'Spider-Man' on Broadway Has Tough Week

By Mark Kennedy
|  Sunday, Feb 13, 2011  |  Updated 8:03 PM EDT
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'Spider-Man' on Broadway Has Tough Week

Producers of the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark" will likely be looking forward to Monday: They'll be happy to turn their back on a torrid week.

The $65 million musical was loudly booed on Monday night by professional critics impatient by the endless delays with the stunt-heavy show. Breaking with tradition, reviewers weighed in while the show is still in previews, calling it "a shrill, insipid mess" (The Washington Post) and likely to "rank among the worst" musicals of all time (The New York Times).

Then on Thursday night, as if to prove the Julie Taymor-directed show isn't yet fully ready with about a month to go before its official opening, another technical hiccup left actors playing the Green Goblin and Spider-Man hanging helplessly over the audience for several minutes.

Now comes word that the state Department of Labor issued two safety violations against the Broadway musical. A state official confirmed Sunday that the citations were issued for a trio of accidents that injured performers last year.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The violations were first reported by The New York Times.

No fines have been assessed in connection with the citations, but state labor officials will be conducting unannounced inspections.

Show spokesman Rick Miramontez told the AP in an e-mail early Sunday: "The production is in full compliance of DOL guidelines and will continue to work with state officials to maintain the highest safety standards at all times."

A spokeswoman for the Actors' Equity Association, a labor union that represents more than 48,000 actors and stage managers, declined to comment Sunday.

The effect of all this bad news may be evident when box office figures are announced Monday. But, so far, the musical's woes haven't hurt its weekly revenues, and it's enjoying a mostly sold-out run since beginning performances in November.

But four delays in its official launch, a record-breaking preview period and the fact that full prices are being charged at the box office prompted critics from Variety to the New York Post to see the show and give their assessments Monday night. They were not kind, lambasting the storytelling, the stunts and the music.

The show, which boasts songs by U2's Bono and The Edge, has generated news stories after sending several performers to the hospital, including Spider-Man actor Christopher Tierney, who fell 35 feet during a performance when a safety harness failed and suffered a skull fracture and cracked vertebrae.

The list of others hurt include Natalie Mendoza, a lead actress who dropped out after she suffered a concussion backstage, and earlier injuries to a few performers who suffered broken wrists and ankles as they were hurled at 40 mph over the orchestra seats.

After Tierney's tumble, the show was permitted to continue with its nearly 40 aerial stunts intact, but the Department of Labor added new safety measures. Among them: a requirement that a second person ensure the harnesses used by performers have been put on properly.

As for the delay in Thursday's show, producers blamed new safety protocols for the mishap. "The aerial mechanisms have been outfitted with state-of-the-art safety technology that automatically stops if a performer is even a tiny bit off-course," Miramontez said. "While the ultimate goal is to minimize these stoppages, the production is not going to do so at the risk of the cast."

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