Aha! I knew it! I KNEW IT! Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is doomed! DOOMED, I say!
Okay, “doomed” may be a little excessive. But the weirder the whole thing gets, the more it seems like the show– and possibly the people involved in it– will never recover from this debacle of epic, epic proportions.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the saga, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has delayed its opening six times. SIX. To date, it has performed 99 previews– more than any other show in Broadway history. In fact, that’s longer than some shows’ full runs. Reviews have been overwhelmingly negative, both from critics and from the rest of the theatre-going public. Taymor has been increasingly under fire for everything ranging from the technical issues to the apparent lack of story. And now, word on the street is that the producers are planning a major overhaul that would shut the production down completely for two to three weeks in April and/or May and delay opening for another three months. Even bigger news? Director, creator, mask designer, and writer Julie Taymor is reportedly leaving the production.
Concerning the possible delay, the show’s press rep was still saying on Tuesday that the show will open on the 15th as planned; but with all these rumors flying around, that’s looking less and less likely. I’m actually sort of amazed that they’re not just pulling the plug on the whole thing, since it’s already been such a money sink and since it would be next to impossible for the show to recoup its investment; on the other hand, I can also see that when you’ve already put so much money (and time, and effort, and manpower, and…) into something, it’s much harder to cut your losses and end it. So in the meantime, they’re continuing to try to fix it, even though it may be beyond fixing: playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is being brought in to overhaul the script, directors Christopher Ashley (Memphis, The Rocky Horror Show) and Philip William McKinley (The Boy From Oz ) have been approached about joining the team, and the two-to-three-week shutdown will allow for significantly more rehearsal time. Seems kind of like slapping a Band-aid onto a sucking chest wound to me, but hey, if it works, I’ll take that Band-aid and eat it.
Taymor’s leaving, while possibly not surprising, is a bigger deal. Earlier this morning, it looked like Taymor may not have been leaving quite yet, though she had apparently been given a “Work with new people or we’ll fire you” ultimatum from her producers. Since then, though, news sites including the Post, the Daily News, and the Times are reporting that Taymor is in fact stepping down. An official announcement concerning both Taymor’s fate and the show’s is expected sometime this week. As much as I lambasted her the other day, I feel kind of bad for her. Maybe it’s because as a director myself, there’s something about the whole labor-of-love thing that rings true for me; and getting your artistic baby taken away from you? Heartbreaking. And at the same time, I wonder if she’s ever going to work again after this, and that’s sad too. Yes, I have had major artistic and ethical issues with Spider-Man; but the fact remains that BEFORE this crazy train left the station, Taymor was a huge innovator in the theatre, as well as one of the few female directors out there who got noticed and heard for her unique vision. She made a lot of really great art in her earlier years (before she had all the money in the world at her disposal), and it’s going to be a long time before that art can be thought of without Spidey’s shadow hanging over it.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will turn out to be a real-life version of The Producers, though instead of of trying to make a flop and accidentally making a hit, they tried to make a hit that was such a flop that it rolled right back round to hit. We’ll see. Stay tuned for more coverage as the new hits the [spidey] web!