Broadway 'Spider-Man' Stunt Double Falls to Stage

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

NEW YORK (AP) - The troubled Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn
Off the Dark" was plagued by its fourth accident since it began previews last month when a performer doing an aerial stunt fell about 30 feet, fire officials said.

Firefighters were called to the Foxwoods Theatre at about 10:45 p.m. Monday after the 31-year-old performer fell near the end of the latest preview performance. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital with minor injuries, police said.

Police did not release the actor's name, but a performer in the show identified him as Christopher Tierney. The performer spoke on condition of anonymity because the performer was not authorized to
speak publicly about the accident.

A nurse at Bellevue Hospital said that a Christopher Tierney was
admitted and was in stable condition, but would not provide
details.

Tierney is the show's main aerialist and performs stunts for the
roles of Spider-Man, and the villains Meeks and Kraven.

The cable to Tierney's harness snapped during a scene in which
Spider-Man rescues his love interest, Mary Jane, the performer said. It was unclear if Tierney was properly harnessed when the cable snapped. The performer said the show's actors are responsible
for hooking themselves up to harnesses used for aerial stunts.

Christine Bord of Clinton, N.Y., was sitting behind a perch on the balcony. The actors who fly over the audience stop on that small ramp.

"It looks like part of the New York City skyline ... like a building and Spider-Man was up on the top of that ... ramp," she said. "The actress who was playing Mary Jane came off of that at the bottom. In the scene, of course, Spider-Man was supposed to come down and we're assuming save Mary Jane at the end of the scene but instead he came flying down and he just slid right off the bottom of that ramp into the pit below and came tumbling down into the stage.

"He was being held up by a wire and you could see at the end of the wire there was maybe a weight or something that kind of came
following after him," Bord said. "And then after they both came down, it was just silent and you started to hear people screaming in the pit."

"A voice yelled, `Someone call 911!' Then there was a silence," another audience member, fashion blogger Mariana Leung, wrote on the website NearSay.com. "A minute later, the stage was still dark. Then there was an announcement that the show would be delayed. A few minutes later, a second announcement that the performance would not continue. The lights came up."

Leung said the "shocked audience" exited the theater slowly and many stayed to see if the actor was OK. She said he was carried out to the ambulance still in costume.

The production has been under investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for several weeks, according to the agency.

"It's certainly going to be continuing as a result of the latest incident," said John Chavez, an OSHA spokesman. Chavez would not comment further on the investigation, but said a typical probe would involve inspecting the workplace, interviewing employers, workers and examining equipment and record-keeping to determine whether federal safety standards are being violated.

A spokesman for "Spider-Man," Rick Miramontez, said an announcement would be made later Tuesday regarding the refund/exchange policy for Monday night's aborted performance. There is no performance Tuesday night, which had always been
scheduled as a dark night, Miramontez said.

Actress Natalie Mendoza, who plays Spider-Man's evil love interest Arachne and herself was injured during the show's first preview last month, posted a Twitter message asking people to pray for the actor.

"Please pray with me for my friend Chris, my superhero who quietly inspires me everyday with his spirit. A light in my heart went dim tonight."

Miramontez said the fall happened about seven minutes before the end of the performance, and the show was stopped.

"All signs were good as he was taken to the hospital for observation," Miramontez said.

Maria Somma, a spokeswoman for Actors' Equity Association, said the union was "working with management and the Department of Labor to ensure that performances will not resume until back-up safety measures are in place.."

On Friday, the show's lead producer Michael Cohl delayed the show's official opening for the second time, pushing it back 27 days, from Jan. 11 to Feb. 7.

In a statement that day, Cohl said, "The creative team is implementing truly exciting changes throughout the preview process.
Due to some unforeseeable setbacks, most notably the injury of a
principal cast member, it has become clear that we need to give the
team more time to fully execute their vision."

The $65 million musical was conceived by Tony Award-winning director and co-writer Julie Taymor and U2's Bono and The Edge, who wrote the music. More than eight years in the making, delays and
money woes have plagued the show's launch. Three other accidents have injured actors, including one who had both his wrists broken
while practicing an aerial stunt.

The show's massive 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 priced from $67.50-$135 for weekday performances and $67.50-$140 for weekend performances.)

The first preview on Nov. 28 did not go well. The musical had to be halted five times because of technical glitches and Mendoza was hit in the head by a rope and suffered a concussion. Her injury would eventually keep her sidelined for two weeks.

The show - whose costs easily dwarf Broadway's last costliest show, the $25 million "Shrek The Musical" - may be about a comic-book hero, but it has now itself become easy fodder for comics.

Online, where parodies by "Saturday Night Live" and "Conan" poking fun of the musical's early technical problems had recently been eagerly passed around, the tone shifted Tuesday from jokey schadenfreude to mild outrage.

"Becoming a bit of a joke - a bad one - but a joke," wrote Dan Truong, a Toronto photographer, on Twitter.

An actor from TV's "Modern Family," Jesse Tyler Ferguson, used sarcasm to hint at the grisly nature of the accident-prone production.

"I'm torn between wanting to see `Spiderman' on Broadway and not wanting to see someone literally die doing musical theater," he said.

TV personality Dave Holmes said if "Spider-man" makes it out of previews, "it will be the leading cause of death in the state of New York."

The reactions to the cast's apparent physical peril suggested the musical may have more than opening kinks to work out if it to
continue. "I'm going to see Spiderman and I'm scared," said Kathleen Nolan of New York.

Still, a trickle of ticket-buyers appeared at the Foxwoods box office Tuesday morning. The accident did not stop Yumeho Asai, 20,
of Gifu, Japan, from buying a ticket. She is studying musical theater herself. "I'm just so interested in the technical aspects," she said.

Justin Waldman, 17, of Toronto, hadn't heard about the show's accidents, but said it wouldn't affect buying a ticket.

"I like Spider-Man and I like U2, so I think the combination of the two would be a good mix," he said.


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