Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Saga of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark



“…any “comic book devotee” who says we’re diverging from “Spider-Man” is an idiot, and doesn’t know the first thing about what the comics have been up to for at least the last 10 years.”  - email from writer Glen Berger to director/co-writer Julie Taymor, 19th December, 2010

The story behind the Broadway musical, Spider-Man: Out of The Dark, is far more interesting than the musical itself.  The entire production has been rife with rumours, innuendo and scathing reviews, behind the scenes machinations, accusations, accidents, injury and at least one death.  The musical was launched and then shut down while it underwent a major re-write.  The original director/writer, Julie Taymor, was fired and replaced leading to animosity and lawsuits for breach of contract and copyright issues.  And amongst it all, the one thing that has remained constant has been Spider-Man himself, and the question remains – can Marvel achieve the previously unobtainable feat – a major Broadway success, to go with the motion picture blockbusters that happened in the 2000s?  The answer, for the time being, appears to be, potentially yes.

The genesis for the Broadway show came after the success of the first Spider-Man movie, released in 2002.  The movie was seen as a partial divergence from the traditional Marvel comic Spider-Man.  The reason for this divergence, which wasn’t fully explained at the time, but has since been revealed – the movie, as with the Broadway show, was not based on the traditional Spider-man strip at all, at Marvel’s own instance.  Once the movie was a success, Marvel approached producers Tony Adams and David Garfinkle in 2003 and inquired about whether they were interested in doing a musical about Spider-Man.  Adams and Garfinkle negotiated a deal, which was signed in late March, 2004, which would see them produce the Broadway show.  As part of the deal, Marvel licensed the character, Spider-Man, to Adams and Garfinkle's production company Hello, and insisted that that the producers base their production on, “…stories contained in Ultimate Spider-Man #1-7, as well as the Amazing Fantasy #15, and to use, omit, adapt, translate, change, rearrange, interpolate, transpose, add to, and subtract from those stories in developing the book for the Musical.”  Anyone familiar with the more traditional, Spider-Man would instantly know that the Ultimate version of Spider-Man has a slightly different origin, supporting cast and stories to the more traditional Amazing Spider-Man.  

Adams and Garfinkle knew that they needed heavy hitters in order for the project to work, so they initially approached famed film-maker Neil Jordan to author the book.  Adding the Irish theme the pair also engaged the services of U2’s Bono and Edge to write music and lyrics for the show.  From here things started to snowball – Edge suggested to Adams and Garfinkle that they should also engage the services of Julie Taymor, a notable Broadway director who, at the time, was best known for her work on the massively successful The Lion King, for which she directed, designed the costumes, masks and puppets.  Taymor won two Tony Awards for her work on The Lion King, the first woman to win a Tony for direction of a musical.  In addition to her theatre work, Taymor also directed the acclaimed movie, Frida, which won two Academy Awards from six nominations.  Taymor signed on with the production in 2004 and provided a Treatment for consideration.  At this point Jordan left the production and Taymor agreed to author the book, and the Treatment was duly approved by Hello, Bono and Edge and the go-ahead was given for the book to finally be authored.

To facilitate the writing Taymor hired Glen Berger as her co-writer.  The pair were under strict guidelines from Marvel for the book’s content, with Marvel’s agreement stating that they had approval rights over the “…story, basic treatment, overall concept and music-style contained in the Musical (e.g. rock vs. hip-hop), including but not limited to the basic storyline, character descriptions, portrayal of the powers, basic personal traits, physical appearance and the living habitat environment and setting thereof.”   The mode of working for the pair appears to be almost Marvel-style in it’s approach; Taymor would email, phone and meet with Berger, put forward her ideas and Berger did the actual writing.  To assist Berger, Taymor provided him with her three page Treatment.  Titled “Spider-Man/Caught,” the Treatment can be read in full immediately below:
The original three page treatment for "Spiderman/Caught"
In June 2005, the 'Spiderman/Caught' Treatment was submitted to Marvel who promptly rejected it outright, stating that it was “..wholly unsatisfactory” and “contrary to the spirit and letter of the Agreement. The concept is entirely wrong and the tone of the Treatment, which is quite dark, is not what Marvel anticipated receiving at all.”  They didn’t stop there.  “The Arachne myth has no place in the Spider-Man legend, despite being recounted by Norman Osborn in one of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic books.  We feel the inclusion of Arachne as a motivator and companion to Peter Parker and consequently Spider-Man is unnecessary. Indeed, it detracts from the ability to tell a story through Peter Parker’s eyes.”  In addition to the Treatment Marvel were supplied with notes that explained what would be happening to supporting characters.  These notes made Marvel only more worried.  “Frankly, having J. Jonah Jameson’s head bitten off, whether that is supposed to be real or a dream sequence is simply appalling. Similarly, having Aunt May murdered and what appears to be a suicide by Arachne are all inappropriate elements.”  That’s right, not only would Peter Parker be almost raped, but Aunt May would be murdered, Jonah Jameson would have his head bitten off and Arachne would hang herself with a web.  Jolly stuff indeed.  Marvel closed their reply by again stating what they expected from the musical.  “We would like this musical to be true to source material, to concentrate on Peter Parker’s journey and to appeal to all audiences.”  Taymor insisted that Marvel attend a read through of the script to allay their fears.  The script reading didn't go well and Marvel made it clear that serious changes would have to be made.

Taymor then registered her Treatment with the US Copyright Office, causing one of the issues that is currently in dispute.  Taymor also signed a new deal with Hello that provided with the right to authorise any changes to the book, along with, “…final approval on all such decisions, including her directing of any film adaptation of the Musical.”  Added to the agreement was a royalty rate of 1.945% of the weekly operating profits of the show.  Bono and Edge also signed a similar agreement in regards to the lyrics and music that they would eventually supply.
  




The revised agreements
On the 22nd of October 2005, Tony Adams passed away, which left David Garfinkle as the sole producer of the musical.  Work continued with re-writes, readings and workshops, all of which Marvel were privy to and in January 2006 a twenty page treatment, containing descriptions of 46 scenes in two acts was submitted to Marvel for approval.  This treatment was conditionally approved and work began in earnest.  More changes were made and submitted to Marvel over the course of 2006 and 2007 until Marvel replied that, if left unchanged, “…the Musical will adversely affect Marvel’s brand (due to the) level of sexuality and extreme adult themes that are inappropriate both for the character and the musical. Second, the supporting characters must not overshadow the main character, Peter Parker/Spider-Man.”  Hello asked Marvel to reserve their judgment until rehearsals and previews began, which Marvel again agreed to, with the proviso that, “We understand you would prefer to defer a detailed discussion of those issues until rehearsals and previews. We have no objection to doing so, provided that such discussion occurs sufficiently in advance of the opening for Marvel’s concerns to be effectively addressed. In the meantime, we must reserve all of Marvel’s rights.”  Having stated their position as clearly as they could, Marvel then left the musical alone for the time being.

By mid 2009 the budget had blown out and funding was in danger of drying up.  Worried, Garfinkle reached out to Bono who, in turned, reached out to Michael Cohl, formerly of merchandising giant Live Nation and, more importantly, producer of such Broadway shows as Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Producers and Hairspray.  Cohl had a track record of production management and, together with his production partner Jeremiah Harris, formed a new company, called Goodbye with one aim – to salvage the Spider-Man musical.  Goodbye Entertainment was to manage the workings of yet another company, 8 Legged Productions.  Other musicals had been abandoned in the past, but with the high profile and expectations that Spider-Man carried, this wasn’t really an option.  Taymor, Bono and Edge all approved the new production company and in August 2010 fresh contracts were drawn up to reduce the royalties payable to the trio (amongst others) in order to entice fresh investors.  Despite being one of the most visible public faces of the Spider-Man musical, Bono sank none of his own money into the project (the last world tour that U2 undertook saw the band gross over $736,000,000), however Edge did invest.  With the cash flow situation seemingly solved (Goodbye pumped $20,000,000 into the show straight away) Marvel then approached the book as it existed.  The show was looking up, but, as is the way with such things, just as something positive happens, disaster must surely be lurking around the corner.

The show’s finale was to feature a giant web, which cost $1,000,000 to make.  The web malfunctioned and, worse, it interfered with the stage rigging that was designed to enable the actors to ‘fly’ during the show.  The failure of the web was a constant source of angst for Taymor, and she emailed Cohl in early September 2010, “I think we need to get into the reality of the problematic giant web/ ring as soon as possible...It will truly put us off schedule if we do not solve it immediately as it is an enormous flying scene to choreograph and the climax of the show. There may be a certain amount of denial going on and postponing a radical solution is not good.”  Cohl and Taymor then went back and forth with various issues around the web and the overall ending of the show as it currently stood.  Taymor’s main complaint was that there was no back-up or contingency plan in place to compensate for the failure of the web.  These issues didn’t stop the production from having a formal preview, on the 28th of November.

The preview was a disaster.  The web failed, the show ran for over five hours, the music and lyrics were unfinished and the show had no ending.  Act One still followed the same grounds as the 2002 Spider-Man movie, but Act Two went in its own direction.  As it was described by the producers in 2012, “Peter renounces his role as Spider-Man altogether and an angered Arachne then takes center stage. In an effort to convince Peter to put back on his Spidey suit and join her in the Astral Plane, Arachne, who is in love with Peter and yet also wants to devour him, causes a blackout and creates a post apocalyptic world with illusions of cyber villains that run rampant, provoking terror and destruction. When Peter does not return to his role of Spider-Man, but rather proposes to Mary Jane, a jealous Arachne is furious, screaming that Spider-Man “was supposed to reclaim his power and then return to Arachne, his perfect mate! ...What does that little Mary Jane have that I don’t have? Two legs and a pair of shoes. Well I have eight legs and ...Get me the shoes!”   The show then took another detour as Arachne’s eight-legged spider minions don stilettos and sing about shoes they stole from various stores. In the final scene, Arachne literally catches Mary Jane and Peter in her web and declares to Peter, “[h]ere’s how we spiders choose our mate ...by attacking!” Arachne then lunges for Peter in an attempt to both devour him and possess him. In an effort to save Mary Jane, Peter gives in to Arachne. Arachne then inexplicably releases both Mary Jane and Peter.”  On that note the show ended.

Marvel were stunned.  Knowing full well that the main audience would consist of children they suggested changes.  One change suggested was that the climatic fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin be moved from the end of Act One to the end of Act Two – the finale.  Taymor rejected this change and allegedly argued not only that the idea would not work, but that the show was not yet finished.  Meetings were scheduled between Berger, Cohl and others and a decision was made which would see Berger begin to re-write the book without Taymor’s knowledge.  Adding to the confusion was the overall hands-on presence of Bono and Edge.

Between 2005 and 2010, U2 had released one album, No Line On The Horizon, and had undergone two major world tours, the Vertigo Tour that took place in 2005/2006, and the U2 360 tour, which would see them committed from June 2009 to July 2011.  During the downtime of the tour, the band were also working on yet another album, as well as overseeing major projects including anniversary boxed sets of The Joshua Tree and the Unforgettable Fire, a 3-D movie of the Vertigo tour and a ten disc anniversary edition of their landmark Achtung Baby album, which also featured a documentary.  In short the focus for Bono and Edge appeared to be U2, not Spider-Man, and any writing would happen between band commitments.  Spreading the butter even thinner was the fact that Bono and Edge were writing their contributions, whilst touring, and between touring, much to the annoyance of Taymor, who expected a more hands on approach.

In December, 2010, accidents began to happen when the flying harnesses and the set didn’t synchronize with each other.  This resulted in two accidents, and a third accident occurred when a stage hand failed to fasten a safety harness to a dancer.  As a result of the accidents, the budget blow-outs, the thought that the show was straying from the comic books and the disastrous previews, the musical began to get negative press.  In regards to the comic book criticism, Berger was seemingly at odds with those who suggested that the Spider-man music was straying, emailing Taymor in late December, 2010 saying, “I was just at the Forbidden Planet comic book store, paging through the Amazing Spider-Man compendiums (Issues #36-50 from about 7 years ago)—they have Spider-Man traveling through the Astral Plane, they have him fighting villains from the Astral Plane, they speak of the totemic power of the spider, of being “between” two worlds, of being pursued by a female villain who lives in the Astral Plane, of questioning whether the spider that bit Peter intentionally bit him for hidden reasons, and of conversing with a character (Dr. Strange) inside of Peter’s dream, because that’s the only way they can easily speak (Strange being a denizen of the Astral Plane). A certain amount of exposition in the comic book explains the “rules”/“physics” of it all, as comics have been doing for decades.

“Which is all to say—any “comic book devotee” who says we’re diverging from “Spider-Man” is an idiot, and doesn’t know the first thing about what the comics have been up to for at least the last 10 years. Our job is simply to make sure that our Act Two story feels like it could have been a comic-book tale. This shouldn’t be too difficult—and smoothing out those last moments with Arachne, and the moments coming out of Turn Off the Dark, etc. will help.”  Despite his praise though, Berger harboured his own private fears about the show.  “There was a moment right before that Christmas break,” he later said, “I was watching a mother and her young boy walking back from the bathroom sometime in the middle of Act Two. And the expression of the boy’s face told me everything that I needed to know. He just seemed disheartened. And it was so sad. At intermission, we had a show that left people a-buzz, and you could see over the course of the second act that we gradually lost the audience bit by bit.  The show felt like it was meandering off into just a whole irrelevant territory.   And so in my mind, the narrative, the structure, had to change.”  The producers, and Marvel, agreed.

Berger put forward several options, including cutting out ten minutes from Act Two, but Taymor either rejected all of the suggestions, or supported them – it depends on who you speak to.  Berger’s account is that Taymor told Berger that she would refuse to work with him if he continued to push for changes, and Taymor’s account is that Berger, Bono and Edge went behind her back and shut her out.  This course of action placed the show’s principals, Bono, Edge, Taymor, Berger, Cohl, Harris, Garfinkle and Marvel firmly on a collision course.

Taymor began to plead with Bono and Edge to deliver finished songs.   “A lot is happening,” she wrote in an email to the pair, “It is getting clearer. The show is running more smoothly. But clarity in the last third is still the issue. We are working hard on it. A major rewrite of LOVE ME KILL ME is happening. But we all believe that the BOY FALLS needs a major rethinking or rejiggering of the lyrics...[I]t is too baffling for the audience. It does not clearly state where Peter is, or is going.”  A few days later she again emailed the duo, “ It is nine pm in NYC. I am just about to sit down to a home cooked meal. I have been at it on [Spider-Man] nonstop. Glen has as well. We are writing lyrics, lines of dialogue, changes in music – all in service to the ending, to clarity. We know what the story is, we understand the stakes – but we do not have the lyrics to support it. I would like to talk to you before midnight my time – after I eat – to go over the situation and beg for lyrics.

“We have sold out houses. Though there are issues of cueing etc, the first act works very well. The second act is better but the ending is still vague. We need you. It is not easy to change anything but now I think it is a matter of lyrical and musical changes– and perhaps cutting a scene or two from the second act.”  At the time of her emails, Bono and Edge were touring with U2 in New Zealand and Australia and thus unable to drop everything to fly to New York as per Taymor’s request.  During a break in the tour, from the end of December to mid January 2011, Bono and Edge finally saw the show proper.  However their involvement, even while in New York, was limited due to band business.

The atmosphere surrounding the show became tenser by the day.  In late January, Berger wrote an email to the show’s then choreographer, Daniel Ezralow, stating that, “I was hired to do a job. My job at this stage is to use every skill I possess to figure out how to make this show work. And if I’m told by my collaborator [Julie Taymor] that disagreement with her won’t be tolerated, if I’m told my ideas and opinions aren’t worth careful consideration, if I’m told to just shut up and do what I’m told, then yes, maybe I should have just walked away three weeks ago. But I don’t believe in walking away. And besides, Michael [Cohl] and Jere [Harris] brought this show back from the dead last year. BACK FROM THE DEAD.  Years of our lives would have been completely wasted if not for Michael’s incredible efforts to raise another 50 MILLION DOLLARS. If they want to know what my ideas are, damn straight I’m going to tell them my ideas -- they have every right in the world to know. And yeah, Julie forbade me from telling them, and said she wouldn’t be able to work with me if I started telling other people my ideas, or if I even started bringing them up to her. That was wrong of her … And believe me, the choice I’ve made is to keep trying to get all sides to come together, and -- most of all -- to be reality-based. Danny--the evidence is Overwhelming--the show is failing. Word of mouth is poor. Very poor. Is that Julie’s fault? Actually, No. But word of mouth is poor because of the book writing. And if she refuses to listen to her co-book writer, and if she refuses to substantively improve the book, and the show consequently closes, then yes, it will be completely her fault, and I’ll definitely be of the mind that as both an artist and a friend, she dropped the ball.”  Trying to find a viable solution, Berger developed a plan that would see the show go in a vastly different direction, with an emphasis on the comic book and movie and the removal of the Arachne storyline.  Berger then either emailed Taymor with this plan, to be met with rejection, or he emailed the producers behind Taymor’s back and was met with approval - the actual course of events is still in dispute. 

In January 2011, Bono, Edge and Berger had a meeting without Taymor’s knowledge.  The meeting appeared to go well, with Edge emailing Cohl saying, “I met with Bono and Glen tonight. We are all in agreement that there are dramaturgical problems with the show that must be addressed.  We will meet [Taymor] tomorrow and have a general discussion about the situation. That meeting will tell us how open she is to compromise.”  The next day a meeting was called in which everyone other than Garfinkle attended.  Everyone apparently agreed that changes needed to be made to improve Act two and the musical overall.  Taymor then explained that any large, structural changes to the show would require a temporary shutdown; however Cohl was not willing to approve such a temporary shutdown. The compromise would see Taymor and Berger continuing to work on the book and make improvements within the current weekly performance schedule, while Bono and Edge agreed to work on improving the show’s music and lyrics.  A partial transcript of the meeting reads as such;
Bono: The second act...Are we gonna continue on an incremental level?
Taymor: What do you expect? That we are gonna re-write the Second Act and start over?
Bono: No.
Taymor: That’s like two months, that’s two months down the road. Its re-costumes, re-lights, re-rehearse, and—
Cohl: —and you can’t do that while the show is going.
Taymor: You can’t. You have to shut down.
Bono: I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about whether if we should cut some stuff out.
Taymor: Every single time you cut something, other things have to be completely re-rehearsed and re-written because it’s very tightly, was very tightly scripted...The second act is so interwoven that if you cut one thing you actually can’t go into the next one.
If we make a cut and we don’t have weeks of rehearsal without performances, I’m not really ...confident about the cuts. It’s not so easy to just pull out and then have the next scene work.
Bono: I mean, look. The easier thing to fix is the music...That’s what I think we should do this week...If the fixing of the story that is there, if you fix it, then that might work. Then you might be off.
Taymor: Well, there’s a big question on the—
Cohl: —Well here are the two choices ...fix the songs; make what changes we can make to fix the story, on the right side. On the left side, we have, not a complete scrapping of, but let’s say a fairly deep scrapping of if it. If it got to the point where people would say “my God, we have to stop the show, do a rewrite.”
Bono: No we don’t want to do that.
Cohl: And we can’t. So, we only have the one over here, which is: fix the songs as best we can, come up with a new ending, fix the story to whatever degree we can. And go forward and, like you say, I think we’ll get there.
Let’s start with the songs .

Despite the united front, Taymor began to believe that Berger was secretly working with Bono and Edge to rewrite the show behind her back, despite her contract calling for her to have final approval.  Five days later Berger sent Bono and Edge an email pitching a new idea, which the duo agreed to.  A partial email exchange reads as follows;
Berger: “I understand Michael C. and Jere H. have some massive considerations to figure out, but I’m bewildered not knowing where their minds truly are and how anyone thinks we should be proceeding . . . . I’ll continue on with this double life til I’m told otherwise.”
Bono: “I think we have to take a twin track approach.”
Berger: “I’m twin tracking it, but a bit draining when it’s 4 hours working with [Taymor] on scenes I know in my heart-of-hearts are wrong.”
Edge: “Bono spoke to Michael [Cohl] yesterday and he was in the middle of putting together a time-line for executing plan X. . . . I want to kick the tires on plan x, but assuming it works I’m certain we will go for it.”
Berger: “Well, that’s—tentatively—encouraging.”

Taymor later stated that she was not privy to these communications.  Indeed in her version of events, the next encounter she had with Bono was in the VIP room of Foxwoods Theatre, when Bono, Berger and Cohl arranged a meeting to discuss the direction of the musical.  However the meeting didn’t happen quite as planned.  As Berger later related in an email, “[T]he meeting was postponed til 11 p.m., when Bono was going to show up – except he showed up in our room with Christy Turlington and a couple other supermodels, and he had already had a few beers, rendering him useless – so the producers postponed the meeting til the next afternoon – but that meeting never happened – but the producers assured me the new plan was to implement JT’s vision for the next three weeks and, if after polling and focus groups and checking their own guts, if they feel like they don’t have a hit, they’re going to shut down and implement “Plan X” – but JT doesn’t know about that plan– so meanwhile, we just pushed opening again to March 15th.”  Meanwhile, not knowing that Berger was working on a revised book with Bono and Edge’s blessing, Taymor continued to request that the pair deliver the songs.

Trying to find a solution the producers then hired a company to conduct focus groups, with mixed results.  For the producers the focus groups told them what they already knew; that the project had serious flaws.  Most people found the story to be too confusing and “not engaging enough,” and that the role of Arachne was unclear, undeveloped and they did not understand her relevance to the overall story.  Other issues were easier to fix, “Who was she (Arachne) and where did she come from? How was she ‘related’ to Peter Parker? What was the Astral Plane?  What was the ‘shoes’ song about?”   However Taymor stated that the focus group consistently ranked Arachne as a “favorite character” on the same level as Mary Jane and only approximately 10% of respondents ranked Arachne as a “least favorite character.” Further to that, Taymor stated that the focus-group reports ranked “Behold and Wonder,” one of Arachne’s key scenes in the first act, as a “favorite scene” in the show.   By this point the producers and Taymor were seriously at odds.

Bono and Edge continued to work with both Taymor and Berger, albeit separately.  In an email to Taymor in February, Bono wrote, “I know today is not a surprise and the treatment by the media is as expected for a production of the scale of ours but just wanted to send my love and undying respect in case it got to you…you would think imagination was the enemy not banality….”  All the time, Taymor later claimed, Cohl, Berger, Bono and Edge were working on a revised book behind her back and just to add fuel to the fire, Marvel finally decided to step in and assume some form of control.

Cohl and Harris had asked Marvel CEO Joe Quesada for his thoughts and comments on the musical.  Quesada’s reply was to send detailed notes to the producers and as a result Marvel writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (best known for a run on Sensational Spider-Man) was hired to work on the book.  Despite initially denying their involvement, Cohl eventually sent pages of notes from Quesada and Aguirre-Sacasa to Taymor to be reviewed and considered.  Taymor didn’t make changes, as she said later, she wasn’t aware that she was supposed to and besides, as she later said, both Cohl and Bono had told her that they didn’t like the notes either.  The show kept being performed throughout February, although from all accounts the show as it stood at the end of the month was vastly different to how it started.  Berger then emailed Cohl outlining his difficulties in working with Taymor.  “There’s a difference between ‘A production of spider-man, directed by Julie Taymor’ and ‘A Julie Taymor production’,” wrote Berger.  “7 years of circumstances have allowed what should have been the former to become the latter. Seeking changes to a show about spider-man? Not a problem. It’s a freaking show. About spider-man. It shouldn’t be a problem. But Seeking changes to a show that is primarily about ‘the vision of Julie Taymor’ -- It’s perceived (by her) as, at best, ‘not worthy of being heard” and, at worst, as a personal attack. Almost by definition, the only person who can have any input into a ‘Julie Taymor production’ is Julie Taymor. And therein lies the rub…”

Bono, Taymor, Edge
The following day Berger again emailed Cohl, Harris, Bono and Edge.  “Watched first half of the first Act (1st Geek scene big improvement),” he wrote, “and the latter 3/4ths of the 2nd Act which, maddeningly, worked far better than I’ve ever seen it, and a palpably better ovation as a result…(new music tweak leading into tweaked curtain call helped too). Which is to say – tomorrow the top of 2nd Act Geek scene will be implemented. I think two things – 
“1. probably a good/crucial idea to watch at least the whole 2nd Act tomorrow – assess one more time – is it truly absolutely beyond saving? ... JT is very much up for cuts, a certain degree of reworking, rewriting, etc. . . .
“2. as I’ve said – the tyres need to be kicked hard – really hard – on plan x before that trigger is pulled. What I sent back in January was preliminary, and didn’t really put ore [sic] work/thought into it since then (been concentrating on implementing current version)....
Point is – not that I’m getting cold feet – but there’s one last day to assess. There will definitely be a certain percentage of cast freak-out with a postponement, and I’m in the dark about how much certainty there is that something resembling plan x (much less the tweaks to Act One) can be implemented in the time we have.”  The day after that email was sent, on the 26th of February, another meeting took place.  This time Berger, Harris, Cohl, Bono and Edge met with Taymor and her attorney to advise her that changes would be made and that they had been worked up without her knowledge.  Taymor argued against any changes, stating that she was still working on the show and that all concerned needed to see it again.  The meeting didn’t reach a resolution.  Meanwhile Edge took the opportunity to see the show again, and the following day emailed Cohl and Harris with his encouragement.  Taymor read this as Edge becoming involved with her changes, but Cohl replied to Edge’s email stating that the decision had already been made to relive Taymor and to implement the changes as worked up by Berger and Aguirre-Sacasa, the latter of whom was duly hired to work up a new book for the production.

A final meeting took place on the 4th of March, in which Taymor was given the chance to work on the production.  She again refused to implement the changes that Berger and Aguirre-Sacasa had recommended and as such was formally told that she was being removed from the production, to be replaced by Philip Wm. McKinley (The Boy From Oz) as director and co-writer.  The show shut down in mid April for just over three weeks while rewriting and re staging was undertaken and much needed funds were raised to keep the project afloat.  Finally the show made yet another debut on June 14th, 2011.  The new book followed the 2002 movie closely, even to the point of replicating the now famous ‘upside down’ kiss between Mary Jane and Peter Parker.  By all accounts the production has achieved success, and the producers state that it regularly grosses in excess of $1,400,000 per week (based on an average of $100 per seat in an 1,930 seat theatre with 90% capacity) and they have realised over $60,000,000 – although that isn’t gross, there’s money to be paid back to investors – one account has the production costing over $70,000,000 in total to stage to date.

Taymor eventually filed suit, claiming that the production has infringed her copyrighted work and demanding royalties for her work as a co-writer.  In return the producers have fired back with a counter-suit stating Taymor has no claim to the copyright as the musical was clearly derived from a number of sources, including some classic Spider-Man comics.  The producers have also stated that Taymor is doing her best to damage the show by keeping it from being performed anywhere but Broadway and that she knew full well that work was being done to improve the quality of the show.  Bono and Edge have also spoken out on the issue.  "She poured so much of her life into this” said Bono in a recent interview. "I think she probably knew there were serious problems, but we disagreed on how big a fix was needed.  "I miss her, but we had to make it work. In the end, the Edge and I have got good manners, we're fun ... but we're motherfuckers."  "Julie was clearly exhausted, overwrought, and we all thought that if we don’t tread carefully, she’s going to walk," Edge later claimed.  "We were tip-toeing around her, and I think that probably meant that people were careful in what they said or told her. I certainly didn’t feel I could be 100 percent frank with Julie, and that was because I felt she was carrying so much of the weight." 
Self-confessed motherfuckers
Where your money goes, when you buy a ticket to the musical...

1 comment:

nilskidoo said...

This is just insane. I thought Taymor did a phenomenal job with the recent Tempest film adaptation, but her treatment sounded like the worst examples of arthaus silliness. And to think that Marvel actually thought it was too dark! Were they really expecting an all-ages show? I mean, it's been a long time since most of the actual comics were even being aimed at minors.
And the cost! Who says Broadway best years are past? Ha!
I'm just glad, after reading this, that the 1980s Captain America musical never found itself produced.