The announcement of a June 14 opening night for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — the sixth delay for the troubled musical — was quickly followed by conflicting reports about a stalemate with departing director Julie Taymor.
Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris set the new date on Friday, and confirmed preview performances will shut down from April 19 to May 11 to allow the newly expanded creative team, which includes director Philip William McKinley and script doctor Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, to implement what are expected to be sweeping changes to the show.
Within hours of that news, the New York Post’s Michael Riedel, who’s been gleeful if not always accurate in his chronicling of the musical’s myriad troubles, wrote that Taymor is digging in her heels, refusing to leave without a “hefty payday” — and the script she co-wrote with Glen Berger. Riedel cites a source as saying the standoff has caused “chaos” in what’s already a chaotic production. A show representative was quick to deny the claims, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “All discussions are proceeding positively.”
An “exclusive” early this morning from Showbiz411’s Roger Friedman, whose frequently zealous defense of Spider-Man has softened dramatically in the past couple of weeks, contends Taymor will remain credited as director and co-writer (that point appears unchanged from Thursday), in large part because producers don’t have a “hefty” payout for the Tony Award winner. That certainly sounds right, as the show’s price tag is now being placed at north of $70 million — nearly triple its initially envisioned budget. While the musical is bringing in more than $1 million a week during preview performances, it will be at least four years before Spider-Man recoups its costs.
If all of that leaves any heads spinning, The New York Times has a terrific overview of the musical’s troubled history that notes, perhaps, why Taymor’s Lion King thrived while Spider-Man has foundered: Disney reined in the director, whom many regard as a creative genius, while Cohl and other producers gave her freedom, at least up until the past several weeks:
Left largely to her own devices Ms. Taymor hired top-dollar stars to design the sets and costumes and to choreograph the show. The costume team alone had 23 people — 4 designers, 4 shoppers and 15 dressers. At one rehearsal in November at least a dozen designers and crew members struggled to fasten a spider costume onto the actress Natalie Mendoza. Not enough, it seemed.
“Can we get the puppet department up there?” Ms. Taymor said into a microphone. With that, 20 more people took the stage to help Ms. Mendoza. A video crew documented the creative energy.
“If the show works, all the money will be a moot point,” Ms. Taymor said later. “If it doesn’t, it will be a tragedy.”
Adding a little salt to Taymor’s wounds, Saturday Night Live lampooned the show for at least a third time, this go around taking aim at the director herself (portrayed by Kristen Wiig, her ego and her familiarity with Spider-Man comics.