When producer Michael Cohl told the audience at the May 12 preview performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark that they’d be seeing ”almost a brand-new show,” he exaggerated…a bit. True, the troubled musical has undergone a creative overhaul since taking a hiatus in April after the departure of director Julie Taymor. Composers Bono and The Edge went back to work on the show’s music, while a new writer and director were hired to refine the story. But three and a half weeks (and a reported $5 million) later, the musical — now estimated to have cost $70 million — has only one entirely new song (the hard-rocking ”A Freak Like Me”) and retains most of Taymor’s sets and costumes.
Still, the reworked Spider-Man does feel new in many ways. Action and romance elements have been beefed up. The critically maligned Geek Chorus has been banished, while villainess Arachne and her myth-versus-reality story line (Taymor’s pet creations) have mercifully been all but deleted. The Green Goblin is now the script’s main evildoer, and his aerial battle with Spider-Man (which used to end Act 1) has become the grand finale.
And there may be even more changes in store before the musical’s official opening, now slated for June 14. (That’s when critics — many of whom savaged the show in February — will weigh in again.) ”They’re continuing to [tweak] storytelling and staging,” says spokesman Rick Miramontez. ”The cast will be working by day and performing by night into early June.” Just ask Spidey: A hero’s work is never done.