Belfast Telegraph

U2's Spider-Man musical weaves web of disaster

By David Usborne

The Spider-Man franchise has found itself entangled in a web of its own making.

After months of speculation over the future of the extraordinarily expensive Broadway musical bearing the superhero's name, the team behind it admitted that it is still not audience-ready.

Its opening has been postponed by three weeks, giving up a slot during the most lucrative period in the theatrical year.

The delay has sparked a rash of headlines about what has already been billed as the costliest, most over-the-top musical ever attempted on the Great White Way.

But it's probably not the kind of publicity that ‘Spidey’ would like. And it's only the latest in a long series of hiccups. The show, with music written by Bono and The Edge of U2, was originally set to open in February this year.

Certainly, it's more than irritating news for people who had already bought tickets for November and are only now learning that the stage where they had expected to watch Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, will remain unlit. The latest schedule is for previews to begin on November 28 with the formal first night set for January 11.

The initial damage to the production, which was already unusual because it will not have gone through the usual pre-Broadway try-outs in other American cities, may be substantial because the new opening dates mean it will miss the normally hectic Thanksgiving holiday.

Instead, it will have its opening night in the post-Christmas period when tickets sales and tourist traffic in New York are traditionally sluggish.

That is bad news for a show which desperately needs to get off to a good start if it is to have any hope of recouping its staggering £40m budget, more than double the cost of any previous musical.

The problems appear to be manifold. Most importantly, however, the producers of the show have failed to procure the necessary permits for the aerial stunts that have been trumpeted in advance as the most daring audiences will ever have seen in musical theatre. According to several reports two actors have suffered injuries recently as mid-air stunts have gone awry.

But the safety of the high-wire acts is seemingly not the only issue keeping Spidey, to be played by Reeve Carney, on terra firma. The New York Times said transitions between scenes remain unfinished. Bono's music has not yet been synchronised with the dialogue and action. He and The Edge were at the theatre all last week working with director Julie Taymor, who is known as a perfectionist, and an all-important first run-through with a live orchestra is set for tomorrow.

The delays are dangerous for a production desperate to generate positive attention.

“There's no doubt that the delay is a big problem in building and buffing the brand,” said Rick Kelley, vice president of Maxwell Group Entertainment, which makes group sales for Broadway.

“The Spidey icon has never needed buzz before, but this show needs more of it. I feel sorry for the box office folks — they'll be losing money at the same time they're rebooking tickets like crazy.”

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