"Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark" to swing into the Foxwoods (?) Theater... for real this time

It's official (again)! Almost a year after it was supposed to open on Broadway, the Julie Taymor directed monstrosity, Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark will make its debut at the recently renamed Foxwoods Theater on December 21, 2010 (I wonder if the fact that the theater was recently renamed means that they've found someone to foot the enormous bill this show is bound to create). To be honest, Michelle and I have been meaning to write about Spider-man ever since we started this blog. In fact, on our list of blog ideas, we actually had, and I quote, "the disaster that is Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark."

For those of you who don't know or who have been kept in the dark (see what I did there?), this show has a somewhat long but definitely sordid history, at least by our standards. When we first heard of this show, it was in passing, as in "oh, Bono is writing songs for a musical?!" At first we were all "say what now?" and immediately googled to find out the story. As it turned out, it was a musical being directed by Julie Taymor, and it was about Spider-man. Then we were all "is this in any way related to Kiss of the Spider Woman?" but it soon became abundantly clear that this was a musical about a comic book superhero, and we were confused. After all, this was supposedly a musical about a comic book superhero who swings around on webs that shoot out from his hands and gets into lots of fights with evil villains, often culminating with lots of explosions and blood and death. So, you know, typical Broadway fare... not. Our quest for enlightenment and understanding led us to discover that Ms. Taymor actually wanted to renovate the then-named Hilton Theater so that Spider-man could, in fact, web his way around the theater. At that point Michelle and I decided that while the idea sounded totally whack and typical of Julie Taymor, we would keep tabs on it.

Then came the rumors of financial trouble, of inexperienced producers misappropriating funds, of Julie Taymor wanting truly outrageous and ridiculously expensive props and set pieces, of bankruptcy looming in the show's near future. Still, development continued. Some dude named Reeve Carney was cast as Peter Parker. Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming signed on to play Mary-Jane Watson and the Green Goblin, respectively. Bono and The Edge were supposedly churning out new songs like the Duggars pop out kids, even though not many people had actually heard any of the music or knew much about the status of the production. It was apparent, however, that the show would not be ready to begin its first preview, much less open in February of 2010, as it was originally supposed to. And so it happened that opening night came and went without the show actually being performed, even though tickets had been sold. The status of the show was up in the air: Was it happening? Was the cast even rehearsing? And maybe even more importantly, what was the show even about?

It was truly a mystery wrapped up in an enigma. It also became an unintentional source of humor for us theater geeks. The show spawned a truly hilarious Broadwayworld.com discussion thread about understudies for the janitor and other construction crews. It also resulted in this, which upon viewing, made Michelle and I laugh so hard we cried:

Basically, this show was a hot damn mess. Months went by without the show opening, and yet the poster remained up in Shubert Alley (which, incidentally, caused Michelle and I to snicker every time we walked past it and say things like "Oh my gosh, can we go see if the understudy for the janitor is on today?"). Spider-man became the punchline of many of our jokes. Then it was revealed that Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming had both been let out of their contracts and had left the show. I began to wonder if this show was ever even going to see the lights of Broadway. After all, so much money had been poured into it that ticket prices were sure to be astronomical just to break even and be able to pay weekly operating costs. It was bound to be flop, if it ever even opened. Honestly, it really just seemed like a lost cause, one of those shows that never were and that, years from now, I would look back on and chuckle at what a disaster the whole thing it had become.

But now... the tides seemed to have changed. Patrick Page has been tapped to take over for the Green Goblin, and one of Michelle and my favorite young performers, Jennifer Damiano (!) has been cast to play Mary-Jane Watson. (Honestly, we're tempted to see the show just to see her, but only if they have a decent rush and/or lotto policy. We're poor college kids here, people). Full casting was recently announced, and the show began rehearsals August 16. Things are definitely looking up, it would appear.

Who knows, maybe the show that almost became one of the biggest snafus in Broadway history will rise from the ashes and become a hit. My bet, however, is that the show will struggle. Ticket prices, from what I have seen, are indeed steep, with premium seats selling for over $130. That's not to say that people won't pay to see the show, merely that the show may have trouble making the money it needs to stay open if people cannot afford or do not wish to pay such hefty ticket prices. While I would be happy if the show were to succeed (mostly, I'll admit, because I want Ms. Damiano to be successful in whatever she does), the odds already seem so stacked against it. It would take a, shall we say "superhuman" effort for the show to succeed, and I'm just not sure if that's feasible at this point.

Still, stranger things have happened on Broadway. Only time will tell if Spider-man will be able to overcome its tumultuous history and have a successful run on the Great White Way. In the interim, I just hope it continues to keep me entertained.


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