Who to Blame for 'Spider-Man,' the Musical
U2 and the Edge are the latest to be faulted for the Broadway behemoth
The Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark wheel of blame spun madly on this week with the news the man behind Starlight Express had been brought in to rework the musical score composed by Bono and the Edge. Considering the early notices for the $65 million, decade-in-the-making show have been universally wretched, its doubtful the duo's collaboration is without fault. But with the show's official Broadway opening less than a month away, it's worth looking back on the individuals that preceded Bono and the Edge as the source of the show's troubles, earthbound and otherwise.
So here's the full review:
Composers Bono and the Edge
They've sold more than 150 million albums as part of U2, but Bono and the Edge have yet to master the delicate art of scoring a comic book-turned-movie-turned-Broadway extravaganza. Bono seemed to acknowledge as much last month when he and director Julie Taymor enlisted the help of Steve Lillywhite--producer on eight of U2's albums--to coach the show's vocal performers. According to Deadline's Mike Fleming, Lillywhite quickly became a "fixture" at rehearsals, but his presence did little to help a score likened to a "persistent headache" by New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley. (Slightly more charitable was New York magazine's Scott Brown, who deemed the music "wonderfully cheesy, as if the Edge stepped out for a smoke and ceded the stage to John Carpenter," an effect that likely could have been achieved for a figure far less than $65 million.) In a final admission of defeat, the show's producers confirmed Monday that Paul Bogaev--per the New York Times a "veteran musical supervisor and conductor"--had been brought in to "improve the performance, vocal and orchestration arrangements, and sound quality of the songs and numbers." As the old showbiz saying goes, if at first U2 doesn't succeed, call Paul Bogaev.
Director Julie Taymor
Taymor's success as director of The Lion King has made her virtually untouchable throughout the show's development process, but her direct style--New York magazine's Jesse Green said her projects "bear the stamp of a downtown artist with big theories and a powerful, if not always lucid, sense of conceptual purity" in a November cover story on the show's development--has rubbed people the wrong way. Reeve Carney--the show's Peter Parker--posted a tweet in October implying Taymor "condescended" to the cast. As recently as Saturday, the New York Post's Michael Riedel reported the show's producers were "losing faith" in Taymor and considering the possibility of adding Phil McKinley--who won a Tony for The Boy From Oz--as co-director.
Producer David Garfinkle
The show's second producer, Garfinkle--described by in Green's New York magazine story as "a lawyer with virtually no previous producing experience"--is blamed for the production's long delays. After taking over the project following the death of his ex-business partner, Garfinkle "gradually ran the show into the ground" before being "shoved aside" for a new producer in early 2009.
Actor Alan Cumming
The Tony winner-turned-prolific TV and movie character actor was thought to be out of the show's price range when he was cast as the villainous Green Goblin in May of 2009. But Taymor insisted on him and, as Michael Riedel observed at the time, "what Julie wants Julie usually gets." That piece of wisdom may one day serve as the show's epitaph, but Taymor's influence didn't stop Cumming from dropping out of the production last April due to his commitment to the CBS drama The Good Wife. Cumming's salary for his year-long non-performance was estimated at upwards of $15,000 a week.
Writer Glen Berger
Berger co-wrote the book with Taymor, but that doesn't mean his output hasn't attracted scrutiny. Last week producers brought in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to rewrite the book. Deadline's Mike Fleming called the hiring of Aguirre-Sacasa--who has written issues of Spider-Man and Fantastic 4 for Marvel Comics--"perhaps the most serious move [the producers have] made to improve the book" and a tacit admission that the show in its current state "lacks an insider's voice about the webslinger."