The Playgoer: Not Even Spidey Can Conquer Today's Broadway

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Even Spidey Can Conquer Today's Broadway

Not too long ago $52 million was considered a fairly high budget for a movie. But a Broadway show???

Yes, it's true. And don't assume that the Julie Taymor/U2 "Spider-Man" musical is too big to fail.

LA Times' John Horn breaks through the wall of silence and shows just how serious the obstacles are at this point.

Despite all the talent in its corner, it's still far from certain when -- or even if -- the elaborate musical will open after six years of development, as it has struggled to find a backer to close the budget shortfall. If the show doesn't premiere by the end of April, it not only will miss Tony Award eligibility but also face the expiration of the musical's license from Marvel Entertainment, whose comic-book division created the enduring superhero in 1962. Bono and Edge seem bewildered by the show's odyssey. "But who cares?" Bono said. "The visuals and the music are amazing, and that's what will matter."

While many factors have contributed to the show's holdup, the musical has been derailed by some of the most complicated staging in Broadway history, as the show's creators try to replicate the superhero's skyscraper-swinging movie maneuvers inside a theater.

Three people close to the production say the musical needs to raise as much as $24 million to cover its proposed budget of about $52 million -- $42 million for the show, $6 million for theater renovations and $4 million for theater restorations. At the same time, "Spider-Man's" fixed weekly running costs total around $1 million -- hundreds of thousands dollars more than what some elaborate shows such as "Mary Poppins" or "West Side Story" cost to stage every week. Part of "Spider-Man's" expense stems from its aerial and scenic effects: More than 40 stage hands are needed to operate the musical's backstage rigging, said a person who's seen the show's budget.

Those expenses mean "Spider-Man" would have to sell out every show for as many as four years (a feat only a handful of Broadway shows ever manage) simply to break even, according to several people familiar with the production and its finances.
And we can only assume that means four years of sold out houses at very high prices.

Hey if this is where Julie Taymor wants to put her attention these days, fine. (Thankfully she's also coming out with a Tempest film.) But I just wish she lavished all this genius on something other than...Spiderman.


Aaron Riccio said...

And in ten years, Avatar: The Musical--which I'm told will be in a special sort of "real world" 3D--will set an entirely new price point. Although, to hear James Cameron explain it, its dropping chandelier scene will feel so real that audiences will be picking glass out of their stool.

Anonymous said...

I remember a performance of Grotowski's "Apocalypsis cum Figuris". No set, two shins. A loin-clothed Cieslak running in place, a couple cowering round one of the lights. Boom! In my mind's eye appeared a whole snowy landscape at night complete with pine trees and the sensation of cold, an old, straw-strewn wooden barn... What fools these money-rich Broadway people be!