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Over the past few days, you've probably seen a story or two
about "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." You know, that problem-plagued
Broadway musical which just closed at the Foxwoods Theatre this past Saturday
Given that Marvel Entertainment, LLC is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, there were always those within the
theater community who wondered why -- when "Turn Off the Dark" was
genuinely floundering during this show's seemingly endless preview period --
why the Mouse & Marvel didn't come to "Spider-Man" 's rescue.
Especially given that "Turn Off the Dark" 's key creative was Tony
Award-winner Julie Taymor, the director / designer of Disney Theatrical's
hugely popular / immensely profitable long-running stage musical version of "The
Copyright 2013 Simon &
Schuster. All rights reserved
Well, as Glen Berger reveals in "Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of
the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History
" (Simon & Schuster,
November 2013), Disney and Marvel were well aware of what was going on with
this show. Especially when "Turn Off the Dark" 's producers were considering
"Plan X." Which would involve suspending previews of this extremely
troubled musical for several weeks so that its libretto (which Taymor had
written with Berger) could then be overhauled.
("Turn Off the Dark" producer) Michael Cohl said
nothing could happen without the approval of Ike Perlmutter (Marvel's CEO) and
Bob Iger (Disney's CEO), so any definitive plan was still a few days away.
By late February of 2011, both Ike & Bob had been
briefed. And according to Glen, they were ...
Copyright 2010 Marvel. All
... were concerned about the cost of the plan ($3.5 million would have been
tolerable, but the price tag was looking more like five million). They were
also concerned that shutting down the show for three weeks would "disrupt
the show's momentum."
More to the point, Disney Theatrical officials were concerned
about possibly offending Julie Taymor. Given that ...
... she was busy developing other theatre projects
(including an adaptation of "Pinocchio
" for Disney)
Julie Taymor sculpting the
masks & head-dresses used during the workshop phase of "The Lion
King." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
So in the end, Disney opted to keep a respectful distance
when it came to the "Turn Off the Dark" debacle. Given that Company
officials were all too aware of what happened with the stage version of
"The Lion King" prior to its opening on Broadway ...
"The Lion King" (officially budgeted at eighteen
million, but more likely costing closer to thirty million) was funded by
But -- in the end -- all was forgiven. All of the
pre-opening fights with Taymor were forgiven ...
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Whether the tussle was with
... dubious Disney executives over how little "lion" you
actually needed for a lion costume, Julie (Taymor) almost always prevailed when
she held her ground.
... because "The Lion King" eventually wound up
becoming this multi-billion dollar grossing stage musical franchise.
And Taymor obviously expected lightning to strike twice with
"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Which explains Julie's response to a May 2, 2007
article penned by notorious Broadway muckmeister Michael Reidel. Which said:
Word is that the show, which is getting a staged reading
this summer, could cost almost $30 million to bring to Broadway. "The
numbers are going to be astronomical," says a producer who is familiar
with the show's finances.
"Thirty million is 'astronomical,' " snorted
Julie, "and meanwhile the Spider-Man movie
cost a quarter-BILLION. And
David, it's not really going to be thirty million anyway, is it."
("Turn Off the Dark" lead producer David Garfinkle
responded by saying) "Uh, no no ... it's more like twenty-three ...
twenty-four -- "
"And who wants to see a ten-million-dollar Spider-Man
musical anyway?! That's just stupid. And you know, The Lion King, in 2007
dollars, cost easily thirty million -- it's just that nobody cares, cause it's
taken in over a billion in grosses ..."
Well, as "Song of Spider-Man" recounts, things
didn't go quite as Ms. Taymor expected. By March of 2011, Julie had left the
show. And Philip William McKinley -- a veteran director of Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey arena circus extravanganzas -- was brought in to redirect
certain portions of this show. In the end, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the
Dark" had the longest preview period in Broadway history (182 previews
total). And when this rock musical finally officially opened on June 14, 2011, it got very mixed
Well, even though the Broadway version of "Spider-Man:
Turn Off the Dark" closed on Saturday and alleged lost $60 million of the
$75 million that investors put into this production's budget, it's hoped that a
significantly revamped version of this show will finally become a financial success
when it opens in Las Vegas sometime in 2015. There's also supposedly been
offers from producers in Germany,
Russia and Japan
to stage productions of this rock musical there.
Which brings us to the big question: Given that
"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" has finally put its very troubled
Broadway debut behind it, is this the moment that the Mouse & Marvel stop
being so stand-offish about this show and then become much more hands-on when
it comes to future productions of this musical? Given Disney Theatrical's
decades of success when it comes to international touring productions of its
shows (More to the point, given Disney's already established working
relationships with producers & theater owners around the globe), it would
obviously make sense if this were to happen.
Copyright 2014 Marvel. All
But then again, given Julie Taymor's still obviously raw feelings when it comes
to "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" (It was only April of last year
that Ms. Taymor settled her wrongful termination lawsuit with the producers of
this "Spider-Man" musical. And while she did reportedly get a
"significant" financial settlement, it still has to sting that -- as of her
deal with "Turn Off the Dark" 's producers -- they no longer have to
consult her when it comes to altering the script that Taymor co-wrote for this
show and/or changing the way Julie staged this rock musical), one wonders if
Disney Theatrical -- given that they wouldn't want to do anything that might
potentially damage their nearly two decades-long working relationship with Ms.
Taymor -- will just simply opt out to having anything to do with "Turn Off
the Dark." Leaving it to some other arm of The Walt Disney Company and/or
Marvel Entertainment, LLC to work with this rock musical's cadre of producers
& investors when it come to negotiating the contracts for that proposed Las
Vegas production and/or the versions that Japanese, Russian & Germany
theatrical impresarios want to stage.
Anyway, if you're looking for a juicy behind-the-scene look at how
Spidey's Broadway debut went wrong, then you should definitely pick up a copy
of Glen Berger's "Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most
Controversial Musical in Broadway History
I'm assuming that the deals for this musical were made before Disney bought Marvel?
If that's the case then it is for the best that Disney let this thing fail so they can start to unravel all the deals that Marvel did before Disney bought them.