The Playgoer: Taymor Out?

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Taymor Out?

While you may have been just catching up with Patrick Healy's update in today's Times about the possibility of Julie Taymor leaving Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the Daily News goes there (in a story posted at 4am today) and says it's done, she's out. While saying, "It was unclear Tuesday night if Taymor...quit or was fired" the story quotes "a source close to the production" confirming, "Taymor is out. She's left the building."


Healy--who has now updated his print story in wake of the News' scoop--will still not confirm the decision as final, but does concur about an apparent confrontation that occurred last night between the director and the Spider-Man lead producers, with the music team of Bono and The Edge finally taking the latter's side after standing by Taymor since the beginning. Healy quotes someone else claiming, "Ms. Taymor may well have quit the show on Tuesday night, yet might rejoin on Wednesday morning."


The issue at stake? Well, basically how to make the show not suck so bad. For those of you not following the saga, here we are one month after some devastating reviews of the show's eightieth-something preview performance and it doesn't seem like anything has been done to address the criticisms of what is almost unanimously reported as a confusing, boring, and needlessly lame script. Not to mention it's been nearly four months since "previews" began, when such sentiments about the musical's book surfaced almost immediately. The only major change publicized was the hiring of a new music arranger to apparently adapt the U2 frontmen's score more for Broadway ears--but that was hardly people's biggest complaint. (And truthfully, many musicals have succeeded with mediocre scores as long as the story doesn't bore people silly.)

There have been vague reports about playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa--who actually likes comic books and has written some of the SpiderMan series, in addition to his sci-fi influenced plays--but...no word yet on whether any input from him has made it into the show.

Do note that none of the problems being talked about are purely technical or safety related. So the earlier party line that the team just needed time to "work out the kinks" turns out to be utter BS. They're finally, finally, admitting the show's deficiencies may be more earthbound than the high-wire act.

(My favorite part of the priceless SNL "Jacoby & Myers" spoof for legal aid for Spiderman victims is actually the last bit about "other," no less harmful damages besides physical danger that one could incur at the show, such as: "didn't like the songs," "confused by the plot," "insulted legacy of Spiderman," and, my favorite, "sucky title.")

Meanwhile, tonight the show reaches the dubious milestone of a 100th preview--a new record--and now it looks like there will be a lot more of them. You may recall that the critics decided to treat the fourth opening date of February 6 as official, disregarding the show's insistence that if they just had another five weeks, till March 15, they'd really, really be ready then, so please wait. Well guess what--March 15 is less than a week away and not much has been done about it. Word is that press invitations (including to those critics who promised to revisit the show) have still not even gone out.

The all but official story, though, is that there will now be another delay and a seventh opening night announced for June in order to finally incorporate all those fixes talked about. What's been holding them up? Not flying injuries this time. No, it must be just endless arguments with the director over persuading her to give up some of her sacred initial ideas. Those arguments seem to have now come to a breaking point. And Taymor may finally be facing the fact that on Broadway the only true auteur is the person with the money.

Or to put it another way, no Broadway director--no matter how lauded--gets "final cut."

It is interesting that the Spidey producers are not content to rest on their laurels. If they could only swallow their pride and ignore the constant humiliation in the press and amongst cognoscenti, they could just sit back and roll in the dough--about $1.25 million a week according to the Times. The show has indeed proved to be critic proof all these months, which has only encouraged them to put off an official opening as long as possible. Most shows need the press attention of a big opening, including the reviews, just to publicize the product. In this case, the reviews can only hurt them and they hardly have a problem with "brand recognition."

And yet the two unlikely lead producers--Rock Impresario Michael Cohl and Broadway tech-eminence Jeremiah Harris seem to actually care about the long-term quality-control of their product as they try to extend it beyond an oddity of the 2010-2011 season. Also, they're out to protect that massive investment of upwards of $60 million that would take eons to recoup even if the show were an unqualified hit. Notice that in delaying the opening past May they will make the show ineligible for Tonys this year. Reportedly, what they care more about is setting up a permanent Spider-Man presence both on Broadway and, more importantly, on tour. And they know that if they want to pull off a Cameron Mackintosh with this one, they can't drag this nearly three-hour mess around from city to city. At some point audiences will say the comic book hero has no clothes.

So while I always side with the "creative" over "commercial" personnel, and I still count myself a fan of Taymor's overall oeuvre... I must say I find myself here more on the side of the producer than director. Either Taymor should stand by her initial vision of the show and say to New York, take it or leave it, or , if she really had something more to offer with the project, why hasn't she been able to do that yet, after over three months and 100 previews? Instead, like a student constant asking for one more extension to make their paper as could as I know it can be she does indeed seem to be wasting investors' money. Sorry to be crass about it, but she does know she's involved in a commercial enterprise, doesn't she?

In the end, though, the sadder waste is of her talent. All these months, nay years of development, just to glorify a Marvel Comics brandname.  As I wrote before: "...but for Spider-Man, Julie? For Spider-Man???"

7 comments:

Tom Shea said...

Good reportage and analysis as always, but honest to mickey, how many different ways can you write the damn name?

Spider-Man. Capital ess, pider, hyphen, capital emm, an. Not Spider Man, SpiderMan, or Spiderman. I think the last one is someone's accountant.

The Playgoer said...

Oh sure you can read the MSM with their fancy "copyediting" and "proofreading"...But this is what blogging is about, man: raw, indecisive, flailing!

The Playgoer said...

Update: Healy on NYT.com now confirming Taymor is about to be let go, pending legal/contractual juggling. Indeed, will be interesting to see how they credit her in the "final" version.... Key point: the producers & Bono/Edge "reached a consensus that for the show to have a chance to change artistically and strengthen commercially Ms. Taymor had to step aside."

Rob said...

Did anyone else see that tickets were available via TKTS? While they are currently covering their operating costs, I wonder if the advance sale isn't what they would have hoped for. I seem to remember an article about a month back speculating as much, but I can't recall the source. That would explain the producers/investors getting increasingly nervous, even as people have been filling the theater thus far.

Anonymous said...

With Taymor on the way out, there goes Arachne (an addition that is badly developed -- and certainly not "feminist" as some critics have called it given that she is motivated entirely about by needing Spidey to love her est -- but potentially interesting.) If they have any sense, they will cut the irritating framing by "geek chorus" trying to tell the story.
Better, someone should teach the producers the meaning of the phrase, "sunk cost."

Anonymous said...

That should have said: ...entirely motivated by needed Spidey to love her best ....

nyc acting schools said...

Did anyone else see that tickets were available via TKTS? While they are currently covering their operating costs, I wonder if the advance sale isn't what they would have hoped for. I seem to remember an article about a month back speculating as much, but I can't recall the source. That would explain the producers/investors getting increasingly nervous, even as people have been filling the theater thus far.