- 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.

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.

James J. Claffey, Jr., president of Local One IATSE _ the stage employees union _ said Thursday in a statement that his group “is confident in the additional safety protocols.”

“‘Spider-Man’ is the most challenging musical production in the history of Broadway,” he said. “For all the advanced technical equipment used in today’s Broadway shows, the shows are still performed and run by human beings. The human element cannot be taken out of live theater, and the Broadway theater is a strictly choreographed system of actors, stage managers, technicians and machines.”

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.”

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