December 23, 2010 / 12:25 AM / 8 years ago

Officials order new safety measures for "Spider-Man"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The beleaguered “Spider-Man” musical canceled its performance on Wednesday in order to put in place new safety measures for its complicated stage maneuvers, the show’s publicists said.

The show was stopped after New York state safety inspectors and producer and director Julie Taymor agreed on Wednesday to additional safety measures after a leading stuntman was rushed to hospital when he fell from a high platform during a performance earlier this week.

It was the fourth injury to an actor in the $65 million musical, causing the inspectors to force new rules on the production that require a second stagehand and stage manager to back up all of the show’s 38 stunts involving harnesses and ropes.

Much of the ambitious production’s cost has been devoted to its hi-tech effects, unprecedented on Broadway, with actors flying through the air and at times over the audience.

“All of these accidents are a result of safety and health systems failures,” Maureen Cox, Director of Safety and Health for the New York State Department of Labor, told reporters.

A spokesman for the show, whose full title is “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and which has music written by U2’s Bono and The Edge, said the actors and crew were currently practicing the new measures. New performances were due to resume on Thursday and all ticket-holders for the canceled performance would receive refunds.

The cancellation of Wednesday’s show was the latest setback for the musical whose official opening date has been delayed several times with a latest date of February 7. Early in development, the show was plagued by financial and technical issues, before finally making it into previews. Ticket sales nevertheless have been strong, so far.

The incident involving the stuntman, Christopher Tierney, occurred when the aerialist was performing as a stunt double for the masked “Spider-Man” character. He plunged off the platform during a tense moment in one of the final scenes seven minutes before the end of Monday night’s performance.

Audience members said they heard a thud while a fellow actress on stage appeared to scream and the audience went quiet while the stage was blacked out.

Cox said the investigation into why Tierney fell and whether the production had broken any safety codes was continuing, but the show and inspectors agreed in the meantime to the broader safety measures.

“At this point, we are satisfied that they have put in the appropriate controls,” said Cox. “If they are not comfortable and haven’t got everything in place, we have agreed that they wouldn’t go, and so apparently that is the position that they are in right now.”

editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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