`Spider-Man’ stunt goes awry; is show in peril?

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NEW YORK (AP) - Broadway might need a superhero to save the new Spider-Man musical. “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” the most expensive production in Broadway history, suffered its fourth accident in a month when a stuntman playing the web-slinger fell about 30 feet into a stage pit during a preview Monday night. The safety tether that clips to his back failed to prevent the spill.

The performer, Christopher W. Tierney, was wheeled out of the Foxwoods Theatre on a stretcher, still in his costume, and taken by ambulance to Bellevue Hospital with minor injuries. He suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding, said a castmate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the musical.

An uncle in Florida, Michael Tierney, said when reached by phone Tuesday night that he had spoken with his nephew a few hours ago. “He sounded pretty good,” Tierney said, adding that his nephew was still at the hospital when he spoke with him.

In a statement, Actors’ Equity said investigators determined that the accident was caused by human error. It gave no details but said additional safety measures are being undertaken.

A state Department of Labor spokesman said the cause was under investigation.

The fall was the latest setback for the troubled, $65 million show.

Conceived by Tony-winning director Julie Taymor and U2’s Bono and The Edge, who wrote the music, “Spider-Man” has been more than eight years in the making. It has been plagued by delays, money woes and several other accidents, including one in which an actress suffered a concussion and another in which a performer broke his wrists in an aerial stunt. Its official opening has been postponed twice, to early February.

The huge costs _ a 41-member cast, 18 orchestra members, complicated sets and 27 daring aerial stunts, including a battle between two characters over the audience _ mean the 1,928-seat theater will have to virtually sell out every show for several years just to break even. The weekly running bill has been put as high as $1 million. (Tickets are $67.50 to $135 for weekday performances, $67.50 to $140 on weekends.)

A spokesman for “Spider-Man,” Rick Miramontez, said in a statement that new safety measures ordered by the government after the latest accident have been adopted. Wednesday’s matinee was canceled, but Wednesday night’s show will go on, Miramontez said. (No performance had been scheduled for Tuesday.)

Leo Rosales, spokesman for the New York Department of Labor, said the show’s producers had not yet presented new safety protocols and would do so on Wednesday. If the measures were inadequate, he said, the state won’t let the show perform the complicated aerial maneuvers.

“If it takes longer, it will need to take longer,” he said of the show’s timing. “We need to be satisfied.”

Taymor, the director, said in a statement: “An accident like this is obviously heartbreaking for our entire team and, of course, to me personally. I am so thankful that Chris is going to be alright and is in great spirits. Nothing is more important than the safety of our Spider-Man family and we’ll continue to do everything in our power to protect the cast and crew.”

One audience member who attended Monday’s performance, Brian Lynch, said he knew of the previous mishaps and still wanted to come.

“I was making jokes about it earlier in the day,” said Lynch, visiting from Hollywood, Calif. “I said if anyone got hurt I was ready to jump in and help out. I never thought it would happen, I thought they probably worked it all out. I really didn’t think it would happen like it did. It was pretty horrific.”

The accident happened during the show’s big finale, when the Green Goblin drops Mary Jane and Spider-Man leaps to her rescue.

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