‘Spider-Man’ suffers slings and arrows of Broadway critics
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Will they ever officially turn on the lights for the problem-plagued, perpetually-in-previews Broadway production of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark?”
That’s a subject of animated discussion at virtually every bar, bistro and boite up and down the city’s neon-lit theater corridor.
After last week’s firing of the legendary Julie Taymor (“The Lion King”), the show’s Tony-winning director, co-creator and theatrical visionary, and the decision to scuttle the Tuesday, March 15 opening night (the sixth such delay), the $65-million musical appears to be in retooling limbo until early summer. The new, tentative, opening date is June 14.
After more than 100 preview performances (more than any other Broadway show ever) – a preview period marked by the death of original producer Tony Adams, a near-bankruptcy, high-profile creative disputes, technical glitches in aerial stunts that injured four performers and led to state and federal safety code violations – the elaborate, high-flying stage version of the Marvel Comics superhero saga is reportedly in for a radical makeover.
Producers now say the show will soon shut down for a two- to three-week hiatus to allow for changes.
Replacing Taymor will be new director Philip William McKinley, whose credits include the 2003 Hugh Jackman musical “The Boy From Oz” and several Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses. Also, playwright and Marvel Comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman” and “The Sensational Spider-Man, Vol. 2”) will be brought in as script doctor to juice up the story, especially the much-criticized second act and climax.
Co-creators and producers Bono and the Edge, of the rock band U2, are reportedly writing additional songs to add to their musical score, which has been criticized as an undistinguished blur of rock and show tunes.
On Feb. 7, many New York critics, grown impatient with opening-night postponements, took the unprecedented step of issuing early reviews. Most were withering, especially that of New York Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley, who wrote that “Spider-Man …” may “rank among the worst” in musical theater history.
On screen, the “Spider-Man” franchise has reaped generally favorable critical reviews and huge profits with three blockbuster films starring Tobey Maguire and a new one on the horizon in 2012 (“The Amazing Spider-Man” with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man).
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