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'Spider-Man' to Reopen Thursday After Going Dark for Safety Checks

By DNAinfo Staff on December 22, 2010 3:19pm  | Updated on December 23, 2010 8:05am

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — Wednesday night's performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was hastily canceled three hours before show time, following an actor's near-fatal fall Monday night.

Officials from the Department of Labor arrived at the theater at 10 a.m. and spent the day going over safety protocols with the staff, said Maureen Cox, Director of Safety and Health at the New York State Labor Department.

On Monday night, actor Christopher Tierney was seriously injured performing a high-flying stunt. The injury was the fourth serious mishap at the problem-plagued $60 million-plus production, which is currently in previews.

The incident prompted the cancellation of Wednesday’s 2 p.m. matinee, but producers had insisted the show would go on.

Kathy Crawford, 43, and mom Sharon, 70, visiting were Denver, have tickets to see the show Wednesday night.
Kathy Crawford, 43, and mom Sharon, 70, visiting were Denver, have tickets to see the show Wednesday night. "We're excited!" they said.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

"Wednesday evening's 8:00 p.m. show and all subsequent performances will proceed as scheduled," a statement on the show’s website read. 

But just before 5 p.m., staff posted a sign on the theater's doors announcing the evening's performance had been canceled, too.

"SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the New York State Department of Labor have agreed on the implementation of additional protocols which will be rehearsed today and this evening. As such, tonight's performance of SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has been cancelled," production spokesman Rick Miramontez, said in a statement.

He said performances would resume Thursday at 8 p.m.

Cox said Labor Department staff worked with the cast and crew all day to find ways to prevent a repeat of Monday's near-tragic performance and other injuries, which she blamed on "safety and health system failures."

She said the production had agreed to follow a new safety protocol for its 41 aerial stunts — which Cox said were the most elaborate she'd ever seen. From now on, one stagehand will latch an actor’s harness to the tether, and a second will verify that the harness is latched before giving the 'all clear' to a stage manager before an actor jumps.

Actors were encouraged to speak up whenever they felt uncomfortable with a stunt.

"At this point we’re satisfied that they have put in the appropriate [measures]," Cox said, adding that production staff had been "very responsive," to the changes.

"This should resolve the issues," she said.

Following the cancellation, cast members gathered in front of the theater to sign autographs for disappointed fans.

"I'm so sorry," actor Patrick Page, who plays the show's villain, the Green Goblin, said as he handed an autograph to Louis Esposito, 8, from Long Island.

"Hopefully they can get us another date," his dad, Lou, 47, said.

Reeve Carney, who plays Peter Parker, apologized to fans and said he's "always felt safe” on stage.

Page agreed. "I see the stuff that other people don't see. I see the measures being taken to keep people safe," he said.

News of the cancellations were met with disappointment by theater-goers who had been eager to catch the much-hyped show.

Orlando's Tara Soucie, 29, said she was sad to learn that the afternoon performance had been cancelled since the tickets she'd purchased were supposed to be a Christmas gift to her husband, Adam Soucie, 26.

"This is the whole reason we came to New York," said a disappointed Adam, adding that he hoped the show would still be running come anniversary time.

Washington Heights resident Michael Aman, had come to see the show to celebrate his 46th birthday.

"We were expecting to see a musical tonight," he said. But he wasn’t surprised.

"We heard what a mess it was," he said. "We’ve been calling it the 'Nascar' of musicals."

Leslie Martino, 50, who had driven all the way from Connecticut with her husband and three sons for the evening show, said the cancellation was a "bummer."

"Merry Christmas to us," she said, sadly.

Lisa Nicolaison, 24, another disappointed ticket-holder, said she had been looking forward to the performance for weeks and was frustrated that she’d schlepped all the way from New Jersey for nothing.

But she did warn her mom, Joyce, to prepare.

"I told her I was going to bring a helmet!" she said.

Others who lined up throughout the day Wednesday hoping to exchange their canceled tickets or book future dates, agreed the recent incidents hadn't changed their desire to see the show.

"The claims of danger always make something more interesting to watch," said Alex Furber, 23, also from Toronto, who was at the theater Wednesday morning trying to score tickets to the show, which is sold out through mid-January.

Still, he said, "I don’t want to see someone kill themselves, either."

New Jersey's Gary Johnson, 46, who works in Midtown, said his three teenage kids, who typically hate the theater, had been begging him to buy tickets since the injuries began.

"With all the excitement and the hoopla about the accidents, it's a must-see... After the last couple of days they're like, 'Dad, take me to Spider-Man! Please!'" he said.

Signs announcing the cancellation were posted on the doors of the Foxwoods Theater in Times Square hours before Wednesday evening's show.
Signs announcing the cancellation were posted on the doors of the Foxwoods Theater in Times Square hours before Wednesday evening's show.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

Journalist Kirsten Matthew, 38, who lives in Queens, said she’s not typically a big musical fan, but agreed the misfortune could be a draw.

"I’d quite enjoy it if someone would have an injury," she said, not joking. "It would be quite exciting. I’d be on the edge of my seat."

But Daniel Hrdlicka, 21, visiting from St. Louis, who was in the audience Monday night, described the frantic scene in which Tierney fell to the ground in a stunt-gone-wrong as "terrifying."

"A female voice was crying, yelling, carrying on. They said ‘Don’t move him! Don’t move him!'" Hrdlicka recalled.

Other than the fall, Hrdlicka said the show was "immensely forgettable,” but said he wasn’t surprised by the theater lines.

"I feel like it’s sort of the train wreck today," he said. "People want to see, 'Is it going to happen again?'"

But Brooklyn’s Al Hirschberg, 74, said he would not be among the gawkers.

His wife, Frances, sent him to the Foxwoods Theatre in Times Square Wednesday to get a refund for their tickets after the performance they were scheduled to see was canceled earlier in the preview run.

"My wife said she’s not going to risk it," said Hirschberg, who said she feared audience members might be injured next time around.

But while some have speculated the show’s days were numbered, one woman who works on the production refuted the rumors and insisted Wednesday the show would go on.

"We are all doing well. The shows going to go on because that's what we do," she said outside the stage door.

Actors Equity spokeswoman Maria Somma refused to comment on whether the union's members were concerned about conditions on the production, but said, "Safety is paramount and equity is insistent that that it's a safe environment for our members."

Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman John Chavez declined to comment on the show, citing an ongoing investigation.