Julie Taymor stepping aside from Broadway's 'Spider-Man'; new opening date set for summer [Updated]
In the biggest changes yet to "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," producers announced Wednesday that director Julie Taymor will be stepping down from her daily responsibilities on the troubled Broadway production and that a new opening date is set for an unspecified day in early summer.
Taking Taymor's place in the director's seat will be Philip William McKinley, a darkhorse whose only Broadway credit is the 2003 musical "The Boy From Oz," which starred Hugh Jackman.
"Spider-Man," which began preview performances Nov. 28 at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York, has been plagued by production delays, cast injuries and a spiraling budget that, at $65 million at last count, makes it the most expensive show in Broadway history.
In a statement, producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris stopped short of saying that Taymor is being dismissed from the show.
Taymor "is not leaving the creative team," the statement said. "Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie's previous commitments mean that past March 15th, she cannot work the 24/7 necessary to make the changes in the production in order to be ready for our opening."
The new summer unveiling marks the sixth scheduled opening for "Spider-Man." The previous opening dates were: Feb 18, 2010, Dec. 21, 2010, Jan. 11, 2011, Feb. 7, 2011 and March 15, 2011. The latest setback means that "Spider-Man" won't be eligible for the season's Tony Awards.
There had been reports that the show will go on hiatus to implement revisions, but Rick Miramontez, the spokesman for the show, said that there is no official word on a possible temporary shutdown.
Bono and The Edge, who wrote the score, will stay on with the production but they are expected to revamp the songs. The musicians said in a statement that "we have a couple of new songs we are very very excited about putting into the mix... We are confident [the show] will reach its full potential and when it does, it will open."
The demotion of Taymor -- who directed and co-wrote the musical -- had been anticipated for the past several days and represents a major blow for the Tony-winning director of Disney's "The Lion King." Known for her innovative visuals and international tastes, she has moved consistently between commercial projects and avant-garde work throughout her career, making a name in theater, opera and movies.
Taymor has been one of "Spider-Man's" most prominent faces, sitting down with CBS' "60 Minutes" and with Oprah Winfrey to promote the show.
As previously reported, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a young playwright with experience in the comic-book field, has been asked to doctor the book for the musical, written by Taymor and Glen Berger.
Miramontez said the cast of "Spider-Man" -- which includes Reeve Carney, T.V. Carpio, Patrick Page and Jennifer Damiano -- remains intact. However, major revisions to the book could mean that certain characters will be changed or eliminated altogether.
Also joining the "Spider-Man" team are musical consultant Paul Bogaev and sound designer Peter Hylenski.
Earlier this week, the New York Post and the New York Times had reported that organizers of "Spider-Man" had reached out to directors Christopher Ashley and McKinley to either replace Taymor or join the production in some other capacity.
On Wednesday, Ashley, who is the artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, confirmed that he wouldn't be directing "Spider-Man."
The most recent changes to the show seem to have been precipitated, at least in part, to the onslaught of negative reviews of the musical that ran earlier this year.
L.A. Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote in his review of a preview performance that Taymor's vision "has been indulged with too many resources, artistic and financial" and that the investors of the show "have inadvertently bankrolled an artistic form of megalomania."
Many critics have complained about the show's storyline, which includes characters from ancient mythology, like Arachne, who are not in the original Marvel comic. The musical also features a chorus of "geeks" that comments on the action unfolding on stage.
Despite the negative buzz, "Spider-Man" continues to do relatively strong business at the box-office. Reported figures show that attendance for the musical has yet to dip below 80% capacity, with many performances playing to a full house.
-- David Ng
Photo: The Foxwoods Theatre in New York, home to "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters