One Show Spins Its Last, As Another Takes Shape
Published: April 15, 2011
History is being made on Broadway this weekend: The $70 million museum piece that is Julie Taymor’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” the most expensive musical of all time, is on display in its final performances through Sunday afternoon, then disassembled out of existence.Enlarge This Image
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
With Julie Taymor out as director, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will have a bigger role for the Green Goblin, above, battling with Spider-Man. More Photos »
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Gone, when the show resumes performances on May 12 after a three-week overhaul, will be the Geek Chorus of narrators who were stand-ins for the show’s creators: Bono and the Edge of U2, the playwright Glen Berger and Ms. Taymor, whom the producers ousted as director last month over creative conflicts.
Gone will be Ms. Taymor’s vision of the spider villainess Arachne, now a central role inspired by Greek mythology. The part will be reduced to a guardian angel character during the hiatus, according to members of the cast and the production.
Gone, too, will be some of Ms. Taymor’s head-spinning numbers, like “Deeply Furious,” in which Arachne and her spider ladies-in-waiting become all-powerful by slipping shoes onto their many legs. Gone will be the Act I death of another villain, the Green Goblin, who will become an even bigger character when performances resume, reflecting the wishes of focus groups that “Spider-Man” producers convened this winter. And gone will be the Act II climax, a confrontation between Arachne and Peter Parker.
For some members of the “Spider-Man” cast and crew, the weeks since Ms. Taymor’s firing on March 9 have been a painful limbo: eight performances a week of a show marked for extinction. Once again, “Spider-Man” is without historical precedent: no other Broadway show has run for months without opening and then shut down temporarily to excise much of the original director’s concept.
“I’m greatly saddened that the world won’t get to see Julie’s vision after the end of this week,” said Gideon Glick, who played one of the geeks, Jimmy-6 (with qualities inspired by Bono), who will leave the production after Sunday. “She aspired to show the world that comic books were part of a larger mythos that’s been around since even before the Greeks. She elevated the story of ‘Spider-Man’ to a cosmic level.”
In a statement, Ms. Taymor’s spokesman said: “Julie feels that the early reviews that published before the show was ready to open sadly do not reflect the show that is closing this weekend. Most critics, in fact, will have never seen this latest version before they see one that greatly changes major threads of the story, choreography and songs.”
As some actors have prepared to depart, others have been rehearsing the new script written by Mr. Berger and his new collaborator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a playwright and comic-book author. But even some of those who are staying said they were still struggling over the loss of Ms. Taymor. T. V. Carpio, who will remain in the cast as Arachne, described Ms. Taymor in a statement as “at the heart of this project.”
“Julie takes risks and that is what makes her amazing,” Ms. Carpio wrote. Regarding Ms. Taymor’s ideas for “Spider-Man,” she added, “I’m sure you can always find flaws in things, but the fact is she took that risk and she should be commended for it.”
The reconfigured creative team — the theater and circus director Philip William McKinley (Broadway’s “Boy From Oz”), Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa and Mr. Berger — also declined to be interviewed through a spokesman for the production.
More than 245,000 people have seen “Spider-Man” since Nov. 28, when the first of about 140 previews so far took place — the most ever for a Broadway show. Its lead producers, Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris, kept delaying opening night in hopes that Ms. Taymor (and now her successors) could make improvements. Theater critics roundly thrashed the show in reviews in early February; the producers have said they hope the overhaul will yield a better production that will win praise from critics who come to review it just before June 14, the latest opening-night date.
Through the months “Spider-Man” has remained one of the top-grossing shows on Broadway, earning more than $25 million so far, persisting as an object of fascination for fans of Spider-Man, U2, Ms. Taymor and problem-plagued entertainment. Yet the musical’s typical weekly gross of $1.3 million is barely enough to cover the unusually high running costs of this technically ambitious show.Next Page »
A version of this article appeared in print on April 16, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition.
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