Tony winner Laura Benanti has revealed that she broke her neck while starring on Broadway at age 22 — and due to pressure, she continued to work through the pain until a doctor said she’d be paralyzed if she didn’t get surgery immediately.
Two decades ago, Benanti says she was a ‘good girl’ who didn’t want to cause problems or jeopardize her career by speaking up — even when she broke multiple bones and was in ‘intense pain’ from powering through injuries.
These days, the 42-year-old actress and singer is a Broadway superstar — and, in her words, a ‘grown-a*** woman’ — and she’s refusing to stay silent about her experiences any longer.
Tony Award winner Benanti, 42, revealed the injuries she sustained on set of a show when she was 22. Benanti cracked a rib, sprained a wrist, and then broke her neck but was told by a theater doctor that it was just herniated discs
Starring role: Though she didn’t name the show, in 2002 she starred in Into the Woods
‘When I was 22 years old I broke my neck,’ Benanti began an Instagram post on Friday, captioning of a photo of herself looking upset.
‘I was in a Broadway show that required two pratfalls (one, from a moving staircase), 8 times a week,’ she went on.
‘I was not an acrobat. I was not even a dancer. I was a 22 year old girl who didn’t know how to say “this doesn’t feel safe to me.” I was a good girl. A nice girl. I wanted to be liked. So I did it. For months and months.
‘I cracked a rib. I sprained a wrist. And then finally I broke my neck,’ she said.
But instead of going to the emergency room, the producers took her to a theater doctor who said what they wanted to hear.
‘I was sent by the producers to their doctor who told me I had herniated discs and should do physical therapy. I did that three time’s a week for months. I got worse. I finally had to leave the show.’
Flashback: When she left, people involved with the production spread rumors that she was ‘difficult’ and lazy.’ She said she was a ‘good girl’ at 22 (pictured) and didn’t want to complain
Rude: When she left, people involved with the production spread rumors that she was ‘difficult’ and lazy’
Though Benanti didn’t name the show she was working on when she sustained the injuries, she was 22 and 2002 — when she was starring in Into the Woods as Cinderella.
An October 8, 2002 article from Playbill reported on her leaving and her understudy taking over.
‘Laura Benanti is out of Into the Woods, but questions of how long she will be gone and what exactly has happened to the popular young star have no official answers,’ read the piece. ‘Rumors have circulated, naming a neck or back injury as the thing that knocked Broadway’s Cinderella off her feet.’
But apparently, there were other rumors — namely, that Benanti was hard to work with.
‘This was before social media so when the rumors swirled (perpetuated by many involved with the production) that I was just difficult or lazy or didn’t want to show up to work I had no recourse,’ she recalled.
Yikes: She was still wearing a neck brace when she started rehearsals for her next show, Nine, in 2003
She was still wearing a neck brace when she started rehearsals for her next show, Nine, in 2003.
She said she thought that if she ‘didn’t have to throw myself to the ground 16 time’s a week I could do the show — but realized soon that shouldn’t.
‘I lay on the ground completely unable to feel my body,’ she said. ‘I went to a surgeon who told me to do surgery immediately or I would be paralyzed. I did it. I went back into Nine 3 weeks later. Because I’m a good girl. A nice girl. A girl who wanted to be loved.
‘I still hurt every single day. I went back to the doctor. He told me I was fixed and my pain was a mental health issue. I believed him. Because I’m a nice girl. And he saved my life.
‘I lived in intense pain every single day for 7 years. I missed shows, perpetuating the idea that I was weak or problematic,’ she said.
Finally, she went to see a different surgeon, who had some bad news: Not only did her initial surgery not fix what was wrong, but it actually made it worse.
Speaking out: Benanti said she never spoke up or complained because she was a ‘good girl’ but she realizes now she is a ‘grown-a** woman’ and she’s angry
‘It cracked my vertebrae more and I required a second, incredibly invasive surgery that required months of recovery at my parents home. I lost a lot of my hair from the anesthesia,’ she said.
Benanti kept quiet about her ordeal for years, but she’s now tired of hiding it.
‘I have rarely spoken about this so directly,’ she said. Devoid of the humor required to make people comfortable.
‘I wake up every day with pain. And today I woke up angry. Because I’m not a nice girl anymore. I am a grown-a** woman,’ she said.
Benanti has nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in Into the Woods.
She has gone on to win the award for Gypsy in 2008, and was nominated again for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 2011 and She Loves Me in 2016.
Her other Broadway shows include The Sound of Music (1998-1999), Swing! (1999), The Violet Hour (2003), The Wedding Singer (2006), In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) (2009-2010) Meteor Shower (2017-2018), and My Fair Lady (2018-2019).
She’s also appeared in several TV shows including Nashville, Supergirl, The Detour, and Younger (pictured)
She’s also appeared in several TV shows including Nashville, Supergirl, The Detour, and Younger.
Benanti has spoken a bit about her broken neck before. In an interview with Talkin’ Broadway, she said that her neck was ‘always sore’ after she broke it.
‘I have fused vertebrae which means I have less movement and less mobility,’ she said. ‘I was misdiagnosed initially so I have arthritis and bone spurs. I went nine months with a mistreatment. Then I finally had surgery and now I’m okay.
‘It was very dangerous. I could have ended up paralyzed. I was very lucky that I was never jostled on the street. It was literally at a point that if someone pushed me too hard I could have ended up paralyzed.’
She said that it was really ‘hurtful’ that people were giving her grief about not showing up.
‘The people who want to rip you down said whatever they said, so I just wanted to push through.
‘Not only did I have neck pain, but they had to shove a tube down my throat. They went in through the front of my neck so my cords were incredibly swollen from just having neck surgery,’ she previously recalled
‘I had a serious injury and there was absolutely no way I could have done the show. I tried to. I tried to go back and do it but I physically couldn’t,’ she said.
‘My feeling was that it was unfair to the audience. If I’m out there limping and barely able to move my head, it’s a hundred dollars to see a show. That’s not fair.
‘Then I got the surgery three weeks before the first preview of Nine. I missed some shows because I had just gotten neck surgery.
‘Not only did I have neck pain, but they had to shove a tube down my throat. They went in through the front of my neck so my cords were incredibly swollen from just having neck surgery.
‘There were days in Nine when I couldn’t talk. I was so swollen in my neck and my throat that I couldn’t talk. What are you going to do then? I’m not going to go out there and talk “Unusual Way.” And you know what? I did the best that I could. I missed very little considering that I had just had a major life-altering surgery.’