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.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.