Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Spider-Man' on Broadway: How Bono musical flopped

Song of Spiderman, Glen Berger

Julie Taymor and Bono appear onstage at the curtain call for the opening night performance of the Broadway musical
Julie Taymor and Bono appear onstage at the curtain call for the opening night performance of the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" in New York
Song of Spider-Man

Philip Boroff

Just how did the Bono-funded musical 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' become the priciest production and biggest flop in Broadway history? Glen Berger, who co-wrote the script of the $80m (€60m) musical, ponders what went wrong in his entertaining 'Song of Spider-Man'.

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

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 US 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 says most of her unorthodox ideas, such as a "Geek chorus" of teenagers, pre-dated 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 Ms Taymor, even after she sued him and the producers to recover book-writing royalties following her March 2011 ouster. (The case was settled.)

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

'Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History' is published by Simon & Schuster.

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