dj_clawson (dj_clawson) wrote,

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24 Tevet, 5771

If anyone hasn't been following the story of the Broadway show Spider-man: Turn of the Dark - you should, because it's awesome. It's not very often you get to see trainwrecks in slow motion, so I can't help but recommend it. Also, nobody's died yet, despite everyone's predictions, so it's not all that sad. Yet. I can provide a very poor summary of the situation:

Several years ago - far too many - some people decided to capitalized on the whole comic book thing. Broadway people. Lest that immediately seem stupid, you should know that plenty of stupid ideas come up in the Broadway think-tank crowd. There was, at one point, a musical about the Unabomber in the works. Either these things happen Off-Broadway or they don't happen at all, but comic book money is now big money, so some people who should have known better didn't walk away, and the project got off the ground, then was canceled, then was off the ground again. Then a bunch of people fell, literally, back to the ground, in rehearsals and in live performances, injuring themselves in the process.

Broadway musicals aren't terribly relevant to our modern concepts of media, but they're a science and that science works for Bridge-and-Tunnel people, old Jews, and tourists. You shouldn't mess with the formula, which is as follows:

- Have at least a couple numbers that are memorable, and repeat them in the second act
- Have the show make sense at least in its internal logic, even if it falls apart if you stop to think about it for five minutes. Most people do not think about the plots of Broadway musicals for five minutes. SNL made a joke about that, pointing out that technically, Phantom of the Opera (my favorite musical of all time) is about a burn victim who rapes an opera singer.
- Don't let the show run over 3 hours.
- Don't ask the cast to do anything that's hi-tech or physically impossible, because they're not going to pull off those tricks every night and Broadway is known for nothing if not it's professionalism. I have literally never seen a mistake in a show. Not once. No actors blowing lines, no set malfunctions, nothing.
- Don't put anything terrible offensive in the show, because tourist families and old people will be your main audience.

Every once in a while you get a show that breaks new ground, like RENT or Next to Normal, and the show either runs well past its cultural relevancy (in the former) or closes early (in the later case).

Anyway, the people behind Spider-man didn't feel compelled to pay attention to convention wisdom. Instead of the usual set of composers they got U2, and for set and costume design they got that legendary Lion King director who got sued for making the costumes too heavy and causing shoulder and joint damage to the actors. They also appeared to have thought that you could get someone to actually fly with enough ballet classes, maybe some parkour shit, and a couple of well-hidden wires. After all, Mary Poppins did it, didn't she? Oh wait, she flew like 3 times in that whole show. Whoops.

Then there were delays, financial and otherwise. At one point I was walking down Times Square and I saw the whole setup for the Spider-man theater with pictures for the show in the window and thought, "Shit, are they really going through with this?" The following week, the stuff was down and the theater walls were blank again, and ticket sales were being refunded. All the good actors dropped out (including Alan Cummings as the Green Goblin, basically the only one I'd heard of), citing the need to actually go and work on a project that would result in something.

The show changed producers and directors or whatever and the thing got into rehearsals - so far into rehearsals that people started getting hurt doing the stunts. I believe the official count is 4 times, and the unofficial count is 5 times because the main actress hurt her head at the first preview and didn't tell the media until much later, so it wasn't as reported as say, a back-up stuntman falling into the pit and screaming "Call 911!" during a test show a a casino in upstate New York.

Oh, and according to critics (who are not allowed to OFFICIALLY critique until the music is open) the plot is a mess, the new villains are silly, and the music is bad.

Someone calculated that this thing has to run for 6 years (sold out) to being to make its money back. It also can't tour, which is the way most Broadway musicals make their music back, because the set is too complicated. It might do OK in Vegas, which has all kinds of special sets for those Cirque de Soliel people, but otherwise, it's essentially fucked. And then there's the problem that if I actually saw this musical, I would cringe every time Spider-man made another daring leap into the sky, knowing that there was some small chance that he would hurt himself again, having done it a number of times before. Man, there is no one in this state that is not openly mocking it right now, most memorably SNL.

The latest report: The main actress has backed out, because apparently that concussion she didn't report at the first preview was worse than she didn't say at first. Or maybe she just doesn't want to die.

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