Spider-Man will resume with new safety measures

2010-12-23 08:53

The curtain will go up again today 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 Department of Labour said it was satisfied the producers of the $65 million (about R440 million) musical had made the necessary adjustments.

Last night’s performance was cancelled 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 were put on properly.

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

The show had been in previews for a month, and its official Broadway opening was twice 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 nine metres into a stage pit, despite a safety harness that should have prevented the spill. Tierney was scheduled for back surgery yesterday, his brother Patrick said.

The announcement that last night’s sold-out performance wouldn’t take place came just three hours before showtime at the Foxwoods Theatre. Yesterday’s matinee performance had been cancelled 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 state Department of Labour.

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

Cox said the investigation was continuing into what went wrong in Tierney’s accident and who was to blame.
Investigators said they were 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 expressed concern about the safety of the Spider-Man cast and crew, given that they were performing acrobatic stunt work that needed 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 yesterday 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 nearly five metres 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.

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

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