Business Irish

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Book Review: Authors spins good yarn on Broadway web of intrigue

Song of Spiderman - Glen Berger

U2 backed 'Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark' failed to make it on Broadway and is set for a run in Las Vegas
U2 backed 'Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark' failed to make it on Broadway and is set for a run in Las Vegas

Philip Boroff

Just how did "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" become the priciest production and potentially biggest flop in Broadway history?

Unless sales rebound, the high-school nerd in red-and-blue tights may soon fly for the last time at the Foxwoods Theatre.

For 11 consecutive weeks, grosses have fallen short of the $1m (€740,000) or so in running expenses.

Glen Berger, who co-wrote the script of the around $80m musical, ponders what went wrong in his entertaining 'Song of Spider-Man', which opened in New York in 2011 after a lengthy review period.

The death of the original producer, Tony Adams, left the project without an experienced hand to oversee it and keep ballooning egos tethered to the ground.

Adams died in 2005 in the Tribeca apartment of The Edge, while signing a deal memo with the guitarist.

The production suffered from other tragedies. Daniel Curry, an actor with the show, was seriously injured in an August performance. He has sued the production company.

Other actors were also injured during the musical's review period.

The Edge and Bono struggled to find moments to write the music and lyrics during downtime from recording and touring as U2 and, in Bono's case, securing AIDS funds from Congress.

Director Julie Taymor somehow completed two movies during the making of the show.

In her exhaustion, Berger says, passion turned into a mania and she couldn't let go of her doppelganger: Arachne, the mythical spider-woman who confused audiences. At one point, she described proposed cuts as a "mastectomy".

Berger said most of her unorthodox ideas, such as a "Geek chorus" of teenagers, predated his hiring.

He tried to make the best of them before he was called on to simplify the storyline.

Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, the producers who rescued the show in 2009, dismissed Berger's memoir with a one-line statement.


"If Mr Berger had put this much imagination into his script, the producers wouldn't have had to hire Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa," referring to another writer recruited during previews.

Berger remains admiring of Taymor, even after she sued him and the producers to recover book-writing royalties following her March 2011 ouster. (The suit was settled.)

He comes away from one tense meeting with Taymor thinking about 'Spider-Man': "It's always been nothing more than a diabolical machine built by the gods to teach humility".

And despite all its woes, the musical is set for a touring version and a production that will run in Las Vegas.

Irish Independent

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