- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Broadway might need a superhero to save the new Spider-Man musical.

The troubled, big-budget “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” was hit by its fourth accident since it began previews last month when a stuntman playing the skyscraper-scaling superhero fell about 30 feet into a stage pit during a performance Monday night. The safety tether that clips to his back failed to prevent the spill.

The performer, identified by a fellow cast member as 31-year-old Christopher 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 the castmate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the musical.

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


The fall was the latest setback for the $65 million show, easily the most expensive production in Broadway history.

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 three other accidents _ including one in which an actress suffered a concussion, and another in which a performer broke his wrists while practicing an aerial stunt. Its official premiere 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.)

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.

“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.”

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