Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Open Letter to the New Spider-Man Creative Team

Dear New Guys (and Old Guys, too) on the Spider-Man Team:

I have been one of the biggest champions of your show since I began my blog a year and a half ago.  I've been with you through every postponement, injury and biased attack against you.  I have even invested a couple hundred dollars in your spectacle well before it was finished.  And now I have read and re-read your official announcement that sets a new (and, I hope, final) course for the production.

I am still on your side.  And here is why:

  • You show a lot of class and good will.  You have allowed Ms. Taymor a graceful out as far as leadership goes, while being able to retain her work thus far.  Some - hell - many of her stage pictures are breathtaking, exciting and would be a real loss to the theatre world if you had forced her to take all of her "toys" and go home.  Here's hoping you have the sense to leave some of it alone.
  • You picked excellent new collaborators.  On paper, at least, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Philip William McKinley are a perfect match for the material.  The former has actually written Spider-Man comics and the latter has experience with spectacle having worked with the grand daddy of all spectacles, the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, not to mention performance and directorial experience in Vegas.  Even his one Broadway show credit, The Boy From Oz, is a triumph of style over substance, while still managing to make you feel for the main characters.

The Edge, Julie Taymor, Bono, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
and Philip William McKinley

This does not mean, however, that I'm not still worried.  And here is why:

  • Ego-driven decisions could still be the bane of Spidey's existence.  Bono has a similar reputation to Ms. Taymor in the can't-let-my-own-brilliance-go department to be perfectly honest.  And if it has taken him (and The Edge) this long to figure out that they need new material, how can we trust that they will be willing to let anything already in existence go?  Sure, the story needed work, but at least half of the original version's problem was its score.  (Please give some thought to the army number...ick.)

There are somethings that REALLY need to go or be SERIOUSLY re-worked.  I've read that you are listening to the public.  I am the public.  (And forgive me if some of this has been dealt with since February 9th...)

Funny how a picture can really say it all...
  • GET RID OF THE SHOES.  The whole stinkin' sub-plot needs to go.  On some level it was funny.  In that roll-your-eyes-we like the nod to all the shoes it would take to fit one spider.  But it isn't the kind of funny that the show needs.  And it certainly doesn't need a diva-palooza number to "bring it home."  Maybe the song could be tweaked as a sort of "Arachne's Turn"?
  • GET RID OF THE PLASTIC DRUM GUY.  Do I really even need to elaborate here?  He makes no sense, adds nothing to the show, and annoys everyone I know who has seen it.
  • GET RID OF THE GEEK CHORUS.  Again, we get it/eye roll, pun.  Unless they can be made to add real humor and heart to the piece, they so far only seem to stop the show cold.  If you keep them, no matter what, the smug, self-satisfied Julie Taymor girl of the group really needs to hit the road.  She's like the little sister your mom makes you take with you when you and your buddies want to go to the park and play ball without her.  And her villian, Swiss Miss?  Really?  I mean I know switchblade nipples are all the rage these days, but come on...

There is an up-side, though.  You need to keep:

Jennifer and Reeve;
Reeve and Matthew with Barbara Walters 
  • KEEP Jennifer Damiano, Reeve Carney, Matthew James Thomas and Patrick Page.  You have a gold mine in these people.  They have done everything you've asked and more, and they are really good.  Better than their material.  Reward them.  They deserve it after all of this.  And keep TV Carpio, even if you will probably have to change a lot about her character.  She really adds to the depth of the show already.

Surf's Up!  Spidey rides the Green Goblin
around the Chrysler Building

  • KEEP all of the of the flying sequences.  They are brilliant and thrilling.  And I LOVE the last one, which I will not describe here.  It makes the whole show worth it, and it thematically makes sense.
  • KEEP some of Julie's vision.  Don't let it become the Spider-Man show at Universal Studios.  PLEASE. 

And remember, most of all:

  • GIVE us characters that are rich, flawed, funny and enough to care about.
  • GIVE us more inner conflict from our hero, and more reason for our villain (s) to hate our hero.
  • GIVE us a coherent plot with just enough to think about in between the thrills and chills.

If you can make a show that would still make sense and be interesting even if it was stripped of all the effects, costumes and stage magic, you will have that hit that all of you (and I) believe is still possible.

And, if I may in closing offer some advice from someone on the outside watching all of this:
  • Try to stay out of the news until you open.  A lot of people are sick of hearing about it.  A lot of people feel like you have stolen ALL of the news space that other shows need and deserve.  If you could manage to give the other shows some time in the spotlight, you'll probably be forgiven for a lot of misperceptions and ugliness people feel about you. 
  • And, this is CRUCIAL.  Don't open the show until at least a couple of weeks after the Tony Awards.  You aren't coming to that party.  So let the folks that are have their time to shine and bask in the glow of their achievements.  And then, with all that good will you are showing, by then people will WANT you to SUCCEED instead of revelling in your problems.  And who knows?  They might even stand and applaud when you win the Tony for Best Musical 2012.
Stranger things have been known to happen.  Just ask Peter Parker.

Your friend, still.

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