This afternoon sees the final performance of Julie Taymor's $70 million Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The biggest musical in the history of Broadway will close for a few weeks before reopening in a rewritten version that Taymor will no longer be a part of.
The show, which opened for previews back in November, has suffered every setback possible, from cast injuries to negative reviews. When reviews came out in early February the press seemed to take joy in Taymor's musical being...well, really bad. The Washington Post's Peter Marks wrote that, "Musical lovers...might wish the whole unsalvageable thing would just take a flying leap," while The New York Times' Ben Brantley wrote that the show's slogan should be, "'I saw Spider-man and slept.'" This plus the fact that the show still wasn't ready to open to the public culminated in Taymor being let go from the production in March, and replaced by Philip William McKinley. The new version of the play will be significantly rewritten by original writer Glen Berger, and new writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a playwright and comic book writer. Gone will be Taymor's infamous Geek Chorus, along with some of the show's more wild dance numbers, and the role of traditional comic book villain the Green Goblin will be increased at the expense of the super villainess Arachne's presence.
Despite the musical's tumultuous life, there are some sad to see the show end, none more than Taymor herself. “Julie feels that the early reviews that published before the show was ready to open sadly do not reflect the show that is closing this weekend," Taymor's spokesman said. "Most critics, in fact, will have never seen this latest version before they see one that greatly changes major threads of the story, choreography and songs.”
While never having opened to the public, Taymor's musical has been seen by 285,000 people and made $25 million (a lot but not even close to what it must make to break even) in 140 preview showings, making it a success of sorts. Salon's Drew Grant writes: "Now, the show will need to get another $45 million in order to break even on the $70 million it cost to produce the damn thing, but half the reason it has done so well was because it was epic. An epic failure? Sure. But epic nonetheless, with people flocking to the theater in droves to witness the spectacle of Taymor's giant, flawed vision." Where will Spider-Man and Taymor go from here? That remains to be seen, but Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will still be the musical on every Broadway-goers' mind and Taymor still has a successful track record to look back on (The Lion King, anybody?).