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Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in…

av Glen Berger

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708297,375 (4.03)1
Playwright Glen Berger's hilarious memoir of a theatrical dream--or nightmare--come true with a cast of characters including renowned director Julie Taymor and two superstar rock legends U2's Bono and Edge.
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Visa 1-5 av 8 (nästa | visa alla)
This is a fascinating look at an infamous spectacle. I would have loved to see the original version of this Spider-Man musical—as misguided as the story sounds to a comic book fan like me, I do admire the ambition behind it. But also maybe don’t make a musical based on the crowd-pleasingist (not a word) superhero Marvel has if you don’t really like kitschy pop culture. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
It has been a decade since Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark first began previews, accompanied by endless reports about injured actors and workplace safety hazards. With a budget exceeding sixty million dollars, an endless barrage of reported injuries, and suggestions that the plot was nigh incoherent, the musical had all the makings of a colossal train wreck. And, for a while, it delivered on that promise, with continued reports of technical mistakes and feuding creatives. But, eventually, it just fizzled out. After months and months of previews, the ousting of its director, and endless lousy press, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark opened on June 14, 2011. But what happened? Glen Berger, co-writer of the musical’s script, seeks to answer this in his account of the musical’s creation, Song of Spider-Man. While reading as more of a gossipy, biased memoir than an objective, neutral account, Song of Spider-Man is an entertaining and revealing look at how Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark went from being an anticipated Broadway spectacle to a “sixty-five million dollar circus tragedy.”

Song of Spider-Man is part recounting of the events that led to the creation and demise of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and part memoir from the show’s co-writer, Glen Berger. As a result, the book reads as a sort of Frankenstein combination of historical record and gossip column. There is nothing more valuable when examining the creation of something than having the account of someone fundamental in creating that thing to refer to. So, having Berger detail his experience working on this show is, obviously, the book’s biggest asset. Any journalist could cobble together a strictly historical look at the creation of the musical, or some kind of oral history, but only those who were involved can tell us exactly how it felt to be involved in the making of the musical. And that's exactly what Berger does with this book. Throughout, he walks readers through his experience over the six years he spent on the show. He chronicles its early days, its tech woes, and—most salaciously—the dismissal of its original director.

Song of Spider-Man does not paint Julie Taymor in a positive light. I wouldn’t say it’s a total hit piece against her either, but Berger’s bias is clear—even if it’s understandable. Here, Taymor is depicted as a director with an unwavering vision who is unwilling, or unable, to make any compromises that might result in the bettering of their show. This does not create a particularly enjoyable workplace environment, but it is something that women directors get criticized for far more than male directors guilty of doing the exact same things do. To be fair to Taymor, this was an approach that had netted her (and plenty of other directors) countless acclaim and success, but it was a recipe for disaster on this show. Honestly, everyone involved in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark on a creative level bears some responsibility for what went wrong. As shown in Berger’s book, there was a fundamental breakdown in communication between all of them, with most of the creative team never being fully honest with Taymor until they executed their—frankly sneaky—plan to completely overhaul the show’s second act, triggering a deeply understandable negative reaction from Taymor. Song of Spider-Man is an account of a friendship and partnership falling apart. It is an account of how dysfunctional workplace environments loaded with miscommunications can destroy a project. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for everyone involved at different times.

On the flip side, Song of Spider-Man doesn’t really paint Berger as a victim, or the hero, either. His prose is frequently littered with self-deprecation and moments of seemingly-introspective looks into the ways he contributed to all that went wrong here. Obviously, he’s not going to fully rake himself over the coals, but he also doesn’t completely whitewash his flaws—which gives the whole book a bit more credibility than it might have otherwise had. He shows how lousy a husband and father he was during the development of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark; he shows how his lack of communication contributed to all of the structural problems prevalent in the show’s script; he seems to take responsibility for the role he played in Taymor’s eventual ouster. It’s a surprisingly reflective look at the role he played in this story. Naturally, there’s no way he can be totally objective here, and the book never reads like an account with any real objectivity. While this direct insight from someone deeply involved with the show is the book's best aspect, it's also its greatest weakness. There are numerous instances where it's blatant how one-sided the book is. Readers only hear from other players through the lens of Berger. This is not his fault—he can only share what he knows and what he heard. But it does leave a pretty big hole where other viewpoints might be. I'd kill for Taymor, or Bono and the Edge, or even the producers to write their own books that detail their experiences making this musical. I think is such a fascinating example of good ideas and good intentions ruined by dysfunction and miscommunication.

For what it is, Song of Spider-Man is an absolutely fascinating look at the creation, downfall, and rebirth of one of Broadway's most infamous musicals—told directly from the point of view of someone intimately involved in its creation. As a result, it often reads more biased than one purely interested in the creation of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark might want, but once you get past that, you’re left with an entertaining and insightful look behind the scenes of the musical. I wish Berger focused more on some of the creative elements that went into making the show and less on the already-heavily-reported drama that went down, but this is a book that’s hard to complain about. It’s a page-turner that will have you hooked from its first page to its last. It’s the perfect drama: filled with intrigue, betrayal, humor, and hope. If you love the theatre, this is a book you should read. If you have any interest in the Spider-Man musical, this is a book you must read. And if you simply like well-written books about real things that have happened, this is a book you must read. ( )
  thoroughlyme | Apr 23, 2021 |
In Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History, Glen Berger, the co-writer of the show’s book, discusses the development of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, detailing the lofty artistic visions of its creators, the struggles to make them a reality, particularly during the onslaught of the Great Recession, and the eventual falling-out between he and Julie Taymor.

Berger offers insight into how Marvel sought to preserve their intellectual property, prohibiting swearing and sexuality. He writes, “What [Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada] unintentionally put in my head was that we had been entrusted with a living artifact; that Spider-Man wasn’t globally popular by accident; that Spider-Man was an icon and that our job was not to be iconoclasts” (pg. 88). Berger describes a meeting between Taymor and Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, writing, “Ike seemed to have no interest in the show. He had a long successful history taking advantage of companies tottering on the edge of bankruptcy” (pg. 110). However, “three days later, grasping just how damaging it would be to the Spider-Man brand if the project collapsed, Marvel strongly indicated to David Garfinkle that they were going to put up the money to save the show” (pg. 110). Unfortunately, all of the reports of dysfunction led the Marvel representatives to leave the meeting without investing the much-needed capital. Berger writes, “What Ike Perlmutter didn’t divulge at either of the two Hello-Marvel meetings was that Disney was buying Marvel. Any day now. For four billion dollars. So while Ike was raking David over the coals, sermonizing about the enormity of thirty million, Ike (who owned thirty-eight percent of Marvel stock) was a week away from receiving a personal payday of $800 million in cash and $590 million in Disney stock” (pg. 111).

Describing the previews process – in particular New York Post reviewer Michael Riedel’s vitriol – Berger writes, “Spider-Man was making the newspapers. We on the inside could only imagine the toll it was taking on Julie, who was already exhausted by the last three months of storm and stress. And it was all so meta. Here we had based our second act partly on the 1967 issue ‘Spider-Man No More!’ in which Peter Parker is so besieged by the press (led by a demagoguing Jameson) that he has a breakdown and gives up being Spider-Man” (pg. 207). He continues, “Turn Off the Dark was always meant to be a spectacle, but the spectacle was supposed to be confined to the stage. Now it was becoming one of those cultural events that blazed across the mediasphere like a grease fire” (pg. 209). Berger discusses the way continued problems during the previews wore away at the show, leading to an intransigence among the writers and producers. He writes, “That’s the thing about exhaustion – it doesn’t stop you cold. Not at first. What exhaustion might do first is convert your passion into a mania, sending you trudging down an increasingly narrow tunnel, where perspective sloughs away and clear-eyed self-assessment goes out the window” (pg. 262). From there, every issue became personal. Describing conflicts with Taymor, Berger writes, “I only had to push back a little before her dramaturgical bullet points were abandoned in favor of the personal. The thermonuclear. As soon as a relationship is built, we carry around the codes to atomize it” (pg. 279).

While Berger offers insight into the struggles behind Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, he makes it clear that he may only convey his own perspective. He writes, “This book is a story about storytelling. All of us engage in the act every minute of the day, and then again when we’re dreaming” (pg. 324). Turning to the lawsuit Julie Taymor filed against him, Bono, and Edge, Berger writes, “She sued me because the deepest yearning in an artist is the desire to communicate. And revenge is communication. Only instead of thoughts, or a spectrum or emotions, you’re conveying pain. You’re communicating your pain to the people you believe caused you this pain so that they can understand it in their bones. And rather than with words, or paint, or music, the medium of revenge is violence – the infliction of a physical or psychic wound” (pg. 348). He does, however, offer hope: the show lasted for several years, gained many fans (including myself, as I saw Turn Off the Dark on 8 July 2011), and Taymor’s work was praised. Berger’s account may not be the final story of Turn Off the Dark, but it’s worth reading for anyone interested in Broadway, the work of Julie Taymor, or comic book characters in other media. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Feb 9, 2020 |
Fascinating insight into the trainwreck that was "Spider-Man: Turn Back the Dark" by the co-writer Glen Berger. Have rarely laughed as hard (to the point of being out of breath) at his description of the moving bed in Peter's bedroom. But mostly this is like being hypnotized by a cobra about to strike. You know disaster is ahead but you can see how it was both inevitable and painful. This is an absolute must-read for any theatre lover. Witty, moves along well, and gives a detailed, inside portrait of the birth and eventual death of a Broadway show. Riveting. Read it. ( )
  abycats | May 11, 2018 |
I just got tired of it after awhile. ( )
  picardyrose | Jan 19, 2014 |
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Playwright Glen Berger's hilarious memoir of a theatrical dream--or nightmare--come true with a cast of characters including renowned director Julie Taymor and two superstar rock legends U2's Bono and Edge.

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