[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/59572?ns=guardian&pageName=Spinning+the+saga+of+Spider-Man%3AArticle%3A1308959&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Theatre%2CBroadway%2CMusicals+%28Stage%29%2CStage%2CCulture+section%2CFilm&c6=Alexis+Soloski&c7=09-Nov-23&c8=1308959&c9=Article&c10=Blogpost&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=Theatre+blog&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2Fblog%2FTheatre+blog[/img]Six years, over $50 million and a handful of songs penned by Bono later, can the Broadway musical really compete with the CGI-slickness of three action movie hits?
The theme song to the Spider-Man animated series celebrates its arachnid hero with the lines: "Wealth and fame/He's ignored/Action is his reward." Perhaps someone should trill those words into the ears of those responsible for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
This Broadway musical, directed by The Lion King's Julie Taymor, with songs by Bono and The Edge, has ignored neither wealth nor fame. Rising costs and those ever pesky "creative differences" among its creators and producers easily make it the most expensive show to ever head for the Great White Way. After six years of development, the budget has soared to over $52m and though the production is scheduled to begin previews on 25 February 2010, the show still faces a reported shortfall of as much as $24m. Some fear the superhero is headed for a splat; Broadway's chief rumourmonger, Michael Reidel, has already declared that if it opens on schedule, "I'll eat my young".
It seems much of the budget overrun and production difficulties are owed to the elaborate nature of the staging. According to a copy of the script, leaked to the LA Times , the show opens on a scene of "New York City 'on fire and in ruins' as 'a section of the Brooklyn Bridge ascends with Mary Jane bound and dangling helplessly from the bridge.'" It's bold and ambitious even for a film opener, even more hopelessly so for theatrical entertainment.
A century and more ago, the theater depended overwhelmingly on special effects – naval battles, railway-track rescues, the Crimean War re-enacted. (Spectators could witness an apparently dispiriting revival of this phenomenon at last summer's Ben Hur Live.) But as film became the primary dispenser of such big-budget enterprise, theatre has turned away from the spectacular. Audiences may still applaud the clever use of a trapdoor or flying wire to hitch actors into the air, though it isn't really what one attends the theatre for; after all, no one goes to Phantom of the Opera for that awkwardly plunging chandelier.
I like revolving scenery as much as the next person and I think it's great fun when little Billy Elliot goes soaring upward, but what I want from the theatre is not the CGI-slickness of films, but its humanity, its intimacy, its ability to create a shared experience among audience and performers. In any case, a Spider-Man live show can't compete with the kind of razzle-dazzle spectacle offered up in the hero's last three movie hits.
While the proposed special effects will certainly garner Spider-Man headlines and attract many of the comic book's franchise fans, transferring a Hollywood blockbuster from film set to Broadway stage is no easy business. Even if high-tech fripperies and dozens of stagehands can make the musical's Spider-Man "do whatever a spider can," no amount of spin can net a guaranteed good show. That comes down to the old-fashioned qualities of a good script, hummable songs and even better performances.
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Guardian: Spinning the saga of Spider-Man
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