Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Song of Spider-Man (book)


The first thing you notice, opening the book Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical In Broadway History, is a black and white photograph of several famous people. Bono, the Edge, Julie Taymor (if you are the kind of person who knows who she is) and then ... who the hell is that guy? Tall, awkward, bespectacled, in a frumpy suit jacket and jeans, totally out of place with these arbiters of cool.

That would be Glen Berger, the playwright. Or in musical parlance, the bookwriter, or because when this picture was taken, the show still belonged to Taymor, he was to co-bookwriter. He is also the author of the book, and stumbles his way through through six years of Broadway history, a sympathetic enough character, except he left me wondering where beneath spineless dithering lay the cunning professional who managed to surf the corpses to this production's eventual conclusion.

I never cared about Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark one way or another. One CLE theater colleague and Facebook friend (you know who you are, Moritz) was obsessed by this production, recounting every misstep which for a time seemed to be daily. I do believe his concern was for the health and well-being of his fellow Equity performers ... but there was a lot of internet glee had at the show's expense. Whatever. Lots of Broadway shows are terrible, I didn't feel the price-tag could necessarily have made it any worse.

During FringeNYC last summer our stage manager Diana went to see Turn Off The Dark with her family, and said it was the greatest theatrical experience she had ever seen. No exaggeration, that's what she said, she was over the moon about that show. I had my doubts, but I didn't see it, did I? It is like Ishtar, most people who mock it haven't seen that, either.

But I did rip through this book pretty fast. Maybe that is because Berger writes for a lot of PBS children's programming. There is a major plot hole, however, about a quarter of the way through, where what seems like an ordinary, large-scale Broadway production goes from an exciting project, entirely on-track, to suddenly a media-hounded piece of garbage, hæmorrhaging cash. Like, somewhere between the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, this just happens. This is long before the injuries start.

For a lark, I checked out the soundtrack from the library. I was curious. And most of it is really good -- which is even more surprising when you know I find U2 to be kind of irritating. But the song Rise Above actually got me a little choked up. Boy Falls From the Sky was also quite affecting. And Pull The Trigger is kind of ... fun-kay.

I wish I had gone to see this show.

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