The Amazing, Spectacular Story Behind The Spider-Man Musical

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You’d be forgiven for thinking, at various times over the last year or so, that the Marvel Comics/Sony musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark was some kind of strange urban myth instead of a real thing. Directed by The Lion King‘s Julie Taymor, music by U2 and so dangerous that a stuntman broke his wrists during rehearsals? It really does sound too surreal to be true, and that’s before you see the very, very odd Annie Leibovitz photos from Vogue magazine. But, no – it’s very, very real, and opening for previews this weekend (Pushed back multiple times; it was originally supposed to open for previews January this year) after a long and, at times, painful creation.

If the show’s own mythology is to be believed, the idea behind the musical started almost nine years ago, when U2’s more visible members, Bono and the Edge, were at a dinner celebrating the career of Andrew Lloyd Webber where the king of musical theater joked “I’d like to thank rock musicians for leaving me alone for 25 years.” Taking that as a challenge – Well, wouldn’t you? – the pair agreed to a proposal from producer Tony Adams to write the music for a proposed musical that would bring Marvel Comics’ webcrawler to the Broadway stage. The two didn’t just bring music and celebrity to the production; they were also responsible for getting Julie Taymor involved (“We were only going to do it if we could do it with Julie,” Bono is on the record as saying).

After Adams’ death in 2005, his business partner David Garfinkle took over control of the pre-production and by summer of 2007, rehearsals were being scheduled to take place, and the process of casting was beginning. Details of the show’s plot and characters were beginning to leak out – although Swiss Miss, the show’s new villain, was still thankfully unknown at the time – and by 2009, the show’s central cast was set, with movie stars Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming playing lead roles Mary Jane Watson and the Green Goblin, while newcomer Reeve Carney would take on Peter Parker. And then everyone found out that the production was already bankrupt.

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