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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.
After five delays and nearly 70 preview performances, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark received its first wave of “official” reviews overnight from the nation’s top theater critics — many of whom went to great pains to point out that the $65-million musical was supposed to open on Monday, at least before the most recent postponement.
The results are perhaps predictable, if certainly not flattering. Words like “incoherent,” “cheap” and “atrocious” are used, much to the production’s dismay. (Comic Book Resources reviewed Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark last month, with Staff Writer Josh Wigler describing it as “awful.”)
“The PILE-ON by the critics was ridiculous and uncalled for,” show spokesman Rick Miramontez said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. “Their actions are unprecedented and UNCOOL!”
“Unprecedented” likely refers to the publishing of reviews before the show’s official opening on March 15, a baton Showbiz411’s Roger Friedman — a longtime friend and frequent defender of director Julie Taymor — picked up when he described the move as an “ambush” in a post titled “Spider-Man Musical: Told Not To, the Critics Review it Anyway.” That’s the same Roger Friedman who, in 2009, downloaded and reviewed a copy of a stolen unfinished print of X-Men Origins: Wolverine weeks before the movie’s opening.
Here’s a roundup of some of the early reviews that reportedly left Spider-Man producer Norton Herrick “gobsmacked”:
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.
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.
With its planned Feb. 7 opening a little more than a month away, the beleaguered Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark began the new year with some impressive box-office receipts, a new lead actress, and a public-relations offensive:
• Despite — or, heck, maybe because of — the injuries, technical mishaps and delays, Spider-Man is the third highest-grossing show on Broadway, raking in $1.88 million during the week of the New Year’s holiday. It’s behind Wicked and The Lion King.
• Cast member T.V. Carpio was announced on Tuesday as the replacement for Natalie Mendoza in the lead role of the villainous Arachne. Mendoza left the production last week to continue her recovery from the concussion she suffered in November during the show’s problem-filled first preview. Carpio had played Miss Arrow, one of four members in the musical’s so-called Geek Chorus, had had portrayed Arachne in several previews last month.
• Christopher Tierney, the aerialist who suffered serious injuries in a fall during a Dec. 20 performance, told The New York Times that, “for a show that’s this technically complex, four injured performers is just not strange.” Lead producer Michael Cohl told Entertainment Weekly that the 31-year-old Tierney, who’s expected to take two to three months to heal, is welcome back to Spider-Man whenever he’s ready.
• Tierney appeared Tuesday on ABC’s Good Morning America with stars Reeve Carney, Jennifer Damiano and Patrick Page. You can watch video of the segment after the break.
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.
Confused by all the twist and turns involving the delay- and injury-plagued Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark? Don’t worry, Taiwan’s Next Media Animation has your covered, explaining the latest developments in its customary CGI-animated, and somewhat-humorous, style.
Broadway | The Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark canceled both Wednesday performances to test new safety measures following the Monday-night fall that left a stuntman hospitalized with broken ribs and internal bleeding. The cancellation of the sold-out evening show was announced just three hours before showtime at the Foxwoods Theatre. Tonight’s performance is expected to go on as planned.
Producers and creators met privately on Tuesday with the entire company to address safety concerns about the $65-million musical, the most expensive and technically complex in Broadway history. Although accidents in theater productions aren’t uncommon, it’s unusual for there to be four injuries before a show has officially opened. MTV offers some context. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]
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: Broadway.com 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.
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.
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.
As the delay-plagued Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark finally prepares to begin previews — Sunday, if nothing else goes wrong — New York magazine takes us “Inside Broadway’s Most Expensive Musical Ever.”
The longish cover story serves as both a profile of Julie Taymor, the visionary director who’s been a lightning rod for criticism, and a chronicle of a production troubled by a financial shortfall, a ballooning budget, the loss of two stars, and technical difficulties that have thrust the musical into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Here are some of the more interesting tidbits:
• The widely reported budget estimates, which range anywhere from $50 million to $65 million, apparently are “fantasies.” Says the show’s lead producer Michael Cohl: “They are like asking my dog ‘How much is the budget?’ and counting how many times he barks.” New York writer Jesse Green suggests the actual figure is even higher, “in the vicinity” of $70 million.
• Taymor wonders why writers even care how much the production costs: This is a drama–rock-and-roll–circus, or a circus–rock-and-roll–drama; there’s no word for it. And what do they want? Two-character, one-set musicals? How is that helping the theater?” She likes that “rock-and-roll-circus” description.
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)
State safety inspectors return today to New York City’s Foxwoods Theatre to continue an assessment of the complicated flying sequences for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the $60-million musical that’s been plagued by setbacks.
According to The New York Times, inspectors were shown just 13 of the show’s 27 aerial sequences during their visit two weeks ago, leading to another delay that moves previews from Nov. 14 to Nov. 28 and the opening from Dec. 21 to Jan. 11. Inspectors must sign off on all of the sequences before they can be used in public performances.
The Julie Taymor-directed musical will be the most expensive in Broadway history — it will cost about $1 million a week to produce — and the most technically complex, with aerial maneuvers that send actors out above the audience and catapult them across the stage. Two actors have been injured during rehearsals of the flying techniques, triggering separate investigations by the New York State Department of Labor and Actors’ Equity.
As we reported on Tuesday, the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is so physically demanding that producers are considering a second cast member to fill in for star Reeve Carney for as many as two performances a week.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which features a score by Bono and the Edge, also stars Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane Watson and Patrick Page as Green Goblin.
Producers of the frequently delayed Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark plan to select a second actor to play Peter Parker because of the physical demands of the role.
The New York Times reports that cast member Matthew James Thomas, best known for the British musical drama Britannia High, is being considered to fill in for star Reeve Carney for as many as two performances a week after the show opens in January.
The $60-million production isn’t just the most expensive show in Broadway history, but also the most technically complex, with two dozen aerial maneuvers that send actors out above the audience and catapult them across the stage. Two performers, at least one of whom doubles as Spider-Man, have been injured during rehearsals, triggering separate investigations by the New York State Department of Labor and Actors’ Equity.
Producers earlier this month were unable to demonstrate all of the flying stunts during a routine safety inspection, forcing another delay that moves previews from Nov. 14 to Nov. 28 and the opening from Dec. 21 to Jan. 11.
Directed by Julie Taymor and featuring a score by Bono and the Edge, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark also stars Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane Watson and Patrick Page as Green Goblin.