NEW YORK — Actors in Broadway’s troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark were back in rehearsal Wednesday afternoon, an indication that the show will go on despite a stunt double’s serious injury from a 30-foot plunge into a stage pit.
The show’s Tony-winning director, Julie Taymor, said when reached on her cellphone at Foxwoods Theatre that she couldn’t talk because of the rehearsal. Asked if authorities had given “Spider-Man” the go-ahead to resume performances, she said, “I think so.”
Wednesday’s matinee was cancelled as producers met with state labour officials to present new safety procedures. Officials did not immediately return calls for comment.
Christopher W. Tierney, the show’s main aerialist playing the superhero, was undergoing back surgery Wednesday for injuries suffered during Monday’s fall, which occurred just before the end of the show. The safety tether that clips to his back failed to prevent the spill.
The much-anticipated production, teaming The Lion King creator Taymor with musicians Bono and The Edge of U2, has had a rocky route to Broadway. There have already been three injuries among those involved in the stunt-filled, $65 million production, and its official Broadway opening has twice been postponed. Now in previews, the latest opening date was expected to be in February.
Tierney’s brother, Patrick Tierney, said his brother would be released from the hospital Friday or Saturday and would complete his recovery from surgery and the injuries at home in New Hampshire.
“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.”
Tierney, who was leaving for New York later Wednesday to visit his brother, said Christopher Tierney’s injury has been very hard on the family. As unhappy as they are with the “Spider-Man” production, he credits it with getting his brother “in the best shape of his life” before the accident.
“I have spoken with him and he’s in as good spirits as he can be,” Tierney said. He said his brother is expected to make a full recovery, and when he does, “I’m sure he’ll be back doing the same thing he’s been doing.”
Christopher Tierney, who appeared in the national tour of “Moving Out” and in “Dirty Dancing” in Toronto, performs stunts for the roles of Spider-Man and the villains Meeks and Kraven the Hunter. The cable to his harness apparently snapped, said a castmate who spoke on condition of anonymity because the performer was not authorized to speak publicly about the show.
Some Broadway actors have expressed concern about the safety of the “Spider-Man” cast and crew, given that they’re performing acrobatic stunt work that needs to be repeated eight times a week.
“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.”
Alan Krach, a theatregoer from Doylestown, Penn., held an exchanged ticket outside Foxwoods Wednesday after the matinee he had expected to see was postponed. That’s happened twice to him now, and he’s missed two days of work. He got a new ticket for a Saturday.
“I see as many shows as possible, and the truth of the matter is, this has all the makings of a very memorable show,” Krach said. Reports of the injuries haven’t changed his interest, “as long as they don’t fall on me.”
However, he added, “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Richie Wood, a 33-year-old administrative assistant who went to the theatre’s box office on Wednesday, said he wanted a ticket because he didn’t think the show would be around much longer.
“I don’t want to see people get hurt but it piques my interest,” he said. “I like train wrecks. I would actually love to go in and have them have to close the show” midway, he said.
The production has been under investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration since Nov. 2 at the request of the state Labor Department, OSHA said. That federal investigation will continue as a result of the latest incident.
OSHA has investigated other theatre incidents in New York City, but none in recent history appeared to be related to incidents that occurred during the actual production, a spokesman said.
Most OSHA investigations involving theatres have dealt with accidents during off-hours, such as one during the Christmas season at Radio City Music Hall in 1995, when an employee tripped over footlights and fell 23 feet into the orchestra pit while pushing back the curtain during a pre-show rehearsal.
State investigators weren’t sure whether the equipment, the rigging or the performer caused the fourth accident in the troubled show. Actors’ Equity Association called it human error, but Leo Rosales, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor, said the cause was under investigation.
Conceived by Taymor and Bono and The Edge, who wrote the music, “Spider-Man” has been more than eight years in the making. It has been plagued by delays, money woes and three other accidents, including one in which an actress suffered a concussion and another in which a performer broke his wrists in an aerial stunt.
The huge 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 theatre 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 $67.50 to $135 for weekday performances, $67.50 to $140 on weekends.)
The first preview on Nov. 28 did not go well. The musical had to be halted five times because of technical glitches, and actress Natalie Mendoza, who plays Spider-Man’s evil love interest Arachne, was hit in the head by a rope and suffered a concussion. She was sidelined for two weeks.