Thursday, December 30, 2010

Broadway News Makers #1: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

NOTE: This blog has been updated since it was first posted.  Updates appear in RED.

You would have to live in a cave in Antarctica not to have heard about Broadway's number one news maker of the year.  Good news or bad news, when was the last time the nightly network news, CNN, all the talk shows, major news papers and online outlets covered Broadway on an almost daily basis?

As they say, any publicity is good publicity, and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark  has gotten more than $65M in free press.  Tickets sales are through the roof and the backstage drama is as compelling (if not more so) than the show itself.  Rumors and speculation, pissed off drama critics, injuries and near death accidents can't seem to keep the web-slinger down.  No matter what you think about the show, its troubles or its triumphs, there is no doubt it is the number one Broadway thing on the whole country's lips.

Here is a brief timeline of events:

  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is announced as a Broadway show with Julie Taymor at the helm and as book writer.  U2's Bono and the Edge are to provide the music.  A February 2010 opening is announced.

  • The show is cast: unknown Reeve Carney will be Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Evan Rachel Wood, a film actress, will be Mary Jane Watson and Tony-winner Alan Cumming will be the Green Goblin.
  • Money troubles and the loss/addition of producers muddies the financial picture.  The show is put on hold, including renovations to the theatre.
  • During the stoppage, cast changes are announced: Carney is still in, but Wood has been replaced by Tony nominee Jennifer Damiano, and Cumming by Patrick Page, a former Broadway Scar and Grinch.
  • Rehearsals resume, including ariel stunt practice.  Headlines are made when two actors are injured doing catapult stunts - one breaks both feet, the other both wrists.
  • After months of delays, the first preview happens on November 28, amidst rumors that Marvel will pull the rights if the show isn't on the road by December 1st.  That preview makes many headlines - a nearly 4 hour running time, 6 stoppages, a rude patron who is made a hero by the Post, and alleged apparatus falling into the audience.  Lead actress Natalie Mendoza suffers a concussion after banging her head backstage, contrary to rumors she was injured onstage.  She went on again, despite doctors orders, but ended up missing several performances.

  • December 20th, the most horrifying of accidents happens - Christopher Tierney falls 30 feet into the pit when his safety harness malfunctions.  A helpless Jennifer Damiano, hanging by her wrists, watches the whole thing.  Tierney spends several days in intensive care, has an operation on his broken back, and is now in a rehabilitation center.  He was fortunate, it turns out, that he had the sense to roll on his side as he fell.  According to the actor's father, his son can't wait to rejoin the cast.
  • Just this week, two reviews of the show were published, with both critics vowing to return for the official opening; both felt that given the hoopla, they had a right to review it early.  Of course, many disagreed.
  • Natalie Mendoza, as of the time I am writing this, is rumored to be negotiating an exiting package, thereby leaving the show.  Rumors run rampant that several other actors and their agents are doing the same.
  • It is official.  On December 30, it was announced that Mendoza and Spider-Man have parted ways.  Both sides wish each other well.

  • And finally (so far), Broadway's meanest reporter, Michael Reidel, who has been sharpening his knives over this show for months and has been relentless since he attended the first preview, apparently returned to see the show again.  He has forcibly (according to him) removed from his plumb Row D seat and moved to the upper balcony by the house management because "the producers have deemed that seat unsafe."  Patrons on either side of that seat, however, remained where they were safely.  Producers 1, Reidel 0.
  • As of now, the official opening will be February 7, 2011.  Just about 1 year after its original opening date.

I'm pretty sure this isn't the last we've heard of this...

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