- Associated Press - Thursday, December 23, 2010

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

Leo Rosales, spokesman for the state Department of Labor, said the show’s producers would check in with the department later Thursday to confirm they had put into place all the protocols they had promised on Wednesday. That confirmation was mandatory before the show could go forward with all 38 planned aerial maneuvers, he said.

“We agreed with what they delivered to us — the safety measures and protocols that they’re going to implement,” Rosales said. “Now it’s up to them to implement it. We need that confirmation from them that yes, they have implemented all the safety protocols and procedures.”

Wednesday night’s performance of the $65 million musical 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

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.

Maureen Cox, director of safety and health for the department of labor, said the investigation is continuing into 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.”

Actor Adam Pascal, who had tweeted that Taymor “should be charged with assault” after the latest accident, said Wednesday night that he was just joking about that but that the show shouldn’t continue until safety issues are addressed. Pascal was in “Aida” several years ago when he and co-star Heather Headley fell 15 feet after a lift gave out. He said that after he fell in “Aida” the gag was cut from the show and he never felt unsafe again.

Taymor said the safety of the cast and crew on “Spider-Man” was important.

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.”

Outside the theater on Wednesday, lead actors Reeve Carney and Patrick Page, who respectively portray Spider-Man and his nemesis Green Goblin, signed programs and assured fans that the show would go on. Fans and passers-by shouted out “Be safe!”

Carney said called Tierney’s fall “an unfortunate accident” but was confident that performances would resume.

“I’ve been at this a long time and everyone else has. I have faith that it’ll go forward, he said.

“Accidents are horrible but they happen on every show,” Page said. “We feel very safe and very cared for by our director and producer.”

The disappointment of ticket holders, many of whom learned about the Wednesday night cancellation only upon their arrival, was tempered by their concerns about safety.

Mary Kelly, who drove up with three friends from Sayreville, N.J., said a Nov. 11 show she had hoped to see had also been canceled, and that she won’t try to see another one until the production is fixed.

“I’m concerned about the cast’s safety and also the audience’s,” she said.


Associated Press writers John Carucci, Jake Coyle and Samantha Gross in New York, and AP writer Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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