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Broadway’s Spiderman: weaving a tangled web

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark promotional poster.
Image via Wikipedia

When Spiderman:Turn Off The Dark's original writer/director ,Julie Taymor, sued the show's producers late in 2011, nobody was particularly surprised. Ms. Taymor's lawsuit alleged numerous counts, including the obvious breaches of contract, and the not-so-obvious copyright infringement claims. That suit seeks millions in unpaid fees and royalties allegedly due Taymor, and an order enjoining the producers from using Taymor's material in any subsequent productions, tours, or other derivatives based on the collossally expensive broadway musical she co-authored with U2's Bono and The Edge. Observers found little to raise eyebrows about in Taymor's lawsuit, and have been waiting since November to hear the producers' side of the story.

Well, the other day, that story came out. The producers have responded to Taymor's suit with explosive allegations that the academy-award nominated and Tony winning director-bookwriter fundamentally failed to render the services she was hired to perform, instead advancing a story line and overall ‘feel' of the show that stood contrary to what producers repeatedly requested, and audiences seemingly wanted. With the show in often-extended previews, it was obvious that major changes would be needed. But, the producers indicate, Taymor resisted, arguing against paying attention to audience response. The producers lay the blame for the beleaguered show's cost overruns, cast and crew injuries, and poor critical response squarely on Ms. Taymor's shoulders.

At times, the counterclaim reads like a comic book storyline in its own right. The producers cast themselves in the role of the show's saviors who “engaged in superhuman efforts to save the Musical,” including investing many additional millions of dollars in the show, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

The counterclaims contend that due to “the delays and increased expense due to Taymor’s actions,” the producers had to replace her “in order for the show to survive, and for it to continue to provide jobs to the cast and crew and allow investors to recoup their investment.” Following those changes, they say, the Spider-Man Musical is now a hit. “The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her.”

Well, obviously, this case is one we'll be watching closely. If it goes that far, the trial will be an enlightening look behind the scenes into the development, financing and production of this, the most expensive Broadway musical ever produced. The drama in the courtroom is likely to be better than the spectacle playing nightly at the Foxwoods Theatre.

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