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

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“But then he just kept falling, it seemed, and then everything went dark and then people, crew ran up to the stage and we heard the girl playing Mary Jane screaming from the pit,” Lynch said.

“Spider-Man” might yet prevail. Other Broadway shows have struggled with getting their sets and stunts to work during previews, including “Mary Poppins,” whose house set went off track in 2006, and “Titanic,” which was plagued by numerous technical problems during a month of previews in 1997. Both were hits.

Mary Martin, who starred many times in productions of “Peter Pan,” had numerous accidents, “beauts,” as she flew about the stage. A year before she died, in a 1989 interview with the Chicago Tribune, she recalled smashing into a concrete wall during a rehearsal as she was trying to show the children in the cast that they shouldn’t fear being in the air.

“It was like a cannon shot,” Martin said. “I thought, `My God, these kids will never fly now,’ never thinking that my arm might be broken. So we went right back and I said, `Now we’re going to fly it like it should be,’ and we did, and it went perfectly.”

But “Spider-Man” _ whose costs beat the previous most expensive Broadway show, the $25 million “Shrek The Musical” _ has reached a dangerous level of attention: fodder for comics. Online, where parodies by “Saturday Night Live” and “Conan” poking fun of the musical’s early technical problems had recently been eagerly passed around, the tone shifted Tuesday from jokey schadenfreude to mild outrage.

An actor from TV’s “Modern Family,” Jesse Tyler Ferguson, wisecracked: “I’m torn between wanting to see `Spider-Man’ on Broadway and not wanting to see someone literally die doing musical theater.”

The production _ supervised by Juniper Street Productions, a management firm that has overseen such Broadway and Las Vegas productions as “The Producers” and “Promises, Promises” _ has been under investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration since Nov. 2 at the request of the state Labor Department, according to OSHA.

“It’s certainly going to be continuing as a result of the latest incident,” OSHA spokesman John Chavez said.

The state Department of Labor inspected 37 separate aerial maneuvers planned for the show at rehearsals in November and approved the use of all equipment in the show, Rosales said. “From what we saw back then,” he said, the maneuvers appeared to be safe.

Miramontez said OSHA, Actors’ Equity and New York State labor officials met with the “Spider-Man” company on Tuesday to discuss additional safety measures, and “it was agreed that these measures would be enacted immediately.”

Tierney, who appeared in the national tour of “Moving Out” and in “Dirty Dancing” in Toronto, is the show’s main aerialist and performs stunts for the roles of Spider-Man and the villains Meeks and Kraven the Hunter. The castmate who spoke on condition of anonymity said the cable to Tierney’s harness snapped. But one special-effects expert raised the possibility that the rope was not hooked up securely.

Scott Fisher, president of Fisher Technical Services Inc. of in Las Vegas, which builds equipment for aerial stunts for the show, said the rope was supposed to be clipped to the stage at one end and the performer’s back at the other.

“The stage crew would have been responsible for making the connection for hooking him up,” Fisher said. “The actor is responsible for making the final check that he’s good to go. It’s sort of like packing your own parachute.”

He said the script called for the stuntman to lurch forward at the end of a ramp as if leaping to Mary Jane’s rescue. “He runs and stops and freezes in a position that you wouldn’t normally be able to hold unless you had a little support from behind him,” Fisher said. “If that’s not hooked up and he leans forward, he’s going to fall forward.”

Fisher said the rope was not part of his company’s onstage flight systems. But he said it was unlikely to have snapped: It is a 10,000-pound line.

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