It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to untangling the great big web of a mess known as Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway.
As regular readers of “Page 2” will remember, we raved about the show a few weeks back after taking in a preview performance. We loved the visually stunning staging, the high-flying aerial acrobatics – which were perfectly executed during the show we saw – the music composed by Bono and The Edge of U2, and, yes, even besieged writer/director Julie Taymor’s storytelling.
But, apparently, we stood pretty much alone with Fox News pundit Glenn Beck in thinking that the musical was a thrill not to be missed. Since that Saturday afternoon in January Spidey has been stamped on and critically brutalized like no other show in the history of Broadway, and once again another opening date of March 15 has come and gone.
The relentless stream of bad press has crested into a wave of unfortunate developments for the show. The producers who sunk an astounding $70 million into the production thus far announced that Spider-Man will close next month for a few weeks to undergo a major surgical procedure, with some reports claiming that they’re ready to tear it apart from top to bottom, with a new director and scriptwriter already on board.
Taymor is Broadway roadkill who’s apparently threatening legal action to protect her creative and financial rights. And Bono and Edge reportedly are less than thrilled with her finished product.
Our two cents aren’t worth much considering the millions that have been poured into the show since it was first conceived by Bono, Edge and Taymor back in 2005, but we’ll give an opinion anyway.
In firing Taymor and ripping up the existing show in favor of . . . well, God knows what, with yet another new opening date of June 14, the producers have essentially thrown the baby out with the bathwater and sadly succumbed to the media snipers who had their knives well and truly sharpened way before Spidey came anywhere near its Foxwoods Theater home on 42nd Street.
Didn’t you realize that Bono and Edge had some nerve thinking they could be the new musical kings of Broadway? What would they know about mass market entertainment, besides the fact that they’ve sold millions of albums, toured the world for years and have won dozens of awards and accolades?
As for Taymor, the visionary who hit the jackpot for Disney with The Lion King, which is still running strong on Broadway after 13 years (she won two Tony Awards for the show as well) – she may know how to make things look grand on stage, but she has no idea how to tell a story, does not know what the word “no” means . . . and she’ll burn through a whole pile of money -- as long as it’s not her cash, of course.
The bad word of mouth and relentless gossip combined to kill Spider-Man in its present form, of that there is no doubt.
But . . . some of the show’s wounds have certainly been self-inflicted as well. For that, all of the principals must accept blame.
There is no way the production should have previewed on Broadway if the producers considered it a half-baked work in progress. Every Broadway play stages previews to iron out its early flaws, but Spider-Man’s sneak-peeks included major staging malfunctions that frustrated audiences and, much worse, resulted in serious injuries to cast members.
Needless to say, that is not the kind of advance buzz that any producer would want a show to have . . . though there’s no denying that this particular creation perversely benefitted at the box office from the train-wreck possibilities on offer at each performance. Out of town previews, the norm for most other big-budget productions, would surely have saved the show from a good bit of the lashing it’s received since its debut last November.
The producers said it would have been impossible to preview the show anywhere but Broadway given the technical complexities. Well, the long-term goal has always been to stage Spider-Man on the road for years to come to maximize their investment, but how can that be the case if, as they say, only its Broadway home is capable of coping with the staging and aerial stunts?
They should have previewed in Chicago, LA, Canada . . . basically, anywhere but Broadway. And given that the show has been a work in progress for several years, the kinks should have been minimal.
Bono and The Edge have pretty significant day jobs – they’re 50% of U2, biggest rock band in the world with a hefty recording and touring schedule.
One report we read last week said that Bono is going to take the helm of Spider-Man from here on in. Bono “will become the face of Spider-Man,” reported the ultra-critic Michael Riedel from the New York Post, who can’t contain his unabashed glee over the show’s troubles.
Well, if Bono’s going to be show’s new “face,” let’s hope the camera stretches all the way down to South America, where U2 is scheduled to resume its tour on March 25 in Chile. The band winds up in Brazil April 13, then breaks for a few weeks before they head to Mexico on May 14, at which point its full steam ahead for a summer tour of the U.S. until the end of July. It’s hard to see how Bono will be able to give 100% of his energies to a completely new Spider-Man with that kind of hectic schedule.
Clearly, Spider-Man is ensnared in a tangled and costly web . . . partly thanks to its own mistakes, but mostly due to the malevolent forces that have been chomping at the bit to take aim at the show and its star-studded cast of creators.
Bono and Edge are likely second guessing their decision to ever get involved with Spider-Man and all of its headaches. And that’s a shame. The show is not anywhere near as bad as the Broadway bullies have made it out to be, but where its future lies is still anyone’s guess.