"Spider-Man" Actor in Serious Condition After Fall to Stage

Performer plunges into pit beneath stage after harness snaps

Wednesday, Dec 22, 2010  |  Updated 6:56 AM EDT
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Yet another injury on stage has Broadway's new

Yet another injury on stage has Broadway's new "Spider-Man" musical caught in a web of blame and Federal investigators demanding safer conditions.

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The troubled Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" was plagued by its fourth accident since it began previews last month when an actor performing an aerial stunt fell about 30 feet, fire officials said.

Amid the fall-out over the latest incident (video below), Actors Equity Association said they would ensure the performances did not continue until appropriate safety measures were implemented.   It also said that the cause of the accident appears to be "human error."

In a statement, the union said they are "working with management and the Department of Labor to ensure that performances will not resume until back-up safety measures are in place." 

Later, a spokesman for the musical said the Spider-Man company had met with the union, the labor department and the city's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and determined that those safety "measures would be enacted immediately."

In the meantime, spokesman Rick Miramontez said Wednesday's matinee would be rescheduled, but the evening performance and all subsequent performances would proceed as planned.

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

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.

Christopher Tierney was listed in serious condition at Bellevue Hospital, officials said.

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.

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."

Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for the production, 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.

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, with both Conan O'Brien and "Saturday Night Live" spoofing it.

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