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'Spider-Man' went on without a hitch

"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" went on Thursday night without a hitch. After days of meetings about safety problems, the $65 million musical flew and danced and sang the way it was supposed to, considering that it is still a work in progress.

The injured Spider-Man was replaced by three different actors - one for flying, one for dancing and one for dialogue. Also, Natalie Mendoza, who suffered a concussion at the troubled-musical's first preview Nov. 28, was out again Thursday reportedly on what a spokesman for the company called "vocal rest." Mendoza was replaced by T.V. Carpio.

Before this show began, producer Michael Kohl and a co-producer Jeremiah Harris came on stage in blue jeans and rumbled sweaters to welcome everyone to the show's 19th preview and explained that there might be "some bumps in the road tonight." There were none.

The New York State Department of Labor cleared the production late Thursday afternoon. Joshua Kobak performed the flying maneuvers, Ari Loeb took over the dance parts and Kyle Perry spoke the lines formerly done by Christopher Tierney, who remains hospitalized after back surgery. Kohl said he came through with flying colors and will start rehab next week. All are stunt doubles for Reeve Carney, the actor who plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the most expensive, most technically complex musical in Broadway history.

While Loeb and Perry have been understudies throughout the show's long rehearsal and extended preview period, Kobak, entrusted with the perilous aerial work, joined the company just a month ago. Tierney is an accomplished dancer who toured in Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out," and Kobak is identified in his biography as a singer-songwriter who has had understudy roles in "American Idiot," "Tarzan" and Off-Broadway's moderately high-flying "Fuerza Bruta."

"Josh went through numerous fly auditions and he was a natural," said Rick Miramontez, spokesman for the show. "The show does not employ aerialists, just good dancers who know how to do this stuff."

Meanwhile Thursday, several members of the State Legislature got involved in the show's ongoing turmoil, calling for more far-reaching safety measures. "While we appreciate that 'Spider-Man' is pushing the envelope . . . workplace safety is not something that can be achieved by trial and error," said state Assemb. Rory Lancman, chairman of the subcommittee on workplace safety, at a news conference outside the theater at noon.

State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Prospect Heights), also at the news conference, announced he is proposing a bill that would call for the formation of a task force to analyze the safety of workers and audience members at the Foxwoods Theatre, where the show is appearing, and presumably other Broadway theaters, though the details have not been fully hashed out, he said.

With Joseph V. Amodio


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