×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway’s ‘Spider-Man’ Ready to Sling Web Around Theater World

Star-crossed production free from legal battles, preps for touring editions as a new book recounts musical’s early struggles

Hundreds of hopefuls lined up at the Hollywood United Methodist Church on Aug. 12, eager for the chance to prove that they were destined for great power and great responsibility — and have no fear of heights.

It was all part of a bicoastal open-call audition process looking to discover the next high-flying lead of Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” — a head-turning move that comes just as the show, famously troubled until it turned into a big Broadway seller, finds itself at a notable point in its lifespan.

Freed at last from the show’s long-running legal dramas, producers can finally get moving on potential incarnations across the country and around the globe. But just as they begin to look ahead, the specter of the show’s past has reared its head: Last week a performer suffered the first high-profile injury since the musical opened in June 2011, and later this fall comes a look back at “Turn Off the Dark’s” early troubles, in the form of an I-was-there book by original scribe Glen Berger, due to hit shelves in November.

The long and highly publicized list of roadblocks suffered by “Spider-Man” on its road to Broadway hardly needs recounting: the protracted, injury-prone preview period that turned into a media frenzy; the ugly creative split that saw original director-conceiver Julie Taymor pushed out for Philip William McKinley, and Berger’s work supplemented by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; the extended legal battle that stretched well beyond settlement deadlines. But with all that done, “Spider-Man” is finally in a position to make money.

Popular on Variety

Producers are moving ahead with plans for incarnations of the show to pop up in Las Vegas; in Hamburg, Germany; and in an arena tour. According to McKinley, part of the concept is to integrate key staging differences in each of those potential incarnations, giving fans reason to see ’em all.

Those additional companies are part of the reason McKinley hopes to find as many new leads as he can at the open calls, including the one in L.A., where more than 250 performers showed up, and another in Gotham Aug. 19.

Besides, the Broadway “Spider-Man” will need a new Spidey soon: Reeve Carney, the star of the show since its first preview in 2010, departs Sept. 15.

“A lot of people think this is a publicity stunt, but it’s not,” McKinley says. “It’s real.”

Meanwhile, now that the musical’s on the far side of its tortured creative process, Berger’s book, “Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History,” offers a perspective on the show’s birth pangs that only a few insiders would have.

Berger, who co-wrote the original “Spider-Man” script with Taymor, was there from the beginning, and extraordinary access was in part what pushed him to overcome his reluctance to write a tell-all, instead hoping to recount a story of good people struggling, and sometimes failing, to achieve their sparkling ideals. With no galleys of the Simon and Schuster book yet available, it remains to be seen whether “Song of Spider-Man” will stir any acrimony among the other creatives, but Berger does note that Bono and the Edge, who wrote the show’s music and lyrics, have read the book, along with many other members of the “Spider-Man” production crew.

Surely, too, there must be something cathartic about revisiting all that drama from a more removed perspective. “That was the theory going into it,” Berger cracks. “It was either spend money on therapy or write this book.”

More Legit

  • Jagged Little Pill review

    Broadway Review: 'Jagged Little Pill'

    Nearly 25 years after “Jagged Little Pill” hit the shelves of record stores, Alanis Morissette’s innovative 1995 album has arrived on Broadway under the muscular direction of Diane Paulus, who launched this galvanic production at the American Repertory Theater. The show’s supportive book by screenwriter Diablo Cody interprets Morissette’s musical idiom as a universal domestic [...]

  • Claire Warden

    Listen: Let's Talk About Sex Onstage

    The craft of intimacy direction is taking Broadway by storm — and on the latest episode of Variety’s Stagecraft, Broadway’s first intimacy director explains why, and breaks down the ways in which she’s helping to revolutionize how actors get intimate onstage. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Warden, whose credits this season include “Jagged Little [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    Mark Addy, Dan Stevens Head Broadway Cast of 'Hangmen'

    Mark Addy and Dan Stevens will appear in the Broadway premiere of Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen.” Addy, best known for his work on “Game of Thrones” and “The Full Monty,” starred in the off-Broadway production of the black comedy. It’s the first time Stevens, beloved for his turn on “Downton Abbey,” has appeared on the Great [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen Jordan Fisher

    Jordan Fisher Joins 'Dear Evan Hansen' in Title Role on Broadway

    Jordan Fisher will be Broadway’s next Evan Hansen, joining the cast of “Dear Evan Hansen” in the musical’s title role. Fisher, best known to theater enthusiasts for his stint in “Hamilton” and playing Mark Cohen in Fox’s “Rent: Live,” will play the role for a limited 16-week engagement starting Jan. 28. “Evan Hansen is a [...]

  • SUBJECTS] seen at the Lincoln Center

    Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall Set for Major Renovation

    Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall is set to undergo a major renovation that will lead to the facility being closed for months-long stretches starting in 2022. Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic announced Monday that the overhaul will require the temporary shuttering of Geffen Hall from May 2022 through October 2022 and again from [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content