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Spider-Man Strikes: Broadway's Bone-Breaking Musical

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Congratulations to the good people over at Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” who have managed to go a full two weeks without injuring a cast member. Another week or two and actors should be able to walk by the Foxwoods Theatre without having to worry about breaking a hip through sheer proximity to the production.

The casualty count on “Spider-Man” was raised to three earlier this month when Natalie Mendoza, who plays the character Arachne, was forced to miss multiple performances due to a concussion she suffered during the first preview. Prior to that, one actor had broken a toe and another both wrists when the show was in its rehearsal phase. A recent fawning New York magazine profile of “Spider-Man” director Julie Taymor (in case you’re wondering just how fawning, the piece begins by describing Taymor as being “Uplit like a Renaissance virgin by the glow of her iPad”) characterized those injuries as “relatively minor.” Two broken wrists are indeed minor relative to the nicks and dings one suffers playing professional football or collecting footage for Shark Week. But we’re going to go out on a limb and say that they’re noteworthy for Broadway theater.

Since Mendoza’s injury, “Spider-Man” and its much ballyhooed, occasionally derided stunts have been given the green light by the New York State Department of Labor. A safety investigation by the department in November had caused the beginning of previews to be put off by two weeks, following multiple delays in the months prior. But things now appear to be so safe that New York Post columnist Michael Riedel has taken to taunting the show for its book instead of its penchant for sending actors to the emergency room.

Injuries are nothing new in the theater, but they are becoming more common. As Back Stage pointed out last month, recent data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicated an increase in U.S. work-related injuries to “performance artists”: up from 4,100 in 2008 to 5,800 in 2009. The issue has garnered plenty of attention recently thanks to the off-script drama surrounding “Spider-Man.” But as the focus shifts from “Will ‘Spider-Man’ kill a performer?” to “Will ‘Spider-Man’ kill at the box office?,” it’s important to remember that the price of staging a multimillion-dollar musical isn’t just measured in money spent, but also in bones broken.

Pictured: The Amazing Spider-Man (Image: Marvel Entertainment)

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