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Another Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark delay seems all but certain

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

When even the show’s most vocal defender is reporting on an apparent sixth delay for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, you begin to think there’s something to the growing belief that the $65 million musical won’t officially open until June.

Roger Friedman, a longtime friend of director Julie Taymor who’s used his Showbiz411 website to chastise theater critics and counter reports by the New York Post’s Michael Riedel, now says the March 15 date — described in January by lead producer Michael Cohl as “the final postponement” — is being called a “Hope-ening.”

“One source says every time the show doesn’t open they call it a ‘Faux-pening’,” Friedman writes this morning. He frames the move as a way to sidestep the April 28 deadline for the Tony Awards while giving the creative team more time to retool the show as much as possible within the constraints of the highly complex mechanics: “I am told that the feeling is that week to week the show is selling well enough ($1.55 mil last week.) that opening now, getting panned again, and then getting snubbed by the Tonys — which is likely — is worse than just staying the course and continuing to make improvements.”

This latest delay was perhaps telegraphed early last month by a wave of negative reviews, followed by reports that comics writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been approached to rewrite the book, and the hiring of veteran conductor and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev.

The troubled production, which has been plagued by mechanical glitches, injuries and cast departures as well as delays, was cited Friday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for three serious safety violations for four separate incidents last year — including the one in which Christopher Tierney plunged from a platform on stage, breaking ribs and fracturing his skull. Producers were fined $12,600, a drop in the bucket for the most expensive show in Broadway history.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark cast performs on Letterman

Reeve Carney on "Late Show with David Letterman"

It was a busy Tuesday for the cast and crew of  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark that began with an upbeat appearance by the stars on CBS’s Early Show and ended with a subdued performance on the Late Show with David Letterman. In between, Bono was expected to tell producers whether he thinks the troubled $65-million musical is ready for its scheduled March 15 opening.

On The Early Show, stars Reeve Carney, Jennifer Damiano and T.V. Carpio brushed aside the production’s largely negative reviews, even one saying that Spider-Man ranks among the worst musicals in Broadway history. “Everyone has a right to their opinion,” said Carney, who stars as Peter Parker. “If anything, maybe thanks for — in some ways, we kind of get a kick out of the negativity, just because (of) that whole thing — ‘any press is good press’ is not entirely true, but you have to have a good sense of humor about yourself, as well. We’re just trying to make the best show we can. So it’s one person’s opinion, and I think the audience reaction is so positive every night that that’s kind of what we’re focused on, just trying to please the audience.”

Likewise, Carpio downplayed the show’s injuries, pointing out she received a concussion while performing in Rent. “Not to minimize what has happened in our show,” she said, “but there’s no flying in Rent and these things happened and nobody heard about it.” (That said, Spider-Man producers can’t be pleased by the headline on The Early Show website: “Spider-Man stars rationalize injuries.”)

On David Letterman, it was all about the music, with the trio performing the obviously Bono-penned ballad “Rise Above” (watch the video below). They might’ve been better-served by something a little more pulse-pounding, but what do I know? How about Carney’s Spider-Man jacket, though? I’d buy one of those from the gift shop (which will be stocked with merchandise sporting Greg Horn artwork).

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A second Spider-Man musical gets the jump on Turn Off the Dark

The Spidey Project (logo by Gregg Rafuse)

A day before the much-publicized, and widely lampooned, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark opens on Broadway — well, a day before it’s supposed to open — another, smaller Spider-musical will premiere at the Peoples Improv Theater in New York City: a parody called The Spidey Project: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

The brainchild of comedian and composer Justin Moran, the goal of the project is to put together a “fully realized” musical based on Spider-Man in under 30 days with no budget, and do it before Julie Taymor’s repeatedly delayed, and poorly reviewed, $65-million production officially opens. “Our goal isn’t to tear down Julie Taymor or parody her production,” Moran tells The New York Times. “Our goal is to do what she should have done in the first place, and that’s just make a really good musical.”

To help, Moran has enlisted writer Jon Roufaeal to collaborate on the story and book — it’s “100 percent” based on the comic-book origin, so no spider-legged Arachne here! — and composers Adam Podd and Doug Katsaros to write and arrange the score. (There’s no Mary Jane in The Spidey Project, either. “This story pre-dates her a bit,” Moran notes in an FAQ.)

Tickets for the musical will be available as the March 14 opening draws closer. No ticket price has been set, but Moran hopes it will be nominal: “Ideally tickets will be free, but I understand it costs money to keep a theater opened so if they absolutely need to charge a small cost, like $5 a ticket, just to pay their insurance fees or internal staff so we can have our show, I think that’s pretty fair.”

Spider-Man musical brings in help, could delay opening again

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, by Annie Leibovitz

Producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have brought in outside help for the beleaguered musical amid growing expectation that the show’s opening will be delayed a sixth time.

The New York Times reports that veteran conductor and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev was hired about a week ago to work with Bono and the Edge and to help improve the performance, arrangements and sound quality. Bogaev was the musical director and conductor of the technically complex Starlight Express, and collaborated with Phill Collins on Tarzan and Elton John on Aida.

News of Bogaev’s involvement comes less than a week after a report that comics writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been approached to rework the book originally penned by Julie Taymor and Glen Berger (The Times says he’s yet to be hired). It also follows quickly on a rumor that producers wanted to bring in a co-director for Taymor — something a show spokesman and Taymor herself deny.

Spider-Man spokesman Rick Miramontez wouldn’t comment to the newspaper regarding speculation that the show’s opening could be pushed past March 15, the date selected last month by lead producer Michael Cohl “to ensure that this will be the final postponement.”

The $65 million musical, which began preview performances on Nov. 28, has experienced numerous setbacks, including technical glitches, serious injuries, cast departures and, early this month, an avalanche of scathing reviews from theater critics. Still, it’s the second highest-grossing show on Broadway, behind the long-running Wicked.

Spider-Man musical cited for two safety violations, skewered by SNL

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

The troubled $65-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been issued two safety violations for accidents last year that resulted in the injuries of three performers.

Citing an unnamed official with the New York State Department of Labor, The New York Times reports the findings require the show’s producers to continue safety measures put in place in December after Christopher Tierney, one of several aerialists who doubles for Spider-Man, fell more than 20 feet, suffering serious injuries. Two other performers were hurt while rehearsing a stunt that catapults them from the back of the stage to the lip.

According to the newspaper, state officials will continue to conduct announced inspections. If they find any safety measures aren’t being followed, they can withdraw variances issued last year allowing aerial sequences to be performed over the audience.

News of the violations capped off a week that began with scathing reviews, then continued with an angry response from the show’s lead producer and, on Friday, a report that the production is again turning to focus groups.

To add insult to injury, Spider-Man was again lampooned by Saturday Night Live, this time in a fake commercial for the law firm of Gublin & Green, which specializes in winning settlements for anyone injured by the show. “We’ve settled all kinds of complaints: ‘Didn’t like the songs'; ‘confused by the plot'; ‘insulted legacy of Spider-Man'; ‘Fell asleep so suddenly I hit head on seat in front of me'; ‘sucky title’ …” Watch the video after the break.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the most expensive and technically complex show in Broadway history, is set to officially open on March 15, after five delays.

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At long last, the Spider-Man musical has a ‘triumphant’ finale

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (by Annie Leibovitz)

After seven tempestuous weeks of previews during which a temporary, and unsatisfying, ending was used, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has a dramatic new finale.

The New York Times reports the new, technically complex ending features a flying sequence in which Spider-Man flies “in a triumphant manner” around the 1,932-seat Foxwoods Theatre. The change comes in response to complaints that the show’s current ending — Spider-Man and Mary Jane embrace, then the curtain drops — was lackluster at best.

A spokesman for the $65-million musical would only say that the new ending involves “an airborne finale moment that will be familiar to Spider-Man fans around the world.”

Producers announced last Thursday that Spider-Man‘s opening would be delayed a fifth time, to March 15, to allow more time to fine-tune the finale and other aspects of the show. Grammy-winning record producer Steve Lillywhite was also been brought in by Bono and director Julie Taymor to work with the performers on the music.

Opening of Spider-Man musical delayed once again

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

The opening of the $65-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been delayed for a fifth time, to March 15, the show’s lead producers announced late today. Opening night previously had been set for Feb. 7.

According to The New York Times and other outlets, producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris said the opening was pushed back to allow more time to fine-tune parts of the show, “including a new ending.” The announcement came hours after it was reported that Grammy-winning record producer Steve Lillywhite had been brought in by Bono and director Julie Taymor to work with the performers on the music.

Preview performances scheduled for Jan. 18 and Jan. 25 also have been canceled outright.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is ten times more complicated to tech than anything else,” Cohl said in a statement, “and the preview schedule allows for only very limited rehearsal time (twelve hours per week). We simply need more time to fully execute the creative team’s vision before freezing the show. I picked a date in March that allows me to ensure that this will be the final postponement.”

The delay is just the latest in a series of setbacks for the musical, which in addition to be the most expensive and technically complex in Broadway history now holds the record for most previews (they began on Nov. 28). Spider-Man has been plagued with troubles that date back to at least back to August 2009, when cash-flow obstacles forced the production to shut down, seemingly beginning a domino effect that led to repeated delays, the loss of two stars and a ballooning budget.

Safety concerns first emerged in October, around the time dancer Kevin Aubin broke both wrists in an aerial stunt gone wrong. During the coverage of that incident it was discovered that another performer had broken a foot during rehearsals. Then came November’s problem-filled first preview, during which actress Natalie Mendoza suffered a concussion, resulting in a two-week absence and, eventually, her departure. That was followed on Dec. 20 by the show’s worst mishap, when aerialist Christopher Tierney suffered extensive injuries after his harness snapped, sending him falling 30 feet.

Despite those problems, Spider-Man still managed to top last week’s Broadway box office, narrowly beating out the long-running musical Wicked.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark loses a lead actress

Natalie Mendoza

The troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark received another blow this morning as word emerged that actress Natalie Mendoza, who suffered a concussion during the show’s problem-filled first preview, is leaving the Broadway musical.

Citing anonymous sources, The New York Times reports that representatives for Mendoza, lawyers and producers of the show “have been hammering out an exit agreement for days” and “fine-tuning the language” to explain the actress’ departure. An official announcement is expected later today.

Mendoza starred as Arachne, a villain created by director Julie Taymor who plays a major role in the revised origin of Spider-Man and later becomes obsessed with the superhero. The newspaper notes that Taymor worked closely with Mendoza to develop the character’s look and mannerisms.

The 30-year-old actress, who was injured on Nov. 28 when a rope struck her in the head while she was standing offstage, hasn’t performed since Dec. 20, when her friend and castmate Christopher Tierney was seriously injured in a fall. According to The Times, she has been on vocal rest, under doctors’ orders. Mendoza’s understudy America Olivo, who filled in for her during her two-week recovery from the concussion, is expected to step into the role of Arachne.

The loss of a lead actress this close to Spider-Man‘s scheduled Feb. 7 opening would be enough of a sting on its own. But it’s particularly embarrassing following nearly a year of delays — the show was to debut in March 2010 at one point — money problems, the departures of the original Mary Jane and Green Goblin, four injuries — two of them major — and mounting criticism.

Labor union to stop performances of Spider-Man musical following injury [Updated]

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

In the wake of last night’s accident that sent a stuntman to the hospital, Actors’ Equity Association has announced it will halt performances of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark until better safety measures are instituted.

“Actors’ Equity Association is working with management and the Department of Labor to ensure that performances will not resume until back-up safety measures are in place,” the labor union, which represents live theatrical performances, said this morning in a statement released to Broadway World. Update: now reports that “additional safety protocols” will be enacted immediately, resulting in the postponement of Wednesday’s matinee. However, Wednesday evening’s performance, and all subsequent ones, will proceed as scheduled.

As we reported earlier, aerialist Christopher Tierney, who doubles for Spider-Man and two villains, fell about 30 feet when the cable to his harness snapped during the closing minutes of Monday night’s performance. (The New York Times has amateur video of the mishap.) He was taken by ambulance to Bellevue Hospital, where he’s reported to be in stable condition. According to Showbiz 411, Tierney suffered broken ribs and is being monitored because he was bleeding after the fall.

Inspectors from the New York State Department of Labor are visiting the Foxwoods Theatre today to conduct their own investigation. “We’ll be talking to the production team, checking the harnesses, cables, and other equipment, and trying to determine what happened, and we’ll have more information after that,” a department spokesman told The Times.

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Opening of Spider-Man musical delayed again, this time until February

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have decided to move the opening of the $65-million Broadway musical from Jan. 11 to sometime in February, The New York Times confirms. That’s nearly a year after it was originally set to open.

This latest delay is intended to provide more time for creators to stage a new closing number, further rewrite dialogue, consider adding and removing scenes, and possibly insert new music from Bono and the Edge.

The musical, which is the most expensive and technically complex in Broadway history, has been plagued by problems, dating back to at least August 2009, when cash-flow obstacles forced production to shut down. Amid delays that led to the loss of stars Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming, the show’s budget ballooned from $35 million to $50 million to $65 million. Just as director Julie Taymor’s ambitious show appeared back on track, reports emerged of safety concerns triggered by two injuries — one was serious — during rehearsals. Then came last month’s glitch-filled first preview, during which actress Natalie Mendoza received a concussion (she returned to the production on Wednesday night after a nearly two-week absence).

However, despite those problems — heck, maybe it’s because ofticket sales for Spider-Man‘s previews have been impressive, with the 1,932-seat Foxwoods Theatre at 98.2 percent capacity. Unfortunately, producers will have to maintain those numbers if they hope to recoup their initial investment in less than four years.

Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical delayed again? Tokyo manga restrictions

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | The planned Jan. 11 opening for the $65-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark likely will be pushed back again, Kim Masters reports. Yet despite technical problems, actor injuries and repeated delays, preview performances are selling at an impressive 98.2 percent capacity. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Legal | Roland Kelts provides commentary on the passage by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly of controversial legislation to further restrict sexual content in manga and anime: “Now we have Version 2 of the non-existent youth bill, with its opaque language promising to monitor depictions of fictional characters government officials decide are too young to be engaging in the fictional activities government officials decide are too harmful to real youth that government officials decide are too youthful to view or read about them.  Meanwhile, it remains legal in Japan to possess child pornography, live-action or illustrated, rendering most attempts at enforcement toothless.” Meanwhile, Japan Real Time, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal report on the new ordinance and the surrounding controversy. []

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The grim economics of the $65-million Spider-Man musical

From the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" video

It will take the troubled Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark four years to recoup its initial $65-million original investment, according to number-crunching by The New York Times.

Writing on the newspaper’s Economix blog, economics editor Catherine Rampell cautions that’s just a rough estimate that excludes merchandising sales — those can be lucrative for hit shows on the scale of The Lion King or Wicked — but somewhat generously assumes that 96 percent of the Foxwoods Theatre’s 1,932 available seats will be sold each week.

So, yes, Rampell’s calculations require some educated guesswork, but they make it clear that, even with the repeated delays, injuries and a problem-filled preview seemingly behind them, the producers of Spider-Man still have a difficult row to hoe. The combination of an established property with a visionary creative team might seem like a formula for success, but as Rampell notes, for every Lion King or Wicked there’s a Little Mermaid or Shrek the Musical. The latter, which cost an estimated $24 million — until Spider-Man came along, it was the most expensive production in Broadway history — ran for slightly more than a year, before closing in January.

Third actor injured in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Natalie Mendoza

A third actor has been injured in the delay-plagued, and apparently danger-fraught, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

The New York Post reports that Natalie Mendoza, who plays the villain Arachne, received a concussion Sunday night when she was hit in the head by a rope during the show’s problem-filled first preview. Her understudy America Olivo will take over the role through at least Tuesday, according to BroadwayWorld.

This is the third injury for the troubled $65-million musical, which is set to open on Jan. 11: One of several performers who doubles as Spider-Man broke both wrists in October when an aerial stunt went wrong, while another actor broke his foot in a separate incident.The Department of Labor and Actors’ Equity have opened investigations into the maneuver.

Spider-Man isn’t just the most expensive production in Broadway history, but also one of the most technically complex — as was demonstrated during the Sunday preview, when some performers, including Mendoza, were left dangling in the air and crew members rushed to fix faulty equipment.

Spider-Man musical’s first performance caught in web of mishaps

From the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" video

The good news for producers and hopeful fans of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is that the delay-plagued $65-million musical finally previewed Sunday night on Broadway. The bad, if not unexpected, news is … things didn’t go well.

Sure, nobody died, as Vulture so helpfully points out. But the ambitious, technically complex production began 24 minutes late, and then went downhill from there. According to The New York Times, Act I was paused four times — the first coming a half-hour into the show to allow the crew to free star Reeve Carney from an aerial harness. The act’s final pause, described as “the worst glitch of the night by far,” came when Spider-Man was left dangling over the audience before the stage manager abruptly called for intermission.

New York Post critic Michael Riedel, who has gleefully chronicled Spider-Man‘s misfortunes, reports that a scene in which Mary Jane (Jennifer Damiano) was supposed to be rescued from atop the Chrysler Building faltered as part of the building came up missing, and Mary Jane never materialized.

The performance crawled on for 3 1/2 hours, during which time some audience members walked out, one person yelled, “I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I feel like a guinea pig today — I feel like it’s a dress rehearsal,” and Green Goblin (Patrick Page) was forced to stall for time while crew members “openly rushed around to fix faulty equipment.”

Still, though, it could’ve gone worse. Right?

After the break you can watch the segment on the making of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark that aired last night on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

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First look behind the scenes of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

From the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" video

A video posted today on the Facebook page of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark provides the first peek, costume sketches and stylized photos aside, at what the $60-million musical will actually look like.

Set to the tune of the show’s anthem “Boy Falls From the Sky,” the video features some of the flying sequences — the source of the production’s most recent problems — as well as footage of stars Reeve Carney, Jennifer Damiano and Patrick Page in rehearsal, and clips of interviews with composers Bono and the Edge. Front and center, though, is director Julie Taymor’s pitch: “We can’t really tell you what this is, but it has rock and roll, it has drama, and it has circus. […] Yes, we have the spectacle, but the spectacle is at the service of a good story.”

If all goes as planned — let’s face it, very little with this production has gone according to plan — Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will begin previews Nov. 28 and open on Jan. 11.

(via The New York Times)

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