`Spider-Man’ will resume with new safety measures

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NEW YORK (AP) - The curtain will go up again Thursday on “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” after the producers of the accident-plagued Broadway musical agreed to new safety precautions to prevent another fall like the one that left a stuntman seriously injured.

The state Labor Department said it is satisfied the producers of the $65 million musical have made the necessary adjustments.

Wednesday night’s performance was canceled so that the cast and crew could rehearse the new precautions, which include a requirement that a second person ensure that the harnesses used by performers during the show’s high-flying stunts have been put on properly.

The much-anticipated production, teaming “Lion King” creator Julie Taymor with songwriters Bono and The Edge of U2, has had a rocky route to Broadway. Already the most expensive show in Broadway history, it has been plagued by technical glitches, money woes and three other injuries, including a concussion and two broken wrists.

The show has been in previews for a month, and its official Broadway opening has twice been postponed. It is now set for early February.

The fourth accident came Monday night, when Christopher W. Tierney, a stunt double playing Spider-Man, plunged about 30 feet into a stage pit, despite a safety harness that should have prevented the spill. Tierney was scheduled for back surgery Wednesday, his brother Patrick said.

The announcement that Wednesday night’s sold-out performance wouldn’t take place came just three hours before showtime at the Foxwoods Theatre. Wednesday’s matinee performance had been canceled earlier.

“At this point we are satisfied they have put in place the appropriate controls,” said Maureen Cox, director of safety and health for the New York State Department of Labor.

State officials had no authority to close the show but could have disallowed the heart-stopping stunts that make it special. The musical has 38 separate moves in which actors are put in harnesses to go up in the air.

Cox said the investigation is continuing into precisely what went wrong in Tierney’s accident and who is to blame. Investigators said they are looking into whether it was caused by equipment failure or human error.

“We’re also making sure that the actors and the stagehands know that if everything is not right, they can say, `We’re not going to go,’” Cox said.

Some Broadway actors have expressed concern about the safety of the “Spider-Man” cast and crew, given that they are performing acrobatic stunt work that needs to be repeated eight times a week, some of it unprecedented on a stage.

“Perhaps they should have thought twice about what some of these stunts were,” said Marc Kudisch, whose most recent Broadway credit was in the musical “9 to 5.” “It’s not like doing a stunt in a movie.”

Patrick Tierney said his brother would be released from the hospital Friday or Saturday and would complete his recovery at home in New Hampshire. He said his brother is in “as good spirits as he can be,” is expected to make a full recovery and will surely return to the stage.

“He’s a dancer. He landed on his feet. If he didn’t land on his feet, he wouldn’t be with us,” said Patrick Tierney, 24, of Plaistow, N.H. “He has a strong body and an amazing attitude.”

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