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‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ Closing In January: WSJ

By | Monday November 18, 2013 @ 5:37pm PST

The highest of high-profile musicals, whose beginnings were worthy of their own Broadway drama, is set to shut down after this year’s holiday season ends. The producers will make it official this week, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. In 2011, Julie Taymor’s replacement director Philip William McKinley told Deadline that Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Broadway’s most expensive musical ever, would eventually make its money back. Not so, but considering its wild start — budget blow-outs, several on-set injuries and universally awful reviews all before its opening, and the project jettisoning Taymor and revamping the production afterward — it didn’t do too shabby. Last holiday season it was Broadway’s highest-grossing show, shattering the record for highest single-week gross and highest single-week attendance for any production in the history of the Great White Way. But even then estimates suggested Spider-Man needed to gross $1.2 million a week to cover costs, and as of late it had struggled to fill the massive Foxwoods theatre — it was at 75% capacity last week, according to Broadway League stats — and has been running below break-even for some time, the WSJ says. Still, with a run of 2 years-plus, the producers kept the musical from becoming one of the largest (and most public) flops ever.

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Julie Taymor’s Lawsuit Against ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ Settled

By | Wednesday April 10, 2013 @ 9:10am PDT

Exiled director Julie Taymor sued the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark in November 2011. The rock musical’s helmer, book co-writer and mask designer claimed her creative rights were violated and she was not compensated for her work after she was canned following epic and very public early production woes and poor early reviews. Producers filed a countersuit, alleging Taymor refused to fulfill her contractual obligations. The settlement announced today among Taymor, Glen Berger and producer 8 Legged Prods comes ahead of the scheduled May 27 trial date. The parties said the agreement resolves Taymor’s claims against 8 Legged in connection with her work on the book — now a Broadway box office hit — with respect to the current NY production and subsequent productions, meaning the shackles are off potential future tours. “I’m pleased to have reached an agreement and hope for the continued success of Spider-Man, both on Broadway and beyond”, Taymor said in the statement announcing the deal.

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Julie Taymor Returns To Stage To Direct ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

By | Wednesday January 23, 2013 @ 3:32pm PST

When last we saw Julie Taymor she had turned to the courts over her public departure from Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, where she was director, co-book writer and mask-designer for the rock musical. Production woes and poor early reviews led to producers revamping the creative team, leading to Taymor’s departure. Now she’s returning  to the stage as director of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the inaugural production in Theatre for a New Audience’s first permanent home in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. Previews begin October 19, 2013 for a November 2nd opening. Taymor sued the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark in November 2011 claiming her creative rights were violated and she was not compensated for her work. In turn, the producers filed a countersuit, alleging Taymor refused to fulfill her contractual obligations. A tentative deal settling her role in the creation of the musical was reached with producers 8 Legged Productions last August, but Reuters reported recently that litigation has resumed after both sides failed to reach a final settlement. A trial date is now scheduled for May 27.

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UDPATE: Julie Taymor’s Writer Royalty Dispute With ‘Spider-Man’ Producers Gets Trial Date

By | Friday February 17, 2012 @ 2:00pm PST

UPDATE, 2 PM: A Manhattan judge has set a January 7, 2013 trial date for Taymor’s suit against the show’s producers over her royalties as co-book writer of the Broadway musical. She claims she is owed at almost $3000 a week from April 2011 to the present. A similar settlement to yesterday’s director royalty spat is expected so plans can move forward on a national tour.

PREVIOUS, THURSDAY AM: A deal between the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark producer 8 Legged Productions ends all pending litigation. It gives the Broadway musical’s original director Julie Taymor full royalties. The entities have sued and countersued over the past couple of months over the musical, which famously had to shut down and retool and now is going great guns in New York. In the end it’s all about the money: the lawsuits were blocking plans to send the production on the road — and possibly Las Vegas — a critical element to backers recouping the $75 million budget and $1.2 million weekly running costs for the pricey superhero musical featuring music from U2′s Bono and the Edge. As part of the settlement, Taymor will be paid “from the inception of the run through its duration pursuant to the terms of her Director’s agreement, and to pay certain other amounts due to Ms. Taymor as a Collaborator, when the show’s New York production recoups”. She also will … Read More »

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‘Spider-Man’ Lawsuit Web Thickens As Stage Producers Countersue Julie Taymor

By | Tuesday January 17, 2012 @ 2:02pm PST
Mike Fleming

The musical Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark is thriving on Broadway, but now there’s more negative attention. The producers of the musical have answered the original lawsuit filed by director and book co-writer Julie Taymor after she was fired. The producers have also launched their own counter suit that challenges her contention she should be paid full royalties despite being sacked. In particular, they are challenging her assertion filed in court last November that the revamped version of the musical infringes on her copyrights, and they are trying to thwart her attempt to bar them from taking the musical to other venues. Even though the musical is grossing well, its $1.2 million weekly running costs mean that recouping of the $75 million budget will happen as slow as molasses–unless the producers take a version of the show on the road, and perhaps to Las Vegas.

The producers charge that while Taymor was contracted to co-write and collaborate on the musical that has music from U2′s Bono and The Edge, she refuses “to fulfill her contractual obligations, declaring that she could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do.” The producers claim her stubbornness left them no choice but to replace her with Philip Wm. McKinley, whose vast background with Barnum & Bailey Circus helped curb the aerial mishaps, and a rewrite by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Glen … Read More »

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Julie Taymor Sues Producers Of Broadway’s ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’

By | Tuesday November 8, 2011 @ 1:36pm PST

Back in March, the official release outlining the retooling of the massive and plagued Broadway production Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark touted a new direction and a new director to replace Julie Taymor. And when the revamp finally made it to opening night in June after months of delays and bad press, Taymor was in the audience to take a bow. Apparently, the good will ended there: On Tuesday, the director filed a lawsuit in New York against Spider-Man‘s producers alleging that they haven’t compensated her for the work she did on the most expensive musical ever staged, and that they violated her creative rights. Her lawyer Charles Spada told the Associated Press that the non-payment comes “despite the fact that the show has consistently played to capacity or near-capacity houses since its first public performance in November 2010.” Taymor previously filed a claim that she never received royalties from the production, which last week grossed more than $1.4 million at the box office.

Last week, the Tony Awards committee announced that Taymor was eligible to be nominated in the Best Direction of a Musical category — an unlikely scenario considering all the negativity that’s come out of the $70 million production. On the opening-night Playbill, she carried the credit “Original Direction By” and was listed first among the scriptwriters.

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Holy Moses! ‘Spider-Man’ Stage Helmer Tackles Old Testament And Swears Spidey Won’t Go Down As Flop Of Biblical Proportions

By | Tuesday August 16, 2011 @ 1:29pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Philip William McKinley, the stage director who replaced Julie Taymor and stopped the bleeding — literally and figuratively — on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, will next tackle something even more iconic than a superhero saga: The Old Testament. He’s directing The Bible: The Beginning, a live show scaled for arena-sized venues that will use music, dialogue, tumblers, jugglers, singers, aerialists and fighters to re-enact the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, Moses and his clash with the Pharaoah, the plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, all culminating in the delivery of The Ten Commandments. The musical will be narrated by Gabriel the Messenger; Raphael the Healer; and Michael, Leader of God’s armies.

The show will be more logistically complex than Spider-Man, which, McKinley swears, won’t need a miracle to recoup a mammoth budget pegged at $70 million before it opened. “We are selling out every night, consistently drawing $1.7 million each week and finishing behind Wicked and The Lion King,” he said. “Right now, it’s all about maintenance and being incredibly conscientious. We’ve got the New York Department of Labor in the building for every show still, but we’ve taken safety to heart.”

Since the show’s operating costs are in the range of $1.2 million per week, Spider-Man will need a loooong run for its investors to be made whole. That effort to recoup will be helped by broadening beyond Broadway, something McKinley said he’ll help facilitate when the time is right. While Spider-Man hardly drew raves when it opened after umpteenth delays — including a three-week shutdown McKinley needed to implement changes — the director feels that the musical that was driven as much by visual effects as music by U2′s Bono and The Edge has turned a corner from being a cautionary tale about the limits of live theater to a model for what is possible. The Bible will push that envelope further, even though it’s too large to fit in a Broadway venue. Read More »

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ICM’s Jeff Berg Signs Director Julie Taymor

No doubt that the theater, opera, and film director is both a genius and a handful. Julie Taymor was recently replaced as director of Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark after the accident-plagued musical became known as the most expensive production in the history of The Great White Way. She also has fought with almost every producer of her movies. The main problem has been that no one wants to give her the same free rein with her creativity that Disney did when she brought The Lion King to the stage in 1997 in a stunning production that continues to play around the world to this day. Her first feature film, Titus, was a startling reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, her Frida received six Oscar nominations, her Across the Universe starred U2 lead singer Bono (with whom she collaborated on Spider-Man), and her film version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest cast Helen Mirren in the role of the sorcerer Prospero usually played by a male actor. There’s probably an Oscar with Taymor’s name on it in the future, but only if ICM’s Jeff Berg can help her to function within Hollywood’s constraints.

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Is ‘Spider-Man’ Biggest Broadway Debacle?

By | Wednesday June 15, 2011 @ 6:48am PDT
Mike Fleming

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark finally opened on Broadway on Tuesday night. There was a star-studded crowd that included Bill Clinton, a 10-minute standing ovation, and even deposed director Julie Taymor got up to take a bow. And, thank goodness, no actors fell from the rafters. A press release from the show’s reps reports that “critics and audiences cheer[ed] the opening,” and offered a few effusive blurbs from USA Today, MTV and NY1 News. Well, first of all, they weren’t reading the reviews I saw. In The New York Times (generally the review that helps a show fly or die), Ben Brantley compared its earlier incarnation to now as an “ascent from jaw-dropping badness to mere mediocrity,” but that isn’t a rave since he likened that earlier version to “watching the Hindenburg crash and burn.” The Wall Street Journal called the book “flabby and witless” and, as for the plot, “everything that happens is utterly familiar and utterly predictable.” To sum up, the WSJ offers that “$70 million and nearly nine years of effort, all squandered on a damp squib. … Never in the history of Broadway has so much been spent to so little effect.” The other Gotham papers basically said it was better than it was when Taymor was calling the shots, but essentially that its edge (not to be confused with U2′s The Edge) had been varnished away, leaving blandness and U2 songs that aren’t the catchiest that Bono and The Edge ever came up with. Read More »

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‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ Goes Dark For Three Weeks To Make Changes

Mike Fleming

Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark has shut down for a three-week hiatus, a performance stoppage that had been expected. The show will implement all the changes from the original Julie Taymor-directed musical that were made by replacement director Philip William McKinley and playwright/comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The producers hope these will solve many of the structural problems that got the musical drubbed by critics tiring of the endless opening-night postponements. Will three weeks be long enough to turn around a rough run low-lighted by safety violations and a roster of wounded actors? Here’s the official release:

New York, NY – Following its historic matinee performance on Sunday, April 17, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark embarks on a three-week hiatus for technical rehearsals before unveiling the new version of the mega musical on Thursday, May 12. The original staging of SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark played its final performances to sold-out houses. The official opening night of the new SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark is set for Tuesday, June 14th at the Foxwoods Theatre (213 West 42nd Street).

The revamping of SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark represents an unprecedented and historic moment on Broadway. The new version takes the best aspects of the original, adds great new songs by Bono and The Edge, tells the story from a different angle, and will offer an even more thrilling audience experience.

Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris said, in a joint

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Broadway ‘Spider-Man’ Producers Announce Retooling And New Director, With Bogus Claim Julie Taymor Isn’t Out

By | Wednesday March 9, 2011 @ 5:11pm PST
Mike Fleming

New York, NY – Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris announced today that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has a newly expanded creative team in place. The team will be implementing a new plan to make significant and exciting revisions to the production. Opening night (previously set for March 15, 2011) has been rescheduled to an evening in early summer, 2011. This amended schedule will allow the time necessary to execute the plan, which will include revisions to the script.

The additional time commitment required by this new plan will make it impossible for director and co-book writer Julie Taymor to continue on in her day-to-day duties with the production. Philip William McKinley and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have joined the creative team to help implement new staging and book rewrites, respectively. McKinley has vast experience directing technically complex productions on Broadway and beyond. Aguirre-Sacasa is both an acclaimed playwright and a noted writer of Spider-Man comic books. The expanded creative team also includes musical consultant Paul Bogaev (Tarzan, Bombay Dreams, Aida, Sunset Boulevard) and sound designer Peter Hylenski (Elf, Scottsboro Boys, Rock of Ages, Shrek), both of whom have already been working on improving the musical arrangements and sound quality (respectively) over the past few weeks, thereby vastly enhancing the audience experience.

Producers Cohl and Harris said, in a joint statement, “Julie Taymor is not leaving the creative team. Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie’s previous

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BREAKING: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Hired To Rework ‘Spider-Man’ Musical

Mike Fleming

I’m told that the producers of the troubled Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have hired Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to rewrite the book originally done by Julie Taymor and Glen Berger.  Considering that one of the criticisms of the show is that it lacks an insider’s voice about the webslinger, Aguirre-Sacasa is a strong choice. While his credits include most recently writing a new book to the Charles Strouse/Lee Adams musical It’s A Plane, It’s SUPERMAN! that was a hit at the Dallas Theatre Center, he has also written Spider-Man comics for Marvel. He also writes on the HBO series Big Love and  Aguirre-Sacasa is repped by WME.

The $65 million production pushed back a fifth time to a March 15 opening night, but most critics weighed in this month with scathing reviews. Songwriters Bono and The Edge recently brought in their record producer Steve Lillywhite, and the production has been honing its safety practices after a litany of injuries. This is perhaps the most serious move they’ve made to improve the book. Stay tuned.

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Spidey Delays Broadway Bow–Again!

Mike Fleming

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has delayed its February 7 opening, yet again. This time, opening night will be March 15 as Julie Taymor and her creative collaborators including U2′s Bono and The Edge try to work more bugs out of the musical’s system. This one’s not going to sit well in places like The New York Times. Critic Charles Isherwood, clearly gritting his teeth, recently ran an article saying the paper would hold its tongue, despite “reviews” written for Bloomberg News by Jeremy Gerard (who paid $292 for his orchestra seat) and another in Newsday by critic Linda Winer. It’s getting to the point now where reviewers will be hard-pressed to hold off any longer. Spider-Man is packing the house in preview performances (Glenn Beck just issued the musical’s first full fledged rave), and the musical might be better off selling tickets in an endless run of previews, without ever having an official opening. That might be the $65 million musical’s best hope of recouping. The postponement comes as The New Yorker Magazine unveils a cover that makes light of the litany of accidents suffered during the aerial portion of the show. Here’s the official word:

New York, NY – Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris announced tonight that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night (previously set for February 7, 2011) to Tuesday, March 15th to allow for more time to fine-tune aspects

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U2 Producer Steve Lillywhite Joins Broadway ‘Spider-Man’ Web

Mike Fleming

Steve Lillywhite, the British record producer who has collaborated with U2 on eight albums, has been brought in by Bono and Julie Taymor to work with the performers on the music for the $65 million Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  I’m told that he’s been a fixture this week at the Foxwoods Theatre, helping the cast with the songs penned by Bono and The Edge as they prepare for the February 7 opening night of the best musical that Glenn Beck has ever seen.

In Lillywhite, the Spidey cast gets a producer who has working with everyone from Peter Gabriel to the Talking Heads, Dave Matthews Band, and the Rolling Stones. Lillywhite was also in the mix  for a bit to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol.

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‘Spider-Man’s’ Broadway Bow Delayed Until February 7

Mike Fleming

As expected, the much-troubled Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night from January 11, 2011 to Monday, February 7. The $65 million musical, which has found itself more under a microscope than just about any Broadway-bound musical because of the record price tag and star creatives, has been plagued by injuries to cast members taking part in acrobatics scenes. The Lion King‘s Julie Taymor is directing a book she wrote with Glen Berger, with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. Preview performances will continue at the Foxwoods Theater on 42nd Street, but the creatives continue to tweak both the songs and the book, per  The New York Times. Pushing until they’re absolutely ready is smart; beyond Spider-Man, only a musical like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s delayed Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies will be welcomed with such an intense level of media and critical scrutiny.

Here is the official release:

New York, NY – Lead producer Michael Cohl announced today that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night (previously set for January 11, 2011) to Monday, February 7. Directed by Julie Taymor and featuring a book by Julie Taymor and Glen Berger, and new music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark is now in previews at Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre (213 West 42nd Street). All performances prior to the new opening night

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Disney’s Stealth Screening For ‘Tempest’

Don’t you hate when this happens? A DGA member emailed me that last night he went to what was advertised as a “special screening of The Tempest paid for by Touchstone Pictures” at the Writers Guild Theatre featuring a Q&A after the screening with director Julie Taymor and stars Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Alan Cumming and Djimon Hounsou. ”Only problem was, when I got to the location, there was a line of cars and a young woman telling anyone who would roll down their window that “there was a mistake — the screening is at 135 S. Doheny”. Except the screening wasn’t there either! It’s a residential address.” Touchstone’s Disney tells me today that “the address for the screening had the address for the WGA office instead of the WGA theatre. Fortunately, most attendees realized this and went to the screening. But we had two security guards and one staff member redirecting people to the correct address. We ended up with a full successful screening.”

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Spidey Gets Broadway Opening Date

Mike Fleming

Despite all the skepticism it would ever get to Broadway because of its prohibitive running costs, Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark has been set to begin preview performances on November 14, with opening night set for December 21. Julie Taymor will direct from the book she wrote with Glen Berger, with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. The musical will play the Foxwoods Theatre on West 42nd Street. Reeve Carney plays Peter Parker, Jennifer Damiano plays Mary Jane Watson and Patrick Page plays The Green Goblin. The musical shapes up as one of the costliest ever to hit Broadway, and tickets top out at $140. Carney, a rock musician, plays a lead role in the Taymor-directed The Tempest, a film that will play both the Toronto and Venice festivals.

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‘Tempest’ Gets Venice Invite & Skedded

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Disney announced today that the Touchstone pic The Tempest directed by Julie Taymor is now dated for December 10th exclusive and December 17 for limited expansion.

Taymor has her hands full trying to get Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark to Broadway this upcoming season. But she’ll detour to Italy, where her film The Tempest is set as the closing film of the Venice Film Festival. Taymor’s Shakespeare adaptation stars Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper, Djimon Honsou, and Reeve Carney. She set the latter to play Spider-Man in the pricey Broadway musical with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. Venice has bookended its fest with Taymor and the opener Black Swan, the Darren Aronofsky-directed drama.

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