Apr 25, 2011

The Madness of Not Fixing

The Associated Press' Mark Kennedy gets an exclusive with Spider-man producers Michael Cohl (above) and Jere Harris. Here's where they set the bar for the new-and-improved show they're now giving themselves roughly a month to prep, according to Cohl:
"We — Jere, Michael, Bono, Edge, Julie — we set out to do something that's neigh on impossible...It just didn't quite hit the mark as well as it needed to. And so it needs to be fixed because it has to set that new standard. Otherwise, it will be a failure."
About the new version, we learn that the Geek Chorus is gone (as previously reported), and that Arachne's role has been trimmed, with the result, says Cohl, that "the reorganization makes it feel really good." So what's still in the show? "The flying, the special effects, the beauty of the show, the Julie atmosphere and attitude—it's all staying." They may be keeping the "atmosphere and attitude" of the show's deposed auteur, but the producers now acknowledge that the book she co-wrote with Glen Berger—now being reworked by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and shepherded by director Philip William McKinley—was the core problem. Cohl: "It was muddled. It was difficult to follow...It lacked emotion. It lacked spirit and sincerity."

The article offers a fair amount of such frank talk—Cohl admits that he was "in denial" about the show's problems through much of last December—though it finally puts the best possible construction on why the show's problems weren't dealt with sooner: It was a case of too much loyalty to the creators' vision, particularly Taymor's. This revealingly plaintive quote alone from Cohl is a fitting explanation of why the show hasn't yet closed:
"It was only a matter of letting it play or fixing it...Fixing it isn't mad, is it? There's madness to walk away, don't you think?"
If you're wondering why the producers have decided to be so candid now with the AP, the answer is found in a single sentence, tucked at the end of a paragraph explaining how critics who reviewed the show in February without being invited to do so committed "a violation of the established agreement by reviewers to wait for opening night":
The AP has not reviewed the show.
Meanwhile, in other Spider-man news, Daniel Mendelsohn trains his sights on the show's aesthetic problems in NYRB, but his main service is reminding us of an interview Taymor did with Richard Schechner in TDR back in 1998, in which she says things like:
The most successful stuff is the stuff I've done my whole life, which didn't cost anything.
I never had theatre producers run after me. Some people want to make more Broadway shows out of movies. But Elliot [Goldenthal] and I aren't going to do Batman: The Musical.
Please, don't give them any more ideas!

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