Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Few have a better perspective on the making of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark than playwright Glen Berger. He spent six years co-writing the script and has now penned a tell-all memoir about the tumultuous experience, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History.
As noted on the book’s back cover, one scene — in which “Green Goblin pushes a Steinway off a skyscraper only to be sent to his own death because he didn’t realize he was attached to the piano by Spider-Man’s webbing” — earned him the job, but it also would ultimately lead to the dismissal of director and co-writer Julie Taymor.
We cover a great deal of ground in this interview, including a brief discussion of (as he mentions in the book) his reaction to sharing a co-writer credit for the play with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who worked on the project for just two months. It was interesting to get Berger’s perspective, particularly when comparing what it’s like to develop for theater as opposed to television. I’m also curious to see what musical he’s developing for Warner Bros.
Already the most expensive production in Broadway history, when Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark closes on Jan. 4, it also will have racked up historic losses that The New York Times pegs as high as $60 million. That’s compared to the $5 million to $15 million usually lost by “flops,” which, granted, typically cost far, far less than the $75 million musical.
Several investors tell the newspaper they’ve not been repaid any of the money they’ve put into the show, and producer Michael Cohl concedes some of them may lose all of their investments unless Spider-Man is profitable in Las Vegas, where it’s expected to re-open in 2015.
After a tumultuous three years on Broadway marked by cast injuries, public feuds and, lately, dwindling ticket sales, the $75 million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will close in January, with plans to reopen in 2015 in Las Vegas.
Although the show has been popular, routinely grossing $1 million or a week in ticket sales (at least until recently), it’s the most expensive musical in Broadway history, costing $1.2 million a week to produce. Spider-Man pulled in just $742,595 last week, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that it’s been running below the break-even point for some time now. The production has grossed $703 million since performances began in November 2010, but because even sold-out performances barely cover running expenses, investors have seen little return.
Stage | Dancer Daniel Curry, who was seriously injured during an Aug. 15 performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, made his first appearance since the accident at a benefit concert held Monday that raised $10,000 for his medical bills. Curry was injured when his leg was pinned by an automated trap door — he blames malfunctioning equipment, producers say it was human error — resulting in fractured legs and a fractured foot; he has undergone surgeries and unspecified amputations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Actors’ Equity have launched investigations into the accident, and Curry’s lawyers are exploring a possible lawsuit against the $75 million show and the equipment suppliers.
During previews of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — before the March 2011 firing of director Julie Taymor and the sweeping overhaul that followed — no fewer than five performers were injured, the most serious previously being aerialist Christopher Tierney, who fell about 30 feet in December 2010, breaking four ribs and fracturing three vertebrae. He returned to rehearsals four months later. There have been no major accidents since the show opened in June 2011. [The New York Times]
Legal | A dancer seriously injured last month during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark insists the accident was caused by malfunctioning equipment and not, as the show’s producers contend, by human error. Daniel Curry made the claim in documents filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court that seek to prevent the production from altering or destroying the computerized stage lift before his experts can inspect the equipment in preparation for a potential civil lawsuit. He’s also requesting maintenance records and any internal reports about the accident. The 23-year-old Curry was injured during the Aug. 15 performance of Spider-Man when his leg was pinned in an automated trap door. According to court papers, he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and has had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. [New York Daily News, The New York Times]
Reeve Carney, who has starred in the title role since the production opened in 2010, gave his final performance Sunday night, after which he introduced his successor Justin Matthew Sargent. Carney, who announced his departure in July, soon will begin production on Showtime’s upcoming drama Penny Dreadful.
The production had held open casting calls for Reeve’s replacement, but settled on Sargent, who has been performing as the alternate lead in Spider-Man since August.
“We looked for our new lead in L.A. and New York,” producers Michael Cohl and Jere Harris said in a joint statement. “During Justin’s rehearsals as the alternate, we realized this is the guy to take over for Reeve. He is one of Broadway’s great rockers.”
Indeed, Sargent previously starred in the Broadway production of Rock of Ages.
The $75 million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been lampooned by Sesame Street and Conan O’Brien, dramatized by Law & Order: Criminal Intent, scrutinized by the press and ridiculed by comics fans. And now the most expensive production in Broadway history is the subject of a tell-all book.
The New York Times reports that Glen Berger, who collaborated on the show’s original script with former director Julie Taymor, has written Song of Spider-Man, which purports to document all of the betrayals and pettiness surrounding her firing in March 2011 and the sweeping overhaul of the production that followed. The newspaper obtained galleys of the book ahead of its Nov. 5 release from Simon & Schuster.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark grossed a record-low $966,952 in ticket sales last week, the first time since performances began in November 2010 that the musical — at $75 million, the most expensive in Broadway history — dipped below $1 million for a standard eight-performance week.
Although The New York Times notes that sales have been softening since last year, a spokesman for the production attributed the drop to “fallout” from the serious injury suffered Aug. 15 by dancer Daniel Curry, whose leg was pinned by an automated trap door during a performance. That night’s show was canceled and Curry was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he remains.
Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, the Broadway musical that was plagued by accidents in the early months of its run, has claimed another victim.
The New York Times reports that dancer Daniel Curry was seriously injured during Thursday night’s performance when his leg was pinned in an automated trap door during the second act. Last night’s show was canceled, but tonight’s will continue as scheduled.
“Following last night’s accident at Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Daniel Curry remains in the hospital in stable condition having sustained an injury to his foot,” a spokesman for the production said in a statement. “Tonight’s performance will go on as scheduled. The technical elements of the show are all in good working order, and we can confirm that equipment malfunction was not a factor in the incident. Our thoughts are with Daniel and his family.”
Ending more than a year of intermittent negotiations and aborted deals that left even the presiding judge frustrated, the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and ousted director Julie Taymor announced today they have reached a settlement in their legal battle over copyright, royalties and credit for the most expensive show in Broadway history.
“I’m pleased to have reached an agreement and hope for the continued success of Spider-Man, both on Broadway and beyond,” Taymor said in a statement. Lead producers of Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris offered: “We’re happy to put all this behind us. We are now looking forward to spreading Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark in new and exciting ways around the world.”
Considering all the drama that once surrounded the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — cast injuries, delays, a ballooning budget, terrible reviews, the ouster of the original director — it was probably too much to expect that the resulting lawsuit between Julie Taymor and the show’s producers could be settled quickly and relatively quietly.
However, that seemed to be the case in August, when a federal judge announced that the Tony Award-winning director had reached a settlement with lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris regarding dueling lawsuits that followed her March 2011 firing from the $70 million musical she co-wrote. The case was dismissed, leaving the parties to put the finishing touches on an agreement. Unable to reach a deal by January, they agreed to revive the lawsuit in hopes that they could arrive at a final settlement before a May trial date.
A settlement has been reached between fired director Julie Taymor and the producers of the $75 million Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, bringing to an end the nearly year-old legal dispute.
The Tony Award-winning director of The Lion King, Taymor was fired from the much-delayed Spider-Man in March 2011 following her resistance to making any major changes in the wake of a series of blistering reviews. A new creative team was brought in to overhaul Spider-Man — many of Taymor’s signature elements were stripped in the process — transforming it into one of the most successful, if also most expensive, productions on Broadway.
Taymor, who also co-wrote the original show, responded in November 2011 by filing a breach of contract lawsuit against lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris, alleging they violated her copyrights and deprived her of future royalties. The producers counter-sued in January, insisting Taymor “could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do,” and therefore didn’t deserve additional royalties.
Creators | Stan Lee will cut his visit to this weekend’s Dallas Comic-Con short and has canceled his appearance at Monday’s Hero Complex Film Festival. A spokesman for POW! Entertainment said Lee, 89, is distraught and depressed after the death of Arthur Lieberman, one of his business associates at POW!, and is also fatigued after multiple appearances promoting The Avengers. Lee will appear Saturday at the Dallas Comic-Con, but not on Sunday. [Hero Complex]
Publishing | Todd Allen notes that DC Comics has dropped some titles from its subscription service, including Aquaman, Batwoman and Swamp Thing. The move seems to be motivated by low sales in that channel, and Allen takes that as evidence DC is being cost-conscious. They are offering substitute series to subscribers, but it’s not clear what the logic is behind the substitutions. DC has also just launched a web store that sells lots of merch and a handful of graphic novels. [The Beat]
The producers of the $75 million Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have to pay $9,750 a week in royalties to ousted director Julie Taymor as part of a settlement with her union.
The New York Times reports that the agreement announced today with the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society affect the lawsuits filed against each other by Taymor and the producers, but instead settles an earlier grievance pressed by the union concerning Taymor’s contract rights as director. The dueling federal suits address her role as a creator and writer of the once-troubled show.
Taymor was fired in March from the much-delayed and -derided production following her resistance to making any major changes in the wake of a series of blistering reviews. (The producers contend she refused to create an original, family-friendly musical based on Marvel’s Spider-Man and instead “insisted on developing a dark, disjointed and hallucinogenic musical involving suicide, sex and death.”) A new creative team was brought in to overhaul Spider-Man — many of Taymor’s signature elements were stripped in the process — transforming it into one of the most successful, if also most expensive, shows on Broadway. It regularly grosses more than $1.3 million a week.
According to The Times, producers had hoped to only pay Taymor royalties only through her firing nearly a year ago instead of, potentially, for years to come. They also agreed to pay her an undisclosed sum for subsequent productions or tours outside of New York. Taymor, meanwhile agreed to defer her royalty payments for collaborator — they amount to about $4,000 a week — until Spider-Man‘s backers recoup their $75 million investment, which will take several years.
The producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark struck back Tuesday against a lawsuit by Julie Taymor, claiming the former director violated her own contract before she was fired in March, and shouldn’t receive any royalties from the $75 million Broadway musical.
Taymor, who also co-wrote the long-troubled show, sued producers in November, arguing that the overhauled musical violates her copyrights. She also said she deserves full credit and pay, despite her public ouster. Taymor seeks at least $1 million, as well as future royalties.
But according to The New York Times, the producers’ countersuit insists Taymor “could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do,” forcing others to undertake those responsibilities, resulting in a new show over which she has no claim.
In the court filing they say Taymor refused to create an original, family-friendly musical based on Marvel’s Spider-Man and instead “insisted on developing a dark, disjointed and hallucinogenic musical involving suicide, sex and death.”
Following Taymor’s firing, Spider-Man shut down for three weeks to undergo an overhaul at the hands of new director Philip William McKinley and writers Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Glen Berger. When the musical returned in mid-May for previews, it was described as “virtually unrecognizable” from the show savaged by critics in February.
“As a result of all of the changes that Taymor could not and would not make, the Spider-Man musical is now a hit,” the producers say in their suit. “The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her.”
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which costs $1.2 million a week to produce, grossed about $1.4 million last week, behind Wicked and The Lion King. It has brought in about $81 million since performances began in November 2010.