Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History
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From the show’s cowriter who saw it all firsthand, this is the epic story of the most expensive, ambitious, dangerous, and controversial Broadway musical of all-time: Spider-Man.
As one can imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can’t imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theater history.
Song of Spider-Man is playwright Glen Berger’s story of a theatrical dream—or nightmare—come true. Renowned director Julie Taymor picked Berger to cowrite the book for a $25 million Spider-Man musical. Together—along with U2’s Bono and Edge— they would shape a work that was technically daring and emotionally profound, with a story fueled by the hero’s quest for love—and the villains’ quest for revenge. Or at least, that’s what they’d hoped for.
But when charismatic producer Tony Adams died suddenly, the show began to lose its footing. Soon the budget was ballooning, financing was evaporating, and producers were jumping ship or getting demoted. And then came the injuries. And then came word-of- mouth about the show itself. What followed was a pageant of foul-ups, falling-outs, ever-more-harrowing mishaps, and a whole lot of malfunctioning spider legs. This “circus-rock-and-roll-drama,” with its $65 million price tag, had become more of a spectacle than its creators ever wished for. During the show’s unprecedented seven months of previews, the company’s struggles to reach opening night inspired breathless tabloid coverage and garnered international notoriety.
Through it all, Berger observed the chaos with his signature mix of big ambition and self-deprecating humor. Song of Spider-Man records the journey of this cast and crew as a hilarious memoir about friendship, collaboration, the foibles of hubris, and the power of art to remind us that we’re alive.
By the last day in March, Erin Elliott—one of the dance captains—was meeting me for drinks, describing the scene in the dance studio in urgent, bewildered tones. “He’s even adding movement for the weavers when they’re kneeling,” said Erin. “What do you mean? If they’re kneeling, then what kind of movement could he be adding?” Erin put the index finger of her right hand against the thumb of her left hand. Above that, she pressed the thumb of her right hand against the index finger of her left
And all I could think whenever I witnessed one of these exhibitions was, God, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those. And, of course, one day . . . I would. But for now, faith and fellowship were ever-blooming. Bono and Edge were bona fide collaborators. It wasn’t sheer luck or a random fact that they’d been working together since the 1970s, or even that Bono’s wife, Ali, was Bono’s high school sweetheart. The collaborative ethic was in their bones. I mean, with their
growing awareness of the sickening injustice in the world spills over after his uncle Ben has been murdered. These feelings slowly transmute, however, into the revelation that Every heart that bleeds Will color your world red And the sorrow in the night Will be the blue you cannot shed . . . The “red” and the “blue” refer to the colors of the Spider-Man costume, which was about to make its big reveal. In other words, the iconic Spider-Man costume wasn’t just “a costume”—it was the outward
Above’ is the song for today: You have a choice to make. You can be the hero.” “I have to admit, Glen,” Julie said to me. “He gets it.” Later that day, Julie assembled all the female dancers in the VIP room so she could bring them up-to-date on her new vision for “Deeply Furious.” I had wanted her to cut the number. Instead? She was expanding it. I clomped up the stairs back to the lobby, where Michael and Jere were chatting. As promised by Bono back at the Spotted Pig, tonight,
cut down to a sliver of what it had been; and she was miserable because—as far as she could tell—the new script sucked. If Phil couldn’t find a way to change her attitude, it was going to be a problem. Meanwhile, Danny Ezralow was beginning to suspect a new choreographer was coming on board, and he was seriously contemplating having his union, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), pull all of his work from the show. All the dance and all the aerial work. The loom. Everything. If