“I knew that in the N.F.L. there were lots of injuries after the strike season, and I saw that when baseball returned there was an increase in the injured list,” said Dr. Michael Pitman, director of the Columbia center. “It became clear to me that musical theater performers are athletes, and they’re going to have the same problems getting back onstage because they’re not in good vocal health — they’re deconditioned and being asked to ramp up quickly.”
Mark Hunter-Hall, a physical therapy supervisor at the Harkness Center, said there is another factor to contend with: the aftereffects of Covid-19 for those performers who had bouts of the disease. “We do an injury assessment to pick up folks who had harsher respiratory symptoms that might need more work to address,” he said.
Clay, who will be starring as Elder Price on Broadway when “Mormon” resumes performances Nov. 5, said he had noticed changes in his body simply as a result of not performing. “I lost a fair amount of muscle mass — my abdomen does not look the same, and my arms don’t look the same,” he said. “And I was playing with the dog and getting winded now.”
The downtime affected his voice, too. On the day he learned “Mormon” was returning, he sang through the score in his apartment, and noticed strain. “It was a bit of a brutal wake-up call,” he said.
He sprang into action. He signed up for voice lessons, seeking to rebuild vocal stamina and technique. And, although unwilling to return to the gym because of potential coronavirus exposure, he supplemented outdoor running with weight training and core work in his apartment.
“I was way more nervous than excited, because I couldn’t shake the thought that I’ll never get back to where I was,” he said. “It wasn’t until we ran the whole show from beginning to end and I felt good that I was like, ‘OK, now I can see it, and I’m excited to keep pushing until we get there.’”
Luba Mason, a performer in “Girl From the North Country,” which returns Oct. 13, has started physical training, daily vocal exercises, and drum lessons, because she drums in the show. “Like many people, I had the 15-pound Covid on me,” she said. “It’s not about how I look — it’s really about stamina, about having the strength to do eight shows a week, six days a week.”