Spider-Man: Broadway Isn’t The Finish Line

02.17.11 | 5 Comments

CATEGORIES audiences, conversation starter, facts + figures, ideas, producers

The New York critics have weighed in, so what’s left?

What I haven’t heard mentioned in articles and reviews about Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is that, in 2011, for a mega-musical of this kind, Broadway is just an out-of-town tryout. Instead, the producers’ goal is to have a show that will eventually be up and running in a few dozen cities on six continents, simultaneously.

$65 million investment? As of July 2010, according to this article by Ellen Gamerman, the Lion King has earned $2.2 billion worldwide. According to the same article, citing Disney, 10% of the Dutch population saw Tarzan, in a production there. Prior to that, it ran on Broadway for 35 previews and 486 performances and closed due to poor ticket sales. A flop? According to Wikipedia, the show is still running in Hamburg, thanks in part to the leads being cast from a reality TV show, “Ich Tarzan, Du Jane.”

More than in most fields, for us theatermakers it is easy to ignore how quickly the world is changing. It is easy to forget about India, China, Japan, Russia. We work in one room at a time, one space, often in one language, and the audience is either there in that room, in that city and country, or they’re somewhere else.

It would be perilous for any corporation, thinker, artist, or economist to see New York City as the center of the world anymore. I am surprised that we have been doing so with this show. We are just the tryout. I don’t know if it will be a success in the long run (I trust Ada Grey’s review)–but, as with recent events in Egypt, if we think these previews have much to do with us Americans, we are ignoring the rest of the world, the true audience for which, especially at this point, the producers and artists are building the show.

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Eric Ziegenhagen

Eric Ziegenhagen is an arts consultant, theatre artist, and musician based in Chicago.
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  • It’s been reported that the producers (presumingly Marvel) hired Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a popular comic book writer as well as a playwright, to rewrite the script. Considering the theatre critics and the pop-culture critics have been observing the same flaws in the production, this may mean that the producers have been listening and decided that someone familiar with the characters and concepts was needed.

    Perhaps it also means that the producers view the problems critics have had with the story to be damaging to the long term marketability of the show– especially in terms of moving it to other venues.

  • The thing that I don’t get, and maybe someone can help me here, is how the show WILL tour. I thought the theater was (re) renovated specifically for this show, for the stunts. They can’t renovate every theater in the country. Wouldn’t this be a very costly show to take on the road?

    • I expect it could be adapted like a Cirque de Soleil show to new venues, all the while reminding people that if they want to see the “full” version, they have to go to NYC.

    • Jim Stark

      I think it would be unlikely to tour as _Lion King_ does, but it could be presented in major theatre cities around the world, moving into renovated theatres for long runs. If, that is, it can survive long enough.

  • Dominic D’Andrea

    Have you seen it!? It’s so dead. My magic crystal ball says that it will never tour or be remounted in future cities. This may be an out of town try-out for when it runs in Hell. It’s a serious p.o.s.