If for whatever reason, the curtain does not rise on the embattled musical Tuesday night, can all involved immediately turn the show into The Boy Who Cried Wolf?
Here we go again. The most expensive show in Broadway history (and surely that’s going to become a song in its own right sooner rather than later) has been revamped and is ready for its close-up. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark‘s main producers, Jeremiah Harris and Michael Cohl, were acutely aware that, in the words of William Shakespeare (who didn’t seem to suffer similar teething troubles) there was something rotten in the state of Denmark (or at least the state of this particular play). And considering that the budget and negativity surrounding the production has spiraled out of control and elaborate stunts have resulted in physical injuries, we’re a long way past only the show’s ego being bruised. You hardly need to work in the arts to recognize that this ship — to mix our metaphors for hopefully the last time — was sinking.
Harris and Cohl took the (some might say) bold move to fire celebrated director Julie Taymor when she wouldn’t get on board with the required changes. Her replacement, Philip William McKinley, couldn’t have been more different. “It was clear to me that the audience was not getting the story, that they weren’t understanding what was happening on stage,” he said in an interview with NPR. “And I remember saying there were three things that I thought this show needed. I think it needed joy, and it needed humanity and it needed characters you really cared about.”
Harris and Cohl also brought in a new playwright, Robert Aguirre-Sacasa (his resume includes writing Spider-Man comics), to team up with original co-author, Glen Berger, as they set about tinkering (i.e. reworking) the script. And then the fearless producers even requested new content from the show’s songwriters, a certain Bono and The Edge, of U2 fame. Add to this the closing down of the production in mid-April, rather than road-test it on a presumably weary public, and you’ve got full-scale changes undertaken in the full glare of the people.
But you can’t accuse them of not giving it a real go. Reeve Carney, who plays the eponymous hero, as well as alter-ego Peter Parker, said that more than 90% of his dialogue is brand new. “I think both versions of the show were fantastic, but this version of the show does make it a little bit easier on the general audience, and I think that is a good thing,” he claimed.
Whether it ends in glory or (continued) infamy is hard to say. As for success at next year’s Tony’s, that’s just a pipe dream. But if Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark can even make it to be in the running a year from now, that would certainty represent success of some sort. “With great power comes great responsibility,” is the oft-quoted Spider-Man line from the 2002 blockbuster movie. But it’s what Peter Parker says next that may be most poignant in relation to Tuesday’s opening. “This is my gift, my curse.”
(LIST: Top 10 Superhero Movies)