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'Law & Order' episode feels the pain of Broadway's 'Spider-Man' musical

June 20, 2011 |  2:23 pm


"A money-sucking catastrophe." "A career-ender." "The laughingstock of Broadway." All of these descriptions could justifiably be applied to the stage musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." But they are actually verbatim criticisms leveled at "Icarus," the fictional Broadway musical at the heart of the latest episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

Sunday's episode, which aired on the USA Network, was loosely inspired by the numerous production problems plaguing "Spider-Man" in the months leading up to its opening. The creative mind behind the acrobatic "Icarus" is a Julie Taymor surrogate named Amanda Rollins, a stage auteur played by Cynthia Nixon, whose artistic perfectionism has alienated her creative team.

"Icarus" is a technically complicated rock musical featuring a score by a character named Alex Winter (Eion Bailey). The production, which is based on the Greek myth of a boy who flies too close to the sun, has been in previews for six months with no opening date in sight, and has already experienced a number of cast injuries.

Things go from bad to worse during a preview performance when the leading man suffers a fatal accident during a flying sequence. The suspicion of foul play leads to an investigation by Dets. Robert Goren and Alex Eames (Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathyrn Erbe). Rollins ends up as a police suspect -- an indignity that Taymor never had to endure -- along with the show's producer, Evan Korman (Christopher McDonald), and resident dramaturge (Michael Panes).

Theater fans will no doubt have fun playing connect-the-dots between the fictional musical and the real-life drama behind "Spider-Man." Here are some of the main character parallels between "Spider-Man" fact and "Law & Order" fiction, all spoiler-free:

"Amanda Rollins" vs. Julie Taymor: The episode gives Rollins a number of Taymor's traits, including a keen personal interest in the classics and a controlling work style ("She does what she wants"). At one point, someone notes that Rollins' last movie was a box-office bomb; Taymor's film adaptation of  "The Tempest" was received poorly when it was released last year.

"Adam Winter" vs. Bono: The aloof, pretentious composer of "Icarus" is a rock star named Adam Winter, whose working relationship with his director has frayed beyond all repair. Bono, who wrote the songs for "Spider-man" with U2 bandmate the Edge, clashed repeatedly with Taymor and was ultimately instrumental in her departure from the musical.

"Evan Korman" vs. Jeremiah H. Harris: The producer behind "Icarus" is a career-long Broadway impresario whose father was a legendary theater producer. In real life, Harris has been working as a producer on Broadway for more than 30 years and is the son of Joseph Harris, the well-known New York stage producer and manager.

"Michael DeWitt" vs. Ben Brantley: In the episode, a critic from the New York Times is invited to sit in during a preview performance of "Icarus." Normally, critics aren't invited to attend previews on Broadway, though sometimes a newspaper will send one at its own expense. Brantley has reviewed "Spider-Man" twice for the New York Times, once in February and again this month when the show finally opened. Both reviews were negative.


'Spider-Man' redux: What did the critics (and Bill Clinton) think?

Broadway's 'Spider-Man' sets new opening date for June 14

'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' -- the media battle revs up

-- David Ng

Photo: Cynthia Nixon, center, with Michael Panes (left), Christopher McDonald and Eion Bailey in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Credit: USA Network