Based on this trippy preview, we’d say probably.
This stage show opens July 19th in the UK, and arrives in America in 2012.
Based on this trippy preview, we’d say probably.
This stage show opens July 19th in the UK, and arrives in America in 2012.
Oh yeah, it’s on.
After being ousted from the directing chair of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the troubled Broadway show about the webslinger, director Julie Taymor kept a tight smile at the opening of the show. However, now the gloves are off and she’s suing the producers over her creative rights and unpaid royalties.
“As the lawsuit filed today makes clear, the defendants have violated Ms. Taymor’s creative rights as an author of ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,'” said Taymor’s lawyer, Charles Spada, in a statement. “Moreover, the producers have failed to compensate Ms. Taymor for their continued use of her work to date.”
Earlier this year, the Stage Director and Choreographers’ Society (SDC) filed an arbitration claim against the show’s producers over unpaid directing royalties to Taymor.
Taymor was replaced as director by Philip William McKinley, who removed some Taymor trademarks, including a chorus of geeks and the second act dramatics of a spider-woman named Arachne.
While no more drama is needed for the unbelievable Spider-Man musical saga—already ranging from sudden death to a rash of bizarre injuries—this is just a finishing touch of controversy.
Someday, we predict, someone will write an opera about the Spider-Man musical, which will be all about immensely talented egos, wasted money and mythic archetypes; it will be the Nixon in China for those days.
Seriously, how could you have predicted the scene when fucking BONO would have to step out in front of a theatrical group and take the reins as creative leader, saying they had to move forward without the director he himself had chosen? In case you missed it, all the rumors were true: Director Julie Taymor is leaving the show, director Philip McKinley — who has experience with both circuses and Hugh Jackman, making him well suited for the job– is coming in; Bono and the Edge are writing some new tunes, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is stepping in to explain what a superhero does, and the show will take a break for a few weeks to try to fix itself.
To imagine that a few weeks can mend what four years have been taken to make is a little incredible, but hey, it’s all about the imagination.
As the Times story above notes, it’s a huge fall for Taymor, whose film FRIDA was nominated for SIX Oscars, winning two. Regular readers know I love her, so I won’t bore you, but…something had to give:
According to four of her colleagues, Ms. Taymor boxed herself into a corner with the producers in the last few weeks by rebuffing their requests to allow outsiders to make changes to the show. She would not meet with some of them, and she did not act on suggestions for improvements; at one feedback session with the cast, some actors argued for strengthening the central love story between Peter Parker and M. J. Watson, but Ms. Taymor insisted, “It’s there.” The Edge, Bono and the producers also expected that she would make far-reaching changes in the show’s critically panned Act II, but after attending recent performances, they concluded that she lacked the objectivity to ruthlessly reshape the show.
Or as writer Nate Cosby tweeted: Spider-Man: Turn Out The Director
Yep, you read that right. Superhero Hype has the casting notice:
AEA 29-HOUR REHEARSED READING
Director: Julie Taymor
Music and Lyrics: Bono and The Edge of U2
Musical Supervisor: Teese Gohl
Book: Julie Taymor and Glen Berger
Producer: Hello Entertainment/David Garfinkle, Martin McCallum, Marvel Entertainment
Casting Director: Telsey + Company
Rehearsals: Begin 7/2/07 in NYC
Reading: 7/12/07 and 7/13/07
The notice includes casting calls for Peter Parker, MJ, J. Jonah, and…
[ARACHNE] Female, 20-35 years old, any ethnicity. A beautiful, boastful young woman turned into a spider for her hubris and lack of respect for the gods. She subsequently appears to Peter Parker and the audience as in turn a powerful spider-woman who comes from another time to inspire Peter; an otherworldly lover; a bride; a terrifying (and sexy) dark goddess of vengeance; a dance partner in a charged and violent spiders dance of death; and, finally, a lonely, fragile young woman. Possesses an ethereal, unique, gorgeous singing voice. Strong Celtic, Balkan style, e.g., Sinead O’Connor. Outside the box ideas are welcomed. Could be someone from the music industry.
Okay now, we are very VERY excited by this because Julie Taymor is one of the authentic geniuses of today. Long known for her visionary theater stagings, she actually made THE LION KING Broadway show an amazing post-modern multi-culti experience. TITUS ANDRONICUS was just radical, and her upcoming ACROSS THE UNIVERSE Beatles musical is supposed to be incredible…too incredible for the studio to even release. You can see the trailer here.
Of course, we haven’t even mentioned the idea of Bono and the Edge writing a Spidey musical.
“When a maaaaaaan must climb the towers,
He’s caught in a web, caught in a web…”
We can hear the hit single “When I look in your eyes, MJ” already.
Truly, this marks the beginning of a very special story for The Beat, one we will give our most specialest coverage.
Another version of Peter Parker was quietly boxed away today, with the announcement that Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark will be shutting down production next year. The most expensive production to ever hit Broadway – and one which became more expensive once the cast members started getting seriously injured seemingly every month – there are suggestions that the show may well return at some point in future, showcasing in Las Vegas.
About 10 years ago, when I ran a tiny item on a proposed Spider-Man musical with music by U2 on the old Comicon-com site, I had an idea it would be quite a story, but I had no idea it would be just about the craziest story in the history of Broadway. Now Glen Berger—who co-wrote the book with original director Julie Taymor before going behind her back to rewrite it as backers planned to ditch her from the production—has witten a tell-all about the making of the musical, which is still struggling to make money, even though it has had the most profitable houses in Broadway history. The show is just so expensive to mount that it has to take in more than $1 million a week to break even.
ICv2 has some thoughts on the show and the book and Berger, focusing on how Marvel disliked Taymor’s vision from the git-go:
Looming behind the changes to show is the powerful presence of Marvel Entertainment. According to Berger, Marvel hated the original treatment that he and Taymor had come up with, calling it “entirely wrong,” and “quite dark.” The Marvel honchos especially hated one of Taymor’s pet creations the spider villainess Arachne.
It’s hard not to see the hand of Marvel behind the changes that Berger and Aguirre-Sacasa made to the play’s book. The rewrite addressed the concerns that Marvel had right from the beginning. The role of Arachne was greatly reduced, while those of the key players in the standard Spidey origin saga, Aunt May and Uncle Ben were increased, and the role Spidey’s love interest Mary Jane also got a major boost. The rewrite may have rid the book of the mythic archetypes and New Age fantasy elements of the original version, but it did so by substituting the standard Spider-Man origin elements that led Bono, who comes off as quite feckless in Berger’s account of the show’s traumatic period, to characterize the rewrite as sounding “like it’s out of The Waltons.”
I actually saw the original version—a few boxes away from Bono who had come to check it out, and sank down in his seat more and more as the evening progressed, as he wondered, ‘What the fuck have I done?”—and Taymor’s reinvention of the Spider-Man myth as being about a creative woman-spider who really likes shoes, was, while daring and audacious, so totally not Spider-Man. In Taymor’s version, Peter Parker wasn’t even responsible for Uncle Ben’s death. I think the whole point of the show was that a musical called Arachne might have had a hard time selling out, so calling it Spider-Man was a sneaky way to make Arachne. Marvel really had to do what they did, as nasty as litigious as it may have proven.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading this book some day! It is a hell of a story, no question.
It turns out the drama- and deficit-plagued Spider-man Broadway musical wasn’t enough to turn Marvel off live theatrical events. Thus they are launching ‘The Marvel Experience’ in 2014, a $30 million “interactive road show with a “4D motion ride” and high-tech attractions featuring Marvel’s most popular superheroes.” It’s a joint venture between Marvel and something called Hero Ventures.
The Marvel Experience is built to be an immersive, first-person story set in the Marvel Universe of heroes and villains. Its “big top” will be a traveling dome complex approximately the size of two football fields, with digitally projected animation, origin stories told through motion comics, virtual-reality and holographic simulations and even integrated social media adding to the all-ages entertainment.
Sean Haran, Marvel vice president of business development, said to expect “a transformative, traveling destination that will deliver to fans and families an exciting, groundbreaking and unique experience.”
This sounds pretty groundbreaking since we haven’t even found the fourth dimension yet, even in motion comics.
DC has had success with its Batman Live touring show, which looked like a cross between Julie Taymor and Cesar Romero. Given the news that Thor is coming to Disneyland, it’s no surprise that Marvel/Disney is taking their show on the road. But please, please don’t use the term motion comics again.
[Photo via the Orlando Informer.]
§ While America has been been locked in a massive ideological battle over birth control and offensive radio show hosts of late, in Canada, they have even more powerful and shocking issues that galvanize a nation to action. Namely, network Global TV was forced to apologize for failing to warn viewersthat an episode of Family Guy included a scene where Bugs Bunny died a grisly, lingering death.
The CBSC investigated an episode of the show that ran on July 23 at 5 p.m., in which “there was a spoof of a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Elmer Fudd shot Bugs at close range with a rifle. Bugs screamed and gripped his chest as blood poured out of him. He died in a prolonged and dramatic manner, after which Fudd Twisted Bugs’ neck and dragged Bugs’ lifeless body by the ears through a pool of blood.” It wasn’t the violence that bothered the regulator, but the lack of warning. “The panel finds that the scene was definitely somewhat gruesome and uncomfortable to watch,” it wrote. “It recognizes, however, that the scene was intended to satirize the violence found in that type of cartoon program. The gag was somewhat tongue-in-cheek since Family Guy itself is an animated program that sometimes contains violence.”
Just how squeamish about cartoon violence are Canadians? The link to a (now removed) YouTube video of the scenes in question was labeled as follows:
The controversial scene from “Family Guy” for which Global TV has been told to apologize. WARNING: Contains graphic cartoon violence.
“Graphic Cartoon Violence.” A problem for our times.
§ Sean Kleefeld looks at that whole “New” Shazam business:
I’m a bit torn on the issue. On one hand, DC is essentially giving fans what they want. What they’re willing to pay for. There was a great deal interest, as I recall, when they turned Mary Marvel evil. You can’t really blame DC if they focus on the iterations of the characters that sell. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone at DC can really see any difference between Superman and Captain Marvel. To be fair, there is a bit of nuance there and it’s not helped by the fact that Captain Marvel was a very direct response to Superman’s initial success. I feel like that both DC and fans are responsible for this new Shazam.
§ Sequential Tart hosts a roundtable asking: Is Manga Dying?
§ It is optioning season again! The WB has picked up BOLIVAR, a dinosaur graphic novel by Sean Rubin which Archaia will publish in 2013. It is planned as an animated film. And yes, the PRE-PUB option is back! Akiva Goldsman, Kerry Foster, PJ Bickett, and Stephen Christy are all on various branches of the producer tree.
Written and illustrated by Sean Rubin, the graphic novel centres on a young girl named Sybil who moves to New York and finds out her neighbor is Bolivar, the last living dinosaur. Despite Sybil’s persistent efforts, Bolivar refuses to befriend her. The dinosaur is somewhat of a recluse, tucked away from the world Sybil so desperately wants him to explore with her. He soon realizes how much she means to him and that he would risk everything for her.
§ Likewise, Radical’s long vigil of publishing comics seems to have paid off, as Dwayne Johnson is now attached to Brett Ratner’sHERCULES adaptation.
Scribe Ryan Condol adapted Steve Moore’s graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian War, which debuted in May 2008 via Radical Publishing. MGM’s Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman will produce with Peter Berg and his Film 44 partner Sarah Aubrey, as well as Barry Levine of Radical Pictures, whose Jesse Berger will executive produce.
§ Julie Taymor’s lawsuit over the Spider-Man musical is getting nasty with tons and tons of dirt being uncovered in court papers:
In her new court filing, Taymor also singles out Bono and Edge for particular criticism. She says they failed to attend rehearsals and she cites e-mails beseeching them to deliver improved lyrics and music. “I have been at it on [Spider-Man] nonstop,” reads one of those e-mails. “We need you. It is not easy to change anything, but now I think it is a matter of lyrical and musical changes ” Taymor says that Bono and the Edge were out on tour with U2 at the time, and that caused damage. According to Taymor’s court brief, “The producers’ effort to hold Taymor responsible for damages for failing to make improvements to the show as an author ignores the reality that the conduct of Bono and Edge — the musical’s other primary creative team members — severely hampered timely improvements to the musical.”
According to another filing, Bono arrived at a crucial meeting about attempting to salvage the production with several supermodels in tow and already a few beers to the wind. That is not how you show up to save the show, Bono!
§ A new kid’s book about a cat with poop on its feet, by some of the folks behind the UNSHELVED webcomic.
The coffee run might be cold and late this week, but it’s also venti-sized for your weekend reading enjoyment…
Behold this simple new Game of Thrones Season Two Poster. Simple, yes, but also excitement-building, no? Yes! In more Game of Thrones news, Winteriscoming.net has a lot of production info on Season 2 via the UK mag, SciFi Now, including updates on the Battle of Blackwater episode, directed written by George R.R. Martin himself. War is indeed coming, bitches.
It looks like that Walking Dead inside “source” was right on about the first episode, so I’m inclined to trust whatever this presumably soon to be unemployed person has to say about the rest of the season. He/she is still blabbing away, this time reporting that Dale is dying and Michonne is going to be making her sword-swinging debut this season (via Hollywood Hils). The cast members are dropping some AMCTV PR approved hints as well, with Andrew Lincoln (Rick) telling The Washington Post that viewers will learn the secret the CDC scientist whispered in Rick’s ear on his deathbed at the end of Season 1 by the end of Season 2. Jon Bernthal (Shane) also has a majorly bro-ish, chest-thumping chat with the boys over at GQ (author note: that is the MOST ridiculous sentence fragment this writer has typed all month), in which he provides some hinting corroboration to the rumors that Shane is totally dying also, by way of neither confirming or denying that he may be joining the cast of Frank Darabont’s new show, LA Noir (via GQ).
In news from the Great White Way, Julie Taymor is set to cash in on the craptastical killing machine of a musical she created, SpiderMan: Turn off the Dark, by way of a lawsuit (via Deadline)
Woot! Ender’s Game is going to start filming THIS MONTH in New Orleans, and has added Nonso Anozie to its cast in the role of Sargent Dap (via Deadline)
Congrats go out to Jimmy Palmiotti, a good friend to The Beat and all around comics nice guy, on Benderspink and Wizard Magazine’s optioning of his 2 issue comic (with art by Phil Noto), The New West (via ScienceFiction.com)
Aaaand more congrats to Norwegian comics superstar, Jason, who’s catchy-titled comic, I Killed Adolph Hitler, also just got optioned (via The Beat)
And congrats (I guess?) to the bean counters over at Warner Brothers for managing to squeeze yet another peso out of another existing franchise: a sequel to I am Legend has been announced (via Deadline)
Swoon Alert: Your boyfriend, Gael Garcia Bernal, has been cast in, the still in the waaaay early stages of development, Zorro Reborn. The film will be straying from traditional Zorro fare and plopping the hunky hero down in a post-apocalyptic setting (via Spinoff Online)
The opening sequence of The Avengers is going to be majorly frakking epic and action-packed, while giving you all the back story you need to know (via Spinoff Online)
Aaand, lastly, Game of Thrones sister-f*cker, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is the latest addition to the cast of Oblivion. Oblivion stars Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Joseph Kosinski, who’s also directing. (via Deadline)
Have a good rest of the weekend, people! And get your ass on the couch for the next episode of the Walking Dead tomorrow night. I know there’s been some mixed reviews, but I, for one, loved it and am going to be watching the sh*t out of the rest of this season.
After months of peaceful performances, this was a rocky week for the Spider-Man musical. On Tuesday original director Julie Taymor sued over royalties and on Wednesday there was yet another injury to the cast. Back-up Spidey Matthew James Thomas, who plays the title role at matinees Wednesday and Saturday, was injured backstage while racing from one scene to another. The injury required a 10-minute pause in the musical, a trip to the hospital, and stitches for Thomas.
Amazingly, regular Spidey Reeve Carney just happened to be in the theater and quickly suited up to take over the role. Kind of like that issue of IRON MAN where Tony Stark has to sub for War Machine.
Thomas’s injuries are said to be minor, and he will go on with the show as usual on Saturday.
The Spider-Man the Musical Saga closed another chapter of its saga last night with a star-studded opening — President Bill Clinton attended, as did Matt Damon, Cindy Crawford, and of course, composers Bono and the Edge. Even more notably, director Julie Taymor, who got fired three months ago, showed up and took a curtain call. On the red carpet she was repeatedly asked if she missed being a part of this, to which she fired back, “I AM part of this.” At the end of the curtain call, Taymor and Bono even shared a cold, celebratory smooch.
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You were acting like it was the end of the world
Bono was philosophical about all the brickbats the show has received, including the pasting by the MUPPETS shown below, “We would have been hurt if they ignored us,” he told reporters. “It’s a bit of a sport around here. It’s with great affection. If Spider-Man were just to disappear, certainly the late-night comics would be very sad.”
Reviews of the Phillip McKinley/Aguirre-Sacasa saved version were…mixed.
But there are compensations for the eye and ear. The set design — a mix of comic-book pop-ups and dark, Tim Burton-ish cityscapes — is as striking as ever. The Bono-Edge score, moreover, is no disappointment. It really rocks, and the repeated five- and six-note figures that anchor the anthemic “Rise Above” and the sweetly melancholy duet “No More” have stayed with me. There’s more humor now (when the Goblin tries to leave a phone warning with the newspaper, he can’t get past the automated voice prompts), and one bright new number, “A Freak Like Me Needs Company,” which provides a lift at the start of Act II.
The numbers that work best are those performed by Carney and Damiano. These evocative performers project the awkward sweetness of teenage yearning in duets such as “Picture This” and “If the World Should End.” (Matthew James Thomas, who plays Peter at matinees, is a less impressive singer, but a sensitive actor.)
The thing with a show like Spider-Man is that some of the eye-rollingest moments have magical potential, thanks to an audience full of kids. As Peter explains to Mary Jane that his Spider-Man responsibilities will often take him away, he reassures her, “Every time you look up, I’m gonna be there.” My gag gesture was at the ready, until the nine-ish year-old boy behind me breathlessly uttered, “Yup, he is.” Faithful wonder 1, cynicism 0.
The Times’ Ben Brantley had the sharpest words for the original shoe-shopping version, and found this one only a bit better:
Partly because the performers are masked, you experience little of the vicarious wonder and exhilaration that comes from watching Peter Pan or even Mary Poppins ride the air in other musicals. The effect is rather like looking at anonymous daredevils who have been strapped into a breakneck ride at an amusement park. Come to think of it, Coney Island might be a more satisfying choice.
Although this would seem to be a happy — or at least happy-ish — ending for the injury- and drama-plagued show, insiders suggest that the $80 million cost of mounting the show will still be its undoing. Mike Fleming writes at Deadline:
So why can’t Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark live with godawful reviews we all expected and thrive with the tourist crowd? My sources tell me that the reason is the operating costs are just too stratospheric. The budget, I’m told, is already in the $80 million range, and the economics just won’t add up. It’ll last a year, maybe, but it will be hard-pressed to escape what many feel will be its inevitable place in history: Broadway’s biggest-ever debacle.
Well, there’s no people like show people. And this has proved it.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN writer Dan Slott attended the premiere of the NEW, revised, less Arachne Spider-Man musical last night, and he tweeted his review!
Yep! I just came back from the ALL-NEW ver of @SpideyOnBway… and, WALOPING WEB-SNAPPERS, it IS new and IMPROVED! WOO-HOO! You know who’s the hero who saved Spidey? Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, that’s who!!! Roberto’s new book and lyrics for @SpideyOnBway are FUN! :-) Now, when Spidey fights during TURN OFF THE DARK, he QUIPS!!! He didn’t B4, and now that he does: it’s SPIDEY again! YAY! @SpideyOnBway
1 thing that HASN’T changed (and I’ve seen both versions) the cast remains EXCELLENT! :) And in this NEW ver they shine MORE! @SpideyOnBway Now, during TURN OFF, Uncle Ben is NOT killed by being run over by a car! The lesson here: Want something fixed? Use a comic book writer! :) In TURN OFF THE DARK, know what Peter says after Uncle Ben dies? “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!” He DIDN’T B4! They FIXED IT! Tonights show: No stopping. Not even once. All good, all the way through! :) And all the stunts and ADDED flying sequences were AWESOME!
Cutest moment: Tonight’s TURN OFF THE DARK ended on a standing ovation from the ENTIRE audience! And when the curtain went down, you could hear the cast members let out their own hoots and cheers– because they KNEW they nailed it! They now have a FUN hit! #TheyFixedIt!!!!
Is there still silly stuff in TURN OFF THE DARK? Swarm? Giant baby? Rubber wrestler? Sure. But the show is now infused w/ so much FUN! :-) Something I REALLY loved about the new-and-improved TURN OFF THE DARK: expanded roles for Aunt May, Jonah, MJ, and even more for Flash. :-)
As you may recall, if you have not been living in a cave with no Internet access, the Spider-Man musical has been plagued with problems for the last seven years or so, starting with the original producer dropping dead just as he was signing a contract for the show, moving right on to destroying Julie Taymor’s career, and making Bono contemplate the meaning of humility. Aguirre-Sacasa and director Philip William McKinley have restaged the original, puzzling production, and if the Slott Report is to be believed,
§ The often hard-to-link to NY Post visits the top NYC comics shops and asks for comics recommendations. Bonus: photos of Tiger Eadicicco and Nick Purpura.
§ Also NYC retail: Over at Publishers Weekly, Judith Rosenlooks at the state of bookstores in New York following the Borders semi-dismantling:
“The only difference I see in Borders’s leaving affecting BookCourt is the number of people applying to work here,” says Zack Zook, general manager and events coordinator of the Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, indie. In fact BookCourt, which opened 30 years ago, is coming off its best year ever in 2010 and has begun to expand. It reopened its lower level, which it turned into offices three years ago, and now features remainders and bargain titles. In the summer it plans to add a coffee and wine bar downstairs.
§ MUST READ: A transcript of the Peter Bagge spotlight panel from MoCCA as conducted by Brian Heater. Bagge always speaks his mind but with humor and insight: here he explains why going to crappy comics shows is more lucrative than indie shows:
In the past I never thought I would do this, but it’s such easy money—the dumber the comic convention, the better. It’ll be just some ridiculous low-brow affair in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And something that’s become a thing over the past few years, as many—if not all of you—know, people have a sketchbook that they been to the convention, and they’ll have a theme. Originally the theme was just to have everybody draw a Wonder Woman. But it’s gotten stranger and stranger—and they’ll have reference too, because nine times out of ten, I’ve never heard of whatever it is they want me to draw, so they’ll have books with reference material, and again, these people will pay you money. You can even get $100 out of them, if you’re willing to spend a lot of time on it. And these people have never heard of me.
The two anecdotes that follow–one involving a giant rock monster and one involving superheroes throwing up — should definitely enter the convention anecdote HoF.
§ This local paper review of a local indie comic — THE LISTENER by David Lester of Winnipeg is unusual because such pieces are usually highly laudatory. This time, critic Kenton Smith is highly critical. Standards, people.
§ See, now here’s a local Park Slope, Brooklyn paper interviewing local boy Adrian Tomine, and he gets treated as he should:
I’m slowly working on a collection of short stories in comic book form. It’s pretty different from the wedding book, most noticeably in that it’s fiction and it’s in color. I spend most of my time working on that, with occasional breaks for magazine illustration work. Today I’m doing some sketches for an illustration for The New Yorker and a Japanese magazine called In the City.
§ Finally, continuing our New York City theme for today, at the NY Review of Books, critic Daniel Mendelsohn offers a fairly definitive analysis of why Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man myth-making just didn’t work:
But these are merely symptoms. If Taymor’s show is a failure, it fails for interesting reasons—as it were, for genetic reasons. For the show itself is a grotesque hybrid. At the heart of the Spider-Man disaster is the essential incompatibility of those two visions of physical transformation—the ancient and the modern, the redemptive and the punitive, visions that Taymor tried, heroically but futilely, to reconcile. As happens so often in both myth and comic books, the attempt to fuse two species resulted in the creation of a monster.
Well, it looks like The Beatwill have to see Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark again! Because when it officially opens–in JUNE this time–it could be a different show.
The NY Times reports that what everyone was whispering yesterday was true: the opening has been delayed until June, and the production — the most expensive in Broadway history — will take a break to try to fix some of the problems, and probably bring in a fixer.
The precise dates for the shutdown — needed to give the cast a break and to hold new rehearsals — have not been set, but they are expected to cover late April and early May, the people said. [snip]
Who would oversee the creative changes has been an open question. The producers on Tuesday continued negotiating with their director, Julie Taymor, and her fellow creators, U2’s Bono and the Edge, about the composition of the artistic team going forward and about whether it would continue to include Ms. Taymor, according to the people briefed on the producers’ planning.
After months of injuries, equipment problems, and horrendous reviews, the people who have been sinking money into this have finally realized that someone needs to actually sit down and fix it — this show has to run for a few years, spawn touring shows, soundtracks and merchandise if they are to make back any of their $65 million investment. And a show this rocky can’t do this.
It’s looking increasingly like Taymor will be pulled from the production, and either Christopher Ashley ( “Memphis” and “The Rocky Horror Show”) or Philip William McKinley (“The Boy From Oz”) will come in to try to fix the show’s problems.
This is a huge blow to Taymor, whose vision the show undoubtedly reflects. But the buzz around town has long been that some of the problems stem from all the time she took off making and promoting her film THE TEMPEST. Not only did the original cast bail — Alan Cumming and Evan Rachel Wood as Green Goblin and Mary Jane, respectively — but the show did not have enough rehearsal time to work out the complex production.
As someone who actually saw the show, I’ll jump in here with another criticism: I’m a huge U2 fan (looking at an online slideshow of the band’s history I realized I’d been at three of the 50 events shown) but as much as I love their music, it is not suited to making a good Broadway musical. The best U2 songs are moody, riff-driven dramas borne aloft by the dynamic of Bono’s voice and the band. People don’t cover many U2 songs — they are meant for Bono to sing.
Great show tunes have an entirely different dramatic structure. Ironically, the music in the problematic second act is a lot more interesting than that in the mostly–okay first act, but it still doesn’t convey enough of the drama. The big ballad “Boy Falls From The Sky” comes at a climactic moment as Spider-Man decides he has to pick up his costume once more to defeat Arachne. But after that the tunes don’t really cover the the REST of the conflict between Spidey and Arachne, which falls flat, probably because it wasn’t there a month or so ago. If Bono and the Edge really wanted to help this show, they would have taken time off from touring the world months ago to tinker with their tunes.
If the Spider-Man musical is ultimately seen as a failure for Taymor, Bono and Edge, it is still something that didn’t play by the rules, and that should be saluted. As Beat pal Dan Kois tweeted:
Without Taymor, Spider-Man will almost definitely turn into a more accessible, more poppy, more coherent, and waaaaaaaaay more boring show.
I wish Spider-Man had succeeded as the daring myth-building that it tried to be. There is still a chance it will succeed, but as something much more expected.
So I finally got to see Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.
I use the word “finally”, although the show has only been in previews for a couple of months — still nearly the longest preview run of any show ever. Primarily, I use it because I’ve been writing about this show for nearly four years. And looking back at my predictions in my very first post about the show, there is indeed a song about Mary Jane’s eyes — so that is one point for me. I also predicted it would be great — hm, that is maybe one half a point. But NO ONE could have predicted the rest of the saga, from running out of money (after spending $60 million) to people breaking their backs, to Spider-women storming out in fear of their brains being bashed out and a parade of colorful incidents that have already made this one of the most legendary shows in Broadway history.
So how was it?
It was fun.
But my fun may not be your fun.
As a Spider-Man/Julie Taymor/U2 fan, I found much to occupy me, as did my companion for the evening, Archaia’s Stephen Christy who had invited me along for his own pilgrimage.
And as an added bonus, as I dreamed when I first wrote that story, lyricist/composer Bono was at the show!
I’ll return to all this ancillary drama in a bit, but I know you want to know about the show. There are two “acts” which normally in theater connote a degree of “rising action.” The first act generally sets up a situation and takes us to some kind of climax or crisis which the second “act” then plays out and resolves, resulting in a pleasurable, cathartic experience for the theater-goers.
Perhaps the greatest innovation of the Spider-Man musical is to completely reinvent this two-act structure. Instead of rising and commenting, the second act throws us into an entirely different play where the protagonist and concerns of the first act are merely bystanders to the struggle between a great theater director and her own muse.
In the first act of a tad under two hours we meet Peter Parker, a put upon nerd who is bullied by a dancing gang clad in different tones of yellow. To cheer himself up he goes to a science demonstration at OsCorp where a spider from an experiment that is…somehow…going to help, uh, stop……..climate change, he’s bitten and immediately gains the powers to hang in an aerial harness and flip around. When Norman Osborn — the wonderful stage veteran Patrick Page — decides to experiment himself and becomes a green guy in a spikey mask, Peter — now Spider-Man — and the Goblin must battle over the audience in a backdrop of spectacular New York inspired sets.
Despite some awkward moments and the intrusion of the much maligned Geek Chorus and spider-woman Arachne, the first act works. The sets, flying and staging are amazing. AMAZING. When one of the aerial Spider-Men starts swinging over the crowd and landing on the balcony, it’s fantastic — drawing you right in. The Green Goblin/Spidey fight looks dangerous and wasn’t entirely smooth, but is equally thrilling.
The singing is good, even though the songs barely stop or start but kind of rumble on in counterpoint to the action. The story sticks to the mythos for the most part and barrels on through. So far, so good.
And then…the second act dawns, Instead of amplifying the action of the first act, a whole new set of concerns arises focusing on Arachne, the spirit of the spider that bit Peter. What it is she wants never comes clear, but it seems to be his spider-ass. Her creation is her perfect mate, making this a bit of a Pygmalion myth. But spiders bite the heads off their mates!!!! Tough break, tiger! The entertaining Green Goblin dead, every time Peter furthers his romance with Mary Jane, Arachne does something shitty. When they first kiss, she puts the city in a blackout — God only know what she does when they “go all the way.” In the meantime, Arachne confides — while hanging 30 feet in the air in a thorax-like costume — that this is all taking place in the astral plane and she’s just created illusions of all of this.
As some critics have hinted — notably New York magazine’s Scott Brown — the second act really does seem to be all about Julie Taymor and her interest in myths, legends, and the creative process. The two strongest, smartest characters in the play are both Mary Sues — Miss Arrow, the main plot-mover in the Geek Chorus, and Arachne, who sings about love and her tortured heart. She’s the only character with much of an interior life, and actress T.V. Carpio throws herself into the role — and the air — with gusto.
Reeve Carney is good as Peter Parker — though his acting is weak, he has the pipes and the physicality for the role. Jennifer Damiano shows range and pep as Mary Jane. Page really steals the show as The Green Goblin — if he had been the antagonist for the whole show, much grief would have been spared.
The second act now has an actual ending — which it lacked earlier, as this Steve Bunche review from December shows. Instead of Arachne just backing down, now she kidnaps MJ, and she and Peter have an emotional confrontation until he does something that persuades her that he deserves to go on intact, thanks, instead of having his head bitten off in a spider mating ritual. I didn’t find that something or its staging very persuasive — the book still needs some work.
Despite the positively bizarro second act, Spider-Man entertains. The show we attended had no tech glitches, although the intermission seemed to go on for quite a while. The sets, costumes, and overall staging are beautiful and breathtaking — not necessarily worth $120 for a ticket, but definitely something you don’t see every day. I mean, you don’t see a dead skunk on the road every day either, but Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is better than a dead skunk on the road.
Picture taking wasn’t allowed during the show but we snapped a few anyway.
Still opening in March! Stay strong, Spider-Nan musical!
Stephen is psyched!
Not a very good picture of the proscenium curtain — there were a lot of drawings of Spider-Man throughout the show, which the program credited to Sia Balabanova and our own Rafael Kayanan. The art was very Romita-influenced, which worked.
Second act proscenium art.
Seriously, bring on Greg Horn! The merch was mostly cheap stuff with the awful, wispy key art.
That’s Bono and his wife, Ali. Honest!
So my great Spider-Man adventure is done. I have seen it for myself. This show is never going to be “good” but it does contain jaw-dropping moments of stagecraft and half of a familiar story. Some more tinkering with the second act — tinkering meaning setting it in the real world of the first act and not Taymor’s id — would improve it as much as can be done.
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