Publishing | Marvel’s Fear Itself #1 topped Diamond Comic Distributors’ April charts with an estimated 128,595 copies, the highest monthly sales for a comic since X-Men #1 surpassed 140,000 copies nine months ago. Retail news and analysis site ICv2 sees the strong debut of that crossover and the performance of DC’s Flashpoint prequels as signs “that this summer’s big events may be able to reverse the downward sales trend in the first quarter of 2011.”
Retailing | The bankrupt Borders Group reportedly has been unable to find a buyer for its entire business, which could signal the end of the second-largest book chain in the United States. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and is closing about one-third of its locations. [Detroit Free Press]
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark returned last night from a three-week hiatus “virtually unrecognizable” from the troubled musical savaged by critics in February.
That assessment comes courtesy of the production’s most vocal detractor, the New York Post’s Michael Riedel, who quotes lead producer Michael Cohl as saying, “It’s almost a brand-new show.”
Indeed, it certainly looks that way. As anticipated, Arachne, the eight-legged villainess created by former director Julie Taymor, has been reduced to a minor role (she previously dominated the second act). Both the “utterly superfluous” Geek Chorus — a group of four comic fans that provided much of the show’s exposition — and the Furies — Arachne’s minions who performed the widely panned “Deeply Furious” shoe-shopping number — have been cut entirely.
With Arachne diminished, Patrick Page’s Green Goblin is given a more prominent role. Previously, the classic villain was killed off in the first act, only to make a confusing return in Act II. Now, Entertainment Weekly says, his climactic battle with Spider-Man is, appropriately enough, the show’s finale. He’s also given the only new song, “Freak Like Me”; most of the other musical numbers have been reworked.
Characters like Uncle Ben, Aunt May and Norman Osborn’s wife Emily, who had been little more than footnotes in the $70-million production, have been given upgrades as well.
In short, as Riedel writes, the show now “hews more closely to Spidey’s original comic-book sensibilities.”
However, the overhaul, spearheaded by new director Philip William McKinley, Taymor’s co-writer Glen Berger and script doctor (and comics scribe) Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, creates a tangled web of credits.
Critics are invited to attend preview performances June 9-11, ahead of the show’s scheduled June 14 opening night. You can view the new trailer for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark below.
Broadway | The $70-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will emerge Thursday from its three-week hiatus a vastly changed production, featuring five additional flying sequences, expanded roles for Aunt May, Uncle Ben and Mary Jane, a scaled back (and transformed) Arachne, new songs and a lighter tone. “There is still a ton of emotional complexity in the musical, and some of that original darkness,” says playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was hired to help rework the script. “But we all also wanted a show that would honor the rich legacy and history of the Spider-Man story: the high school love story, the pretty girl next door, the science geek who is coping with new powers.” The new opening night is set for June 14. [The New York Times]
Publishing | Gregory Noveck, former senior vice president-creative affairs at DC Entertainment, has been hired as senior vice president of production for Syfy Films, a joint venture of Syfy and Universal. Noveck, who oversaw DC’s film and television ventures, left the company in August amid a massive restructuring. [Heat Vision]
The troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been investigated by the New York State Department of Labor, lampooned by Saturday Night Live and savaged by critics. And now the $70 million musical is about to endure Law & Order‘s ripped-from-the-headlines treatment.
TVLine reports that an upcoming episode of NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent will center on “a high-flying, fast-crashing show” called Icarus, whose director is described in the casting breakdown as “high-strung and larger-than-life,” and “a born-again drunk.”
However, while ousted Spider-Man director Julie Taymor oversaw the production when four actors were injured — a fifth was hurt after her firing — her television counterpart will be at the helm when a performer is murdered. Of course, Taymor isn’t the only person cast in an unflattering light (this is the Law & Order franchise, after all): The episode also features a rock-star composer named Arno who’s secretly bisexual and cheating on his wife.
There’s no word yet on when the CI episode will air. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — the real one — is on hiatus through May 12 while a new creative team, led by Philip William McKinley, makes sweeping changes to the show. Opening night is scheduled for June 14.
Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”
In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]
Retailing | The bankrupt Borders Group agreed to revise its $7.8 million retention bonus plan by tying potential payments for top executives to the company’s ability to pay unsecured creditors. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn told the bookseller on Thursday it must make further changes to the proposal, and negotiate with the U.S. trustee, before he would approve it.
The struggling bookseller says that 47 executives and director-level employees have quit since the company declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16 — two dozen just this month — leaving only 15 people in senior management positions. The book chain had sought to pay $6.6 million to 15 executives, including $1.7 million to CEO Michael Edwards, and $1.2 million to 25 director-level managers in a bid to retain key personnel.
Under the new terms, agreed upon by Borders and the creditors before Thursday’s hearing, the top five executives would receive $4.9 million at most if they recover $95 million to unsecured creditors under a sale or restructuring by Aug. 15. They could get $1.8 million in $73 million is returned. [The Detroit News, Bloomberg]
This weekend will provide audiences with their last chance to see Julie Taymor’s version of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, warts, shoe-shopping numbers and all. When the curtain comes down on Sunday afternoon, the $70-million musical will go on a three-week hiatus, during which an expanded creative team, headed by new director Philip William McKinley, will make sweeping changes.
When the lights come back on May 12, The New York Times reports, Spider-Man will be vastly different from the show Taymor developed for the better part of a decade (until her firing early last month) and that critics savaged in February.
The newspaper confirms that many of Taymor’s signature elements will be stripped, including the four-person geek chorus — described in some reviews as “useless” and “utterly superfluous” — and “Deeply Furious,” a widely panned number in which the eight-legged villainess Arachne goes shopping for shoes with her minions.
Green Goblin’s Act I death has been cut — the classic villain previously died in the first act, only to return, to some confusion, in the second — and his role expanded. However, Arachne, a character created by Taymor in 2002, as expected doesn’t fare as well. Inspired by Greek mythology, the villainess was depicted as responsible for Peter Parker gaining his powers, and came to dominate Act II. Now Arachne has been reduced to a kind of guardian angel.
According to The Times, the new creative team aims to make Spider-Man less dark and more family-friendly in an effort to fill the Foxwoods Theatre. While the show as grossed about $1.3 million a week in its unprecedented preview period, that’s barely enough to cover production costs. And the musical needs to be at least moderately successful on Broadway to ensure future productions in Las Vegas and London.
The sweeping changes to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will include the elimination of one of Julie Taymor’s signature elements, the widely panned Geek Chorus.
Based on the troubled musical’s four original creators — Taymor, her co-writer Glen Berger, Bono and the Edge — the geeks are four comic-book fans who make up the plot as the story unfolds, serving as a device to cover the show’s complicated scenery changes while doling out chunks of exposition. As practical as their purpose might be, they were described by some critics as “useless” and “utterly superfluous.”
The New York Times reports the four actors — Mat Devine, Gideon Glick, Alice Lee and Jonathan Schwartz — were told Thursday night that the Geek Chorus will be cut when the $70-million production goes on hiatus on April 18. The newly expanded creative team, led by director Philip William McKinley, Berger and script doctor (and comics writer) Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, apparently has found a way to execute scenery changes without the aid of the chorus. According to Broadway World, there’s no word yet on what will happen to the performers once their roles are dropped.
The loss of the geeks is only the first in what’s expected to be a wave of major changes made in the wake of Taymor’s departure on March 9. Green Goblin’s confusing story arc will reportedly be clarified, the unpopular “Deeply Furious” number cut, and the role of the eight-legged villainous Arachne reduced if not eliminated entirely (The Times says the character, another of Taymor’s signature creations, “is expected to remain, for now, though as a scaled-back character”). Bono and the Edge are also writing at least two additional songs.
In another change, Broadway World confirms that Chase Brock is replacing original choreographer Daniel Ezralow, a Taymor loyalist who designed the show’s complex flying sequences.
Spider-Man will return from its three-week hiatus on May 12, and continue preview performances until the scheduled opening night on June 14.
The beleaguered Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was dealt another blow Tuesday with the announcement that T.V. Carpio, who plays the villain Arachne, will be sidelined for the next two weeks following an injury sustained during one of the show’s many fight scenes.
According to The New York Times, Carpio was hurt during a March 16 preview performance in an aggressive Act II showdown between the eight-legged Arachne and Peter Parker (played that evening by Matthew James Thomas). Although the newspaper reports the nature of the injury was not disclosed, it’s believed to be a neck injury; Broadway World contends it’s “whiplash.”
Understudy America Olivo has been performing as Arachne, and will continue in the part until Carpio’s return.
Carpio is the fifth performer injured in a production plagued by difficulties. In fact, she took over the role of Arachne from original actress Natalie Mendoza, who left Spider-Man in late December after she suffered a concussion during the problem-filled first preview.
The $70-million musical, by far the most expensive and technically ambitious show in Broadway history, has had a tumultuous month — which is really saying something, considering its rocky past: In the wake of overwhelmingly negative reviews and rumors of behind-the-scenes tensions, director Julie Taymor stepped aside on March 9 to make way for an expanded creative team tasked with overhauling the production. And just this week a report surfaced that producers are seeking to replace choreographer Daniel Ezralow, a Taymor loyalist responsible for designing the ambitious flying sequences.
Preview performances will be shut down from April 19 to May 11 to accommodate what are expected to be sweeping changes to the show — including a reduction of Arachne’s role. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is now scheduled to open on June 14.
Publishing | Disney Publishing is pushing further into the kids’ periodical market with four new magazines, including two standalone issues tied to Marvel’s upcoming Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger movies. Marvel’s comics division apparently won’t be producing content for the publications. A third magazine, based around Cars 2, will be monthly beginning in the fall, while the fourth, tied to the Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb, will be bimonthly. [Variety, Deadline]
Broadway | On the heels of the recent departure of director Julie Taymor, producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark are reportedly in talks to replace choreographer Daniel Ezralow, who designed the $70-million musical’s complex flying sequences. Chase Brock is likely to step in for Ezralow, who was described by a cast member as “a Julie person.” [Bloomberg]
Ask someone in comics what they think about Jim Shooter, and you’re bound to get very strong, and very different, opinions. Sometimes, in fact, from the same person. The self-described “writer. editor. large mammal.” has been innovative on several fronts, not only in founding Valiant, Defiant and Broadway, but also in serving as editor-in-chief of Marvel during the pivotal early ’80s, and even breaking into comics at the tender age of 13. And now he’s started telling stories about his time in the industry.
On the newly launched JimShooter.com, the respected creator has begun talking at length about his experiences and acquaintances in comics — from Stan Lee to Mort Weisinger and more. Of particular interest to me has been a post about regrets he has in the industry, as well as describing that he pitched to DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes back then because he thought that team’s stories in Adventure Comics were the worst comics on shelves.
The announcement of a June 14 opening night for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — the sixth delay for the troubled musical — was quickly followed by conflicting reports about a stalemate with departing director Julie Taymor.
Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris set the new date on Friday, and confirmed preview performances will shut down from April 19 to May 11 to allow the newly expanded creative team, which includes director Philip William McKinley and script doctor Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, to implement what are expected to be sweeping changes to the show.
Within hours of that news, the New York Post’s Michael Riedel, who’s been gleeful if not always accurate in his chronicling of the musical’s myriad troubles, wrote that Taymor is digging in her heels, refusing to leave without a “hefty payday” — and the script she co-wrote with Glen Berger. Riedel cites a source as saying the standoff has caused “chaos” in what’s already a chaotic production. A show representative was quick to deny the claims, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “All discussions are proceeding positively.”
An “exclusive” early this morning from Showbiz411′s Roger Friedman, whose frequently zealous defense of Spider-Man has softened dramatically in the past couple of weeks, contends Taymor will remain credited as director and co-writer (that point appears unchanged from Thursday), in large part because producers don’t have a “hefty” payout for the Tony Award winner. That certainly sounds right, as the show’s price tag is now being placed at north of $70 million — nearly triple its initially envisioned budget. While the musical is bringing in more than $1 million a week during preview performances, it will be at least four years before Spider-Man recoups its costs.
If all of that leaves any heads spinning, The New York Times has a terrific overview of the musical’s troubled history that notes, perhaps, why Taymor’s Lion King thrived while Spider-Man has foundered: Disney reined in the director, whom many regard as a creative genius, while Cohl and other producers gave her freedom, at least up until the past several weeks:
A post-Julie Taymor Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will likely be a radically changed show, with many of the director’s trademark elements altered or removed, multiple outlets report.
Among the rumored revisions are the strengthening of the love story between Peter Parker and Mary Jane, said to have been a point of contention between Taymor and some cast members, the loss of the widely panned “Deeply Furious” number, and a clarification of the Green Goblin’s story arc (he dies in Act I only to reappear in Act II). But perhaps most notable are the plans for Arachne, the eight-legged villainess created by Taymor in 2002. The character, who dominates the second act, will see her scenes reduced or cut entirely, Bloomberg reports.
The details surfaced today, less than 24 hours after producers finally announced what many had expected for some time: that the beleagured director would leave and the critically savaged musical shut down for two weeks to undergo a massive overhaul. Philip William McKinley (The Boy From Oz) was brought in as Taymor’s replacement to work with an expanded creative team that includes composers Bono and The Edge, musical consultant Paul Bogaev, playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and sound designer Peter Hylenski. Opening night, most recently scheduled for March 15, will be delayed for a sixth time, to early summer.
As expected, the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark announced this evening that Julie Taymor will step aside as director of the much-delayed and derided $65 million musical. They also confirmed that opening night has been moved from March 15 to early summer, marking the show’s sixth postponement.
Taymor will be replaced by Philip William McKinley (The Boy From Oz), who joins an expanded creative team — it includes playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, musical consultant Paul Bogaev and sound designer Peter Hylenski — that will overhaul the production over the next three months. Performances are expected to shut down for two to three weeks in April and May to accommodate the retooling and rehearsals.
According to The New York Times, the producers, along with composers Bono and the Edge, told the cast this evening that Taymor was out but would remain involved in the show, although not in a day-to-day capacity.
That point was emphasized in a joint statement from lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris: “Julie Taymor is not leaving the creative team. Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie’s previous commitments mean that past March 15th, she cannot work the 24/7 necessary to make the changes in the production in order to be ready for our opening.”
The Times notes that the producers’ press release doesn’t include a comment from Taymor, an omission the newspaper characterizes as “a sign of the discord among them.” Indeed, today’s announcement follows weeks of friction, during which the Tony Award-winning director reportedly refused requests by producers to allow outsiders to make changes to the widely panned show.
Reports: Taymor leaving Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, producers shutting down musical for overhaul [Updated]
Besieged director Julie Taymor will leave Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark as producers prepare to shut down performances for two to three weeks to overhaul the $65 million musical, multiple sources report. However, The New York Times now contends she could remain in some capacity, “perhaps in name only,” following her rumored resignation Tuesday night.
The news follows two days of negotiations that were believed to center on the Tony Award-winning Taymor either working with an expanded creative team to retool production, or possibly exit the show she co-wrote and shepherded to Broadway. “Taymor is out. She’s left the building,” a source close to the production tells the New York Daily News.
The shutdown dates for Spider-Man, which was supposed to open March 15, are expected to cover late April and early May, The Times reports. However, a spokesman sticks by the line that “the opening night is still scheduled for March 15.” A shutdown would mean a loss of about $1.3 million a week — although still in previews, Spider-Man is one of the highest-grossing shows on Broadway — and push the production past the April 28 deadline for Tony Awards eligibility (apparently not a concern). Producers are now thought to be eyeing a June opening date, the show’s sixth.