has staffed more plainclothes security guards after the August attack.

Smith, who recalled an angry CD seller chucking a disc at him near the breezeway this fall, said out-of-the-blue attacks are a risk he and many of his colleagues have been forced to endure going to work in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

“I nearly walked into a shooting between shows last April,” he said.

Broadway musicians said random attacks are a risk they face these days going to work in Midtown Manhattan.

“We’re [at the theater] a lot — we go in six days a week — so you’re putting yourself in harm’s way a lot. Something is probably going to happen.”

One 57-year-old Broadway viola player tore into the state’s 2019 bail reform law, which limited the crimes for which judges could set bail.

“[Bail reform] definitely feeds into this, no question,” said the veteran musician, who in the wake of the recent attacks is looking into getting a Taser or pepper spray.

A second musician was attacked twice in the past year outside the Minskoff Theatre, with one goon trying to steal his instrument. J.C. Rice

“The guy who attacked the [66-year-old] violinist, he’s got a rap sheet a mile long, and every time he assaulted somebody, he was back out on the street. They don’t lock people up.”

Local 802 President Sara Cutler raged that the Nederlander rejected the union’s request to hire uniformed security to monitor the breezeway, which the union believed would better deter would-be assailants.

Nederlander claimed hiring and stationing uniformed guards around the Minskoff Theatre would result in fewer city cops being assigned to the area, Cutler said.

“Security needs to be visible to people walking by, because if it’s not, it doesn’t serve as much of a deterrent,” she said, adding that security needs to be “substantially increased at every theater.”

Nederlander and Disney did not respond to request for comment.  

Additional reporting by Tina Moore and Johnny Oleksinski.