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Spider-Man Broadway musical looks like turn off

There was no resting on laurels for the cast and crew of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark yesterday after a first preview performance on Sunday night of the most expensive and elaborate musical ever attempted on Broadway brought tales of actors dangling above and audience twiddling thumbs below.

New shows are not usually reviewed until the official opening night which is in the New Year. But the newspapers could not contain their curiosity and bought tickets for reporters to gauge audience reaction if not to write reviews.

Though some almost did. "Not even Spider-Man could avert this disaster. Last night's opening preview... was an epic flop," said the New York Post. "High-tech gadgetry went completely awry amid a dull score and baffling script."

Perfecting the aerial stunts, which involve sending performers zooming at high speed over the audience without a net, was the last great challenge of director Julie Taymor and her technical team. In final rehearsals two fliers were hurt, one breaking both his wrists.

Glitches brought the show to a standstill no fewer than five times on Sunday, once for six minutes when stage managers were seen struggling to grab the foot of Spider-Man who had been launched from the stage towards the audience balcony but got stuck.

One ticket-holder eventually lost her patience and shouted: "I don't know how everyone else feels, but I feel like a guinea pig today – I feel like it's a dress rehearsal." But The New York Times said her interruption drew boos from more patient members of the audience.

The show – music by Bono and The Edge – has cost a reported $60m (£38m) to put on and will need a long run to recoup the producers' investment.