Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
|Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark|
by Stan Lee
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a musical based on the character Spider-Man, with music and lyrics by Bono and the Edge and a book by Julie Taymor, Glen Berger, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The story incorporates elements of the 2002 Spider-Man film and the Greek myth of Arachne. It tells Spider-Man's origin story, his romance with Mary Jane and his battles with the Green Goblin. It includes highly technical stunts, such as aerial combat scenes and actors swinging from "webs".
The Broadway production was notorious for its many troubles. Several actors were injured performing stunts and the opening night was repeatedly delayed, causing some critics to review the "unfinished" production in protest. Following negative reviews, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark suspended performances for a month to retool the show. Long-time Spider-Man comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was brought in to revise the story and book. Director Julie Taymor, whose vision had driven the concept of the musical, was replaced by creative consultant Philip William McKinley. By the time Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark officially opened on June 14, 2011, it had set the record for the longest preview period in Broadway history, with 182 performances.
Critical reception of the opening was better than for the previews, but mixed, with praise for the visual effects but little enthusiasm for the book and score. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is the most expensive Broadway production in history, with a budget of $75 million, and also once held the box office record for Broadway sales in one week, taking in $2.9 million over nine performances. The production closed on January 4, 2014, at a massive financial loss.
Although often described as a rock musical, the production "treads new ground" that some commentators have asserted "have effectively distanced it from its peers—and caused some confusion when it comes time to describe the show." The Edge stated that he is unsure of what description to use for the production, because "It is elements of rock and roll, it's elements of circus, it's elements of opera, [and] of musical theater." Bono, admitting that his description is a little "pretentious," has referred to it as "pop-up, pop-art opera," noting that Julie Taymor is calling it a "rock-and-roll circus drama." He also described the production as "wrestling with the same stuff" as "Rilke, Blake, Wings of Desire, Roy Lichtenstein, [and] the Ramones." A 60 Minutes CBS special stated that it is being called a "comic book rock opera circus," although in that segment Bono noted that even using "rock" to describe the music is too narrow a description, because "We've moved out of the rock and roll idiom in places into some very new territory for us ... [including] big show tunes and dance songs."
The production was described early on as "the most technically complex show ever on Broadway, with 27 aerial sequences of characters flying" and engaging in aerial combat. The production also includes a "multitude of moving set pieces that put the audience in the middle of the action," and enough projections onto giant screens that Bono has said that it is like a three-dimensional graphic novel. The original story treated the origins of Spider-Man similarly to the story in the 2002 film, but wove in an involved story about a villain based on the mythological Arachne. A "geek chorus" of four teenagers narrated the story. In the rewritten version, the plot hews closer to the comic book and film and trims and transforms the role of Arachne into a "kindred spirit in Spider-Man's dreams".
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had no out-of-town tryouts because of the technical requirements of the production, which were designed for the Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway. The musical began previews at that theatre on November 28, 2010. After many delays, the official opening gala night took place on June 14, 2011.
The creative team originally included director Taymor and choreographer Daniel Ezralow, with scenic design by George Tsypin, costume design by Eiko Ishioka and lighting design by Donald Holder. An "expanded creative team", announced on March 9, 2011, includes Philip William McKinley, joining the production as "consultant" (when Taymor left the production). It also includes the addition of Chase Brock for additional choreography and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for additional writing. Taymor retained her original credits in Spider-Man.
The opening night cast featured Reeve Carney as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane Watson, Patrick Page as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, T.V. Carpio as Arachne, Michael Mulheren as J. Jonah Jameson, Ken Marks as Uncle Ben, Isabel Keating as Aunt May, Jeb Brown as Mary Jane's Father, Matt Caplan as school bully Flash Thompson, and Laura Beth Wells as Osborn's wife Emily. Due to the physical demands of the role, Carney performs in six of the eight performances each week. The original alternate was British actor Matthew James Thomas, who left the show in November 2012 to star in Pippin.
On November 19, 2013, producers announced that the show would close on January 4, 2014, citing falling ticket sales and no longer being able to get injury insurance for the production as reasons for closure. Having run on Broadway for over three years, the production failed to make back its $75 million cost, the largest in Broadway history, with investors reportedly losing $60 million.
Canceled Las Vegas, National Tour and future productions
When announcing the show's closure on Broadway, it was announced the show would transfer to Las Vegas. The show's producer Michael Cohl said of the transfer, "We'll work on improving everything, It could be anything. It's a blank piece of paper.
On July 25, 2014, Cohl announced that the musical would set out on an arena tour in place of the previous announced production in Las Vegas and would launch in late 2015 or winter of 2016, but no such tour has since happened.
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The following is a synopsis of the show as it was performed in its preview period from November 28, 2010, to April 17, 2011. Various changes were made throughout this period, however.
As the curtain rises New York City is burning ("Splash Page"). Mary Jane Watson is seen suspended from the Brooklyn Bridge, and Spider-Man is running to save her. He is too late, as the Green Goblin depicted as a comic book cut out, slashes the rope. As Mary Jane falls, Spider-Man makes a leap, and is tethered, frozen in a comic book panel snapshot, as citizens chant the emblem of the original version, "And the boy... falls... from... the... sky..." We are now in the present where the Geek Chorus (Miss Arrow, Jimmy-6, Professor Cobwell, and Grim Hunter) enters. They are in the process of "writing" the most extreme and ultimate Spider-Man story. Miss Arrow contends that Peter Parker isn't actually the first person to become a spider. She begins to tell the story of Arachne ("Behold and Wonder"), as depicted weaving a huge tapestry on the stage with her weavers. She was an Ancient Greek weaver who challenged Athena, the Goddess of Weaving, to a duel; Arachne who wove blasphemous images in her tapestry to mock the gods, won but was punished for her hubris by Athena, who destroyed her work with a crack of a lightning bolt. Arachne was so distraught, she hanged herself. Athena felt guilty, so she gave her eternal life in the form of the world's first spider, doomed to weave in the shadows forever, never more in the light.
The scene dissolves into Queens High School where Peter Parker is presenting an oral report on Arachne. His questions prompt the teacher to assign the entire class a ten-page report, which they must work on over the weekend. As revenge, his ex-best friend Flash Thompson and the other bullies at the school begin to physically and verbally abuse Peter ("Bullying by Numbers"). He walks home beaten and alone, until he runs into his next door neighbor, crush, and Flash's girlfriend, Mary Jane. They each go into their separate homes and have arguments with their guardians: Mary Jane's father tries to beat her, while Peter feels his Uncle Ben is trying to replace his dead father. Peter has been living with Uncle Ben and Aunt May ever since his parents died. Both teenagers long for escape ("No More").
The next day, the class goes on a field trip to the laboratory of Dr. Norman Osborn, who is performing genetic experiments which involve splicing different gene traits from different animals together. He explains the need to speed up evolution ("D.I.Y. World") to make the world a more perfect place and shows off his prime specimen: a large female spider. Unfortunately, the spider is missing; it turns up moments later and bites Peter. The action is interrupted again by the Geek Chorus, who argue why Peter was bitten; some believe it was fate, some believe he was chosen by the spider, and some believe it was a case of him simply being in the spider's path.
Back in the story, Peter is discovering his new spider powers: climbing on the ceiling, shooting webs, and using his new found agility and strength to give a beating back to the bullies ("Bouncing Off the Walls"). Unfortunately his new powers don't impress Mary Jane, who drives off with Flash in his new car. Peter believes that if he can afford a car, he'll be able to earn MJ's love; he enters an amateur wrestling contest and defeats champion Bonesaw McGraw for the $1,000 prize. On his way home he sees Flash going into MJ's house; soon after someone steals his new car, but Peter refuses to stop him. Uncle Ben sees the thief and runs after him, only to be killed by the speeding motorist. Ashamed of his recent selfishness and powerless to save his uncle, he goes to his room to grieve; Arachne sees him and shares in his pain ("Rise Above"). She gives him a costume made with the colors she described: "For every heart that bleeds, will color your world red and the sorrow in the night, will be the blue you cannot shed." Peter copes with his uncle's death and wish to ("Rise Above") by swinging through the city breaking up crimes as "Spider-Man" ("NY Debut"). Editor of the Daily Bugle J. Jonah Jameson thinks Spider-Man is a menace and offers cash for whoever can manage to get pictures of him; Peter takes on the job as Spider-Man's personal photographer.
Back at the laboratory, the U.S. military tries to convince Osborn to speed up his experiments and create new genes to be spliced into people, so that they can be used as fighting machines in war times ("Pull the Trigger"). Osborn decides he will try the new experiment on himself first, with the help of his wife. Meanwhile, MJ is impressed by Peter's new status at the Daily Bugle, and the two discuss their plans after high school: MJ wants to be an actress and Peter wants to be a photographer. They flirt, while Osborn and his wife prepare the gene splicer for the new experiment ("Picture This"). The machine goes haywire and Osborn's wife is killed, while he is transformed into the Green Goblin. To avenge his wife's death, Osborn begins murdering the lab techs and takes the military men hostage; Spider-Man intervenes and saves them, but Osborn knows it is Peter; after all, it was his spider who bit him. The Green Goblin kidnaps MJ and tells Spider Man to meet him atop the Chrysler Building, via a piano solo ("I'll Take Manhattan"). Spider-Man accepts, and the two have an epic battle flying over the audience. The Geek Chorus interrupts, wondering how they can get Spider-Man to defeat his foe; they decide that MJ has been attached to the piano and the Green Goblin pushes it over the side. He gets caught in it and falls to his death, while Spider-Man saves MJ. As he brings her down, they kiss and she asks who he is. He responds, "I'm your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man," and swings off into the night. An image of Arachne is barely visible above them, as MJ sings "And the girl falls from the sky."
The Geek Chorus enters and informs the audience that Spider-Man has defeated his ultimate enemy, so their story is complete. Miss Arrow is convinced that they are not finished, because Spider-Man's real ultimate enemy should be unbeatable. So they introduce several villains which Spider-Man dispatches: Carnage, Swarm, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, The Lizard, and Swiss Miss (whom Miss Arrow invents on the spot). Throughout this super villain parade, we also learn that Peter and MJ have formed a relationship. With all of these villains afoot, Peter is exhausted and not paying much attention to her or anyone else in his life ("Spider-Man Rising"). As Peter sleeps one night, Arachne invades his dreams. She realizes that she will no longer be alone now that there is another spider to share her darkness ("Turn Off the Dark"). She begins to weave illusions in his mind, and Peter can't tell the difference between the dream and reality when he awakes. MJ becomes completely fed up with Peter's constant lateness and disregard for her after he does not show up for her new play ("Walk Away"). That night, he decides to abandon Spider-Man forever.
The Daily Bugle finds Peter's suit thrown in the trash and runs a headline about Spider-Man disappearing. Arachne reads this and becomes enraged ("Think Again"). She devises a plan to bring Spider-Man back by having all of his former enemies descend on the city at once. The Geek Chorus interrupts, citing the fact that they are all dead. Arachne's furies then take over the script-writing and scare the Chorus away. Peter and MJ enjoy a night out dancing, now that Peter has no real commitments to Spider Man and is back in school doing well. Suddenly, the power goes out; then the walls of the club come alive with the image of the Green Goblin, apparently alive and wreaking havoc. The villains destroy the city piece by piece, yet still Spider-Man does not appear ("Sinistereo").
Arachne is upset that Spider-Man has not taken her bait, and she visits him in another dream in which the two of them get married. When that does not work, she uses a headline in the Daily Bugle about 50 stolen pairs of shoes to weasel her way into the office of J. Jonah Jameson. Her furies steal the shoes for themselves and descend upon Jameson ("Deeply Furious"). Arachne convinces him to run a headline pronouncing Spider-Man a needed hero, and he does. After enjoying the blackout and its intimacy, MJ and Peter come to a standstill: because of the dreams and the added pressure of needing Spider-Man, Peter doesn't think he can be good enough for MJ anymore. She assures him that he is all she needs in the world ("If the World Should End"). On a path of soul-searching, Peter realizes that if MJ loves him then he can go on being Spider-Man; he finds his inner hero and vanquishes the Sinister Six ("The Boy Falls From the Sky").
Arachne kidnaps Mary Jane, and the Geek Chorus appears once again. They argue about who Spider-Man's true nemesis is, the one he can never beat, with some thinking it must be MJ. But Miss Arrow assures them that it is Arachne, since she is an expert of weaving illusion. Back in the story, we see that Miss Arrow is right: Arachne has trapped Peter in her giant web. MJ is suspended in a cocoon and will die unless Peter pledges to be with Arachne, to share her darkness forever ("Love Me or Kill Me*"). They fight, and eventually Peter agrees to be with Arachne if it means saving MJ. Arachne has a sudden change of heart, realizing that there is still humanity left in the curse of the spider. She finds her own humanity and spares MJ's life. Arachne spares Peter of a life with her, as she knows he will always only love MJ and will never truly be hers; but in realizing his humanity, she has found her own and is released of her burden of darkness in the shadows. Peter watches as Arachne ascends into the heavens by the same piece of thread she used to take her life. With his suit at the Daily Bugle, MJ sees Peter and finally realizes his secret. She agrees to stand by him as sirens begin wailing and Peter swings away ("Finale").
- (*) Vocals cut early on in the run; final version was an instrumental track.
The following is a synopsis of the show as it was performed in its official run from June 14, 2011 to January 4, 2014.
At Midtown High School in Queens, New York, local teenager Peter Parker gives a book report about Arachne, Goddess of the Weavers ("The Myth of Arachne"). As Peter gives his report, Arachne descends to the stage and tells the audience her story ("Behold and Wonder"). Thousands of years ago, Arachne was a skilled weaver who became conceited and boasted that she was greater than the goddess Athena, who challenged Arachne to a weaving contest. During the contest, Arachne created blasphemous images of the gods. Furious, Athena destroyed Arachne's work. Devastated, Arachne hanged herself, but Athena took pity on Arachne and transformed her into the world's first spider. Now Arachne is cursed to wander the universe and weave her web for all eternity.
After class ends, Peter's ex-best friend Flash Thompson and his gang gleefully torment the straight A student ("Bullying by Numbers"). Peter has a crush on his popular next door neighbor Mary Jane Watson, but they both have unhappy lives: Mary Jane has an abusive father and suffers at home while Peter suffers the torment of bullies at school ("No More"). Peter has lived with Uncle Ben and Aunt May ever since his parents Richard and Mary Parker died in a plane crash when he was a baby. A few days later, Peter and classmates go on a field trip to the genetics laboratory of scientist Norman Osborn and his wife Emily, who explain what they hope to accomplish with their genetic research ("D.I.Y. World"). While Peter takes pictures of the lab for the school newspaper, the Osborns put the whole lab on lockdown as a dangerous genetically altered spider has escaped. While the students and scientists panic, the spider lowers itself onto Peter's shoulder and bites him ("Venom").
Peter soon becomes aware that, as a result of the spider's bite, he has spider-like powers along with a muscular physique, 20/20 vision and the ability to emit web strings from his wrists. He uses his powers at school to defeat Flash and his friends in a fistfight ("Bouncing Off the Walls"). After seeing Flash give Mary Jane a ride, Peter decides to buy a car to impress her. He enters a wrestling tournament, where he defeats champion Bonesaw McGraw for the grand prize of $1,000. Peter returns home only to learn that Uncle Ben has been shot by a carjacker. Ashamed of his recent selfishness and realizing he's powerless to save his dying uncle, Peter has an emotional encounter with Aunt May unaware that Arachne is watching over him. Arachne encourages him to use his gift to defend the innocent from evil ("Rise Above"). Peter vows to avenge Uncle Ben's death by using his powers to save the world and notes that "with great power comes great responsibility".
Peter then makes a costume with the colors that Arachne described to him (red for every heart of the innocent that bleeds, and blue for the sorrow of endangered citizens) before swinging through the city on his webs, fighting criminals and saving innocent civilians as "Spider-Man" ("NY Debut"). The Daily Bugle begins to publish articles about Spider-Man while Peter is hired by editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson as a freelance photojournalist. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn begins thinking that Spider-Man stole his research as the military organization Viper Worldwide presses him to accelerate his project ("Pull the Trigger"). Norman contemplates the dilemma with Emily while Peter shares his first romantic moment with Mary Jane ("Picture This"). Norman decides to experiment on himself, causing an electrical surge that results in Emily's accidental death. Norman goes insane and mutates into the "Green Goblin".
The Green Goblin comes up with a plan to genetically alter other humans as he did himself ("A Freak Like Me Needs Company"). Through his experiments on his former employees, he manages to create six villains: Carnage, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Lizard, Swarm, and Swiss Miss. That night, Mary Jane tells Peter that her love for him has grown and he admits that the feeling is mutual ("If the World Should End"). The Goblin and his new alliance of criminals – calling themselves the "Sinister Six" – go on a rampage through New York ("Sinistereo"). Spider-Man quickly defeats the Sinister Six as the citizens of New York cheer him on ("Spider-Man!"), unaware that the Goblin has managed to escape. The Goblin arrives at the headquarters of the Daily Bugle and tells Jameson to print his plans of dominating the world through genetic mutation. The Goblin also tells Jameson that he gave Spider-Man life, making Jameson believe Spider-Man is in league with the Goblin and therefore giving Spider-Man an even worse image from the Bugle. Later that night, Arachne comes to Peter in a vision and explains that she is his guardian along with the reminder that being a hero is his destiny and he cannot escape it ("Turn Off the Dark").
Maligned by the media and suffering financial woes, Peter wants to spend more time with Mary Jane after missing the opening night of her play and begins considering to take time off from fighting crime. Upset over Peter's constant excuses and not wanting to lose the best friend she ever had, Mary Jane suggests they take a break from their relationship ("I Just Can't Walk Away (Say It Now)"). Hurt, Peter decides not to resume his heroic acts as Spider-Man and gives his costume to J. Jonah Jameson, telling him that Spider-Man has quit. He later takes Mary Jane to a night club and impulsively proposes to her. While there, the Green Goblin intercepts the city's TV signals and sends a message to Spider-Man threatening his loved ones. Peter takes Mary Jane to his apartment and breaks off their relationship for good so that his enemies won't target her. After telling Mary Jane that he will always love her, Peter takes a walk and realizes that he needs to be a hero not only for Mary Jane but for the world ("The Boy Falls From the Sky"). Spider-Man then recovers his costume from the Daily Bugle and goes after the Green Goblin.
The Green Goblin sits at a piano at the top of the Chrysler Building and humorously boasts to the audience of his plan to destroy New York City ("I'll Take Manhattan"). Spider-Man arrives ready to fight, but is soon unmasked when the Goblin reveals he knows Spider-Man's true identity. Peter attempts to revive the good-natured Norman within the Goblin, but to no avail. Peter engages the Goblin in combat, but before he can finish him the Goblin reveals that he has Mary Jane, who now dangles from the Chrysler Building. A flying battle over the audience takes place and when it seems all hope is lost, Spider-Man webs the Green Goblin to his piano. The Green Goblin, not realizing this, thrusts the piano over the side of the Chrysler Building, taking him down to his death. After Spider-Man saves Mary Jane, she tells him not to leave and reveals that she has guessed who he is. Peter removes his mask and they embrace. The two contemplate their new life together before sirens begin wailing and Spider-Man swings away ("Finale: A New Dawn").
Opening Night: June 14, 2011
Closing Night: January 4, 2014
|Peter Parker/Spider-Man||Reeve Carney||Justin Matthew Sargent|
|Mary Jane Watson||Jennifer Damiano||Rebecca Faulkenberry|
|Arachne||T.V. Carpio||Christina DeCicco|
|Norman Osborn/Green Goblin||Patrick Page||Robert Cuccioli|
|J. Jonah Jameson||Michael Mulheren|
|Uncle Ben / Buttons / Others||Ken Marks|
|Aunt May / Mrs. Gribrock / Maxie||Isabel Keating|
|Flash Thompson / Bud / Others
Peter Parker/Spider-Man u/s
|Matt Caplan||Jake Odmark|
|Alternate for Peter Parker/Spider-Man||Matthew James Thomas||Jason Gotay|
|Emily Osborn / Marbles / Others||Laura Beth Wells|
|MJ's Father / Stokes / Others
Norman Osborn/Green Goblin u/s
|Jeb Brown||Timothy Warmen|
|Boyle / Robertson / Others||Dwayne Clark|
|Kong / Travis / Others||Luther Creek||Aaron Lavigne|
Broadway cast replacements
- Arachne: Katrina Lenk
- Norman Osborn/Green Goblin: Robert Cuccioli
- Alternate for Peter Parker/Spider-Man: Jake Epstein
- Arachne understudies: America Olivo
According to the New York Post, Bono began composing Spider-Man after Andrew Lloyd Webber joked, "I'd like to thank rock musicians for leaving me alone for 25 years – I've had the theater all to myself"; Bono and Taymor "decided to give Andrew a little competition".
In August 2002, Marvel announced that Tony Adams would produce a stage musical based on the Spider-Man comics. Adams approached Bono and the Edge to be involved with the project; in turn, they enlisted Taymor to direct. In October 2005, Adams suffered a stroke while the creative team was assembled to sign contracts; he died two days later. Patrick Healy in The New York Times described their situation:
Others might have abandoned the project, but the Spider-Man team decided to go on, with Mr. Adams's partner, David Garfinkle, as lead producer. An able entertainment lawyer, Mr. Garfinkle had little producing experience, and he ceded artistic decisions to Ms. Taymor, a perfectionist whose aesthetic included never repeating herself. Mr. Garfinkle did not take the tack that Disney had while working with Ms. Taymor on their hit musical, The Lion King: her genius flourishes best under supervision.
Delays and budget overruns
Readings of the musical were held beginning in 2007, but the production was delayed several times. By early 2009, the Broadway production ran $25 million into debt, the New York Post reported, and work on it was suspended. The budget for the project was reported in March 2009 to be a record-setting $52 million. On August 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to buy Marvel Comics. Despite the previous Broadway success of their Disney Theatrical Productions subsidiary, Disney made no move to assume control of Spider-Man, or help the production financially. In late 2009, Bono asked Michael Cohl to step in as producer, and by May 2010 Cohl had raised the money to proceed with the project, much of it from Jeremiah J. Harris, former Chairman of Live Nation, who is also listed as a producer. Meanwhile, the musical was eventually scheduled to open at the Foxwoods Theatre on February 18, 2010, but the production was delayed again until fundraising could be completed.
By November 2010, the production was estimated to cost $65 million. In addition, the show's unusually high running costs were reported to be about $1 million per week. A new opening night of December 21, 2010 was scheduled, but this was delayed until January 2011, reportedly due to "a tremendous amount of creative commotion behind the scenes" as more time for rehearsals was needed. In December 2010, the official opening was again pushed back, to February 2011, "to provide more time for the creators to stage a new final number, make further rewrites to the dialogue and consider adding and cutting scenes and perhaps inserting new music. ... Ms. Taymor and the producers have concluded that Act II has storytelling problems that need to be fixed." A "final postponement" was made once again, pushing the opening to March 15, 2011, in order to "allow Taymor to fine-tune the production and instate a new ending".
The New York Times reported that the show's opening would be delayed for the sixth time, until summer 2011. This latest delay included a shutdown of previews. The shutdown lasted from April 19 to May 11, 2011, in order for the new creative team to implement changes; preview performances resumed May 12. In March, Cohl and Harris said they shut down previews because they felt "the story needed some work, the songs needed some work, and the sound needed some work", and that they "were going to concentrate on those three areas over the next three and a half weeks." They also announced that injured Spider-Man stunt performer Christopher Tierney would be rejoining the show. By April 2011 the capitalization was reported to have grown to $70 million, and as of the opening, it was reported as $75 million, compared to the typical $5 to $15 million for a Broadway musical. It included $9.7 million for sets and costumes, $4.4 million to rent the Foxwoods Theatre for two years before performances began, and $2.2 million for flying equipment. The weekly production budget was $1.3 million.
Cast and creative team replacements
—Alan Cumming, on his decision to leave the musical
Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming were cast as Mary Jane Watson and the Green Goblin, respectively, in June 2009, but Wood left in March 2010 and Cumming the following month when the show was delayed. The new original cast was announced on August 16, 2010. During early previews Mat Devine, Gideon Glick, Alice Lee and Jonathan Schwartz played a group of characters known as the "Geek Chorus". After revisions, the characters were cut from the show.
In February 2011, playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was asked by the producers "to help rewrite the script". He had written several stories for Spider-Man comic books and had revised the book for a production of It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman. On February 21, 2011, Paul Bogaev (a 2004 nominee for a Tony Award for Best Orchestrations) was hired "as a consultant to help improve the performance, vocal and orchestration arrangements, and sound quality of the songs and numbers."
In early March 2011, Playbill and The New York Times reported that the producers had considered whether to "work with an expanded creative team" or have Taymor leave the production. Soon thereafter, Taymor left the production. Philip William McKinley joined the show as "consultant", and Chase Brock joined as an additional choreographer.
Cast injuries and additional replacements
—The New York Times
Six people were injured while working on Spider-Man. After two stunt doubles were injured during various flying sequences in rehearsals, safety inspectors from the New York State Department of Labor reviewed these scenes in the show and, in February 2011, cited the show for two workplace safety violations. The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the show $12,600 in March 2011 for three serious safety violations. The Actors' Equity Association also looked into the incidents. One of the injuries occurred when Spider-Man stunt double Kevin Aubin broke both wrists. Another actor "had broken [his] feet on the same move a month earlier."
Natalie Mendoza, who was originally cast as Arachne, suffered a concussion during the first preview performance on November 28, 2010, when she was struck in the head by equipment in the wings. She did not report the accident to producers until November 30. She appeared in the second performance against her doctor's advice; the role involves several flying sequences, including one in which she is spun upside-down. Mendoza later felt ill, and America Olivo, her understudy, played the role during her nearly two-week absence. Mendoza returned to the show for the December 15 evening performance. Following the preview of December 20, 2010, when Spider-Man stunt performer Christopher Tierney was injured and hospitalized, Mendoza suspended her performance, Olivo again filling in for her. On December 30, she announced her permanent withdrawal from the show. She was replaced by T.V. Carpio, with Olivo remaining as understudy. When Carpio was injured in March 2011 and withdrew from the show for two weeks, Olivo performed the role again.
In that December 20 preview, Tierney fell 21 feet (6.4 m) off a piece of scenery when his harness was not connected to the safety cord, leaving him to freefall through the stage and into the orchestra pit. Tierney was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital Center; he was released for rehabilitation on December 28. The December 20 performance was ended prematurely. After rehearsals for stricter safety procedures involving the harnesses, the show resumed with the evening performance on December 23. Tierney was released from New York University's Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine on January 5, 2011. He returned to the show for rehearsals on April 25, 2011 and performed in the show on opening night. Carpio was injured during a March 16 performance, reportedly hurting her neck, and left the show for two weeks.
On August 15, 2013, actor Daniel Curry (who was playing a villain, and was also a Spider-Man stunt double) was hurt by apparently being pinned under a piece of equipment and suffered leg trauma.
On September 10, 2010, Carney and his band performed "Boy Falls from the Sky" on Good Morning America. Carney, Bono, and the Edge all performed on the May 25, 2011, final episode of American Idol Season 10 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, singing "Rise Above." Carney and Damiano performed "If The World Should End" on the 65th Tony Awards telecast in June 2011.
The show has twice appeared on Late Show with David Letterman. On March 2, 2011, the cast performed "Rise Above", as featured in Julie Taymor's version. On July 18, 2011, the cast, led by Patrick Page, performed "A Freak Like Me Needs Company".
A short performance of this show was featured in the 2011 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, with Spider-Man battling villains, while the ensemble performed a medley of "Bouncing Off the Walls", "A Freak Like Me Needs Company", and "Spider-Man!".
Syfy was Turn Off the Dark's lead media partner, offering tickets to the show as prizes and airing commercials for the production. CBS' 60 Minutes aired a feature on the production on November 28, 2010, the production's first preview performance, in which Lesley Stahl chronicled the creation of the musical.
Press coverage and critical response
The show's first performance, on November 28, 2010, "garnered what was most likely the most press coverage of a first preview in history." By January 18, 2011, a reviewer reported that there were no delays during the preview he saw. He praised the stunts and ballads "that evoke the yearning grandeur of U2 – though their more upbeat material tended to be nondescript" but felt that the "plot of the second act twisted into tangled knots." Radio and TV talkshow host Glenn Beck championed the production after attending the preview showings several times.
Most of the major theater critics published their reviews of the first version on February 7, 2011; nearly all of them were strongly negative in tone. Although reviews during the preview period are unusual, the critics decided that the ever-expanding preview period was so long, and ticket prices were so high, that they should not wait for the official opening. An analysis in The New York Review of Books by classics scholar Daniel Mendelsohn followed up the complaints of other critics that Taymor's attempt to graft the classical myth of Arachne onto the comic book story turned the show into "a grotesque hybrid" and overloaded the plot with two unrelated main villains in Arachne and Green Goblin. Mendelsohn saw
a crucial difference between the ancient and modern models of human-to-animal metamorphosis. For today's audiences, such transformations are liberating — literally "empowering" – whereas for the ancients, they were, more often than not, humiliations, punishments for inappropriate or overweening behavior. ... At the heart of the Spider-Man disaster is the essential incompatibility of those two visions of physical transformation – the ancient and the modern, the redemptive and the punitive, visions that Taymor tried, heroically but futilely, to reconcile.
In a scathing review of the first version, The New York Times critic Ben Brantley had said that Spider-Man may "rank among the worst" Broadway musicals. In his review of the revised version, Brantley wrote, "So is this ascent from jaw-dropping badness to mere mediocrity a step upward? Well, until last weekend ... I would have recommended Spider-Man only to carrion-feasting theater vultures. Now, if I knew a less-than-precocious child of 10 or so, and had several hundred dollars to throw away, I would consider taking him or her to the new and improved Spider-Man."
In the show's first incarnation, the average rating from critics was "F+", while the revision garnered an average score of "C+". In a roundup of the reviews, Linda Buchwald commented, "critics actually miss some of Julie Taymor's ambition, crazy as they may have thought it at the time. Critics agree that the show is improved in that it makes much more sense, however, now they mostly find it a bore. Bono and the Edge's score is almost universally panned while Patrick Page's Green Goblin and stunning visuals remain for most critics the best reasons to see the show."
Theatre review aggregator Curtain Critic gave the production a score of 50 out of 100 based on the opinions of 20 critics.
Despite poor reviews and bad publicity, Spider-Man was at times successful at the box office. Ticket sales the day after the first preview on November 28, 2010, were more than one million dollars. During the first full week of 2011, Spider-Man had the highest box-office gross on Broadway, with a total of $1,588,514.
The New York Times' Patrick Healy stated in February 2011 that Spider-Man had become "a national object of pop culture fascination—more so, perhaps, than any show in Broadway history" due to media coverage and late-night comedians' monologues on the musical's many delays, injuries, and creative issues. He speculated that the musical would not have staying power through repeat viewings like other hit musicals, after "tourists and parents with children" watched it for "bragging rights at dinner parties or on the playground". The New York Post columnist Michael Riedel opined that month that the musical would be short-lived: "Depending on how much more money its backers are willing to lose, my hunch is that 'Spider-Man' will stagger through the spring, pick up with the tourist traffic in the summer and then collapse in the fall. It should be gone by September ."
Spider-Man survived beyond September 2011, with ticket sales improving during the summer. About half of its audience came from beyond the New York metropolitan area, including many foreign tourists. In November, its producers stated that the show earned about $100,000 to $300,000 in net income each week, which means that Spider-Man would have had to continue playing for at least five years to recoup the $75 million cost. Producers discussed adding new scenes and perhaps a new song each year to persuade fans to attend it again as "a whole new [comic book] issue".
The first week of January 2012, the Broadway League reported that the show had taken in $2,941,790 in ticket sales the week before, the highest single-week gross of any show in the history of Broadway. The record was previously held by Wicked, which took $2.2 million in a week the previous year. Sales declined to $621,960, however, by the last week of September 2013. The show eventually closed at a "monumental financial loss," with John Kenrick noting that "Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark sold tickets, but rarely covered its ponderous weekly running cost."
In popular culture
During the 2010 Tony Awards, host Sean Hayes ran on stage dressed as Spider-Man, struggling comically to sing through the mask. After the first preview performance, Conan O'Brien featured his own "preview" of the show, demonstrating how the show could have been more inexpensively produced, in ways that included using Silly String for web-slinging stunts. The cover of the January 17, 2011 The New Yorker featured a cartoon, by Barry Blitt, showing multiple actors dressed as Spider-Man wearing casts or a head brace or in rehab, parodying the cast injuries in the show.
The musical has been parodied several times on Saturday Night Live. On the December 4, 2010 episode, Andy Samberg played an understudy playing Spider-Man due to injuries, hanging upside-down from the ceiling and failing to flip over, saying, "You'll flip for it!" The February 12, 2011 episode had a commercial parody for a law firm called Gublin and Green specializing in lawsuits related to Turn Off the Dark, with a lawyer portrayed by Fred Armisen. While none of the plaintiffs receive cash, they do receive free tickets to a future showing of the musical. One of the testimonials in the advertisement comes from Bono, as played by Andy Samberg. In the March 12, 2011 episode, Taymor, who had just left the production, was satirized by Kristen Wiig.
The 18th episode of the sixth season of the satirical stop-motion series Robot Chicken, released February 3, 2013, features a sketch where, after the failure of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, a second attempt is made to make a Marvel superhero musical, titled "Avengers: Musictacular Tapstravaganza", featuring musical numbers sung by Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Loki, and Iron Man, a dance number by Captain America, and a large animatronic Hulk. The musical plays out decently at best until the animatronic Hulk begins to spark and malfunction, causing an explosion that decapitates the actor playing Thor, impales the actor playing Iron Man with a pipe, and severely injures the rest of the cast. Considering the fact that the actors have no insurance, the musical's director and producer light two Molotov cocktails and toss them, burning the theatre as they make a beeline for the exit.
The May 23, 2011 episode of the satirical animated series Mad involved Taymor approaching the Smallville TV-series version of Clark Kent to cast him and the rest of the characters in Smallville: Turn Off the Clark. At the 2011 Tony Awards, host Neil Patrick Harris tried but failed to confine himself to as many jokes about Spider-Man as he could complete in 30 seconds, focusing mainly on the accidents plaguing the show.
In June 2011, Sesame Street released an online clip parodying the Spider-Man musical. In the clip, Mr. Johnson is the sole audience member at a performance of "SpiderMonster, The Musical". The title character (portrayed by Grover, who is played by Frank Oz in one of his few return performances on the program), instead of flying, repeatedly falls onto Mr. Johnson. He explains, "It is only our 17th opening night, sir. We still have a few kinks to work out."
The June 19, 2011 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent concerned a high-flying Broadway musical named Icarus, where events similar to the events in the production history of Spider-Man turn tragic, leading to an actor's death. In Icarus, the creative team includes a high-strung director and a secretly bisexual rock-star composer.
In "Broadway Bro Down", an episode of South Park, Randy Marsh discovers that men take women to see Broadway musicals because doing so arouses the women into later performing oral sex on them. When Randy later learns that a boy has taken his teenage daughter to a Broadway show, Randy sneaks into the theater in a Spider-Man costume, and swings onstage, crashing into many actors and audience members, and damaging a water main. Randy's attempt was to stop Broadway shows and he figured he needed to find a way to destroy them.
In Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, if Deadpool is fighting Spider-Man, Deadpool says that he will "rough [Spider-Man] up like a Broadway musical!" If victorious, he tells Spider-Man that "maybe it would have helped if [he] turned off the dark!"
A Broadway concept album, produced by Steve Lillywhite, was released on June 14, 2011. On May 25, 2011, a single version of "Rise Above", titled Rise Above 1: Reeve Carney Featuring Bono and the Edge, was released digitally. The music video was released on July 28, 2011 and for the Billboard chart week of August 13, 2011 the single debuted on the Adult Top 40 chart at position 40, and peaked at position 34.
Jon Dolan for Rolling Stone gave the album a three stars rating out of five commenting: "Amid the all many disasters that beset the Broadway version of Spider-Man, Bono and the Edge's songs emerge pretty much unscathed by critics. Now that the show has been revised and restaged, this centerpiece anthem of struggle over adversity may become a metaphor for its slog towards redemption. "Rise Above" is a trademark soaring U2 ballad, with the elegant grandeur cranked up to Andrew Lloyd Webber levels. But show tunes need big voices too, and, singing next to Bono on this version from the forthcoming cast recording album, leading man Reeve Carney sounds like a nervous understudy." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic gave the album one star, stating that all the problems that plagued the production "obscured one key problem with the musical: the songs written by Bono and The Edge are dreadful." Erlewine summed up his review calling the songs a "murky, turgid mess, too concerned with atmosphere and narrative to reel in a listener and ironically not offering ambience or story enough to suggest that the musical would entertain."
The concept album features alternate orchestrations and arrangements not featured in the Broadway productions and omits a number of songs including "The Myth of Arachne", "Behold and Wonder", "Bullying by Numbers", "Venom", "Spider-Man!", "I'll Take Manhattan" and the finale "A New Dawn".
|Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark|
|Soundtrack album cast recording by |
|Released||June 14, 2011|
|1.||"NY Debut (Instrumental)"||3:10|
|2.||"The Boy Falls from the Sky"||4:27|
|3.||"Rise Above 1"||3:53|
|5.||"I Just Can't Walk Away (Say It Now)"||3:26|
|6.||"Bouncing Off the Walls"||2:59|
|7.||"Pull the Trigger"||4:01|
|10.||"If the World Should End"||3:46|
|12.||"A Freak Like Me (Needs Company)"||3:41|
|13.||"Rise Above 2"||4:22|
|14.||"Turn Off the Dark"||4:06|
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|2012||Tony Award||Best Costume Design||Eiko Ishioka||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||George Tsypin||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Patrick Page||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding New Broadway Show||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Patrick Page||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Eiko Ishioka||Won|
|Outstanding Set Design||George Tsypin||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Donald Holder||Nominated|
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