Spider-Man's Real Villain

Article excerpt

Byline: Jacob Bernstein

The musical disaster show has made Director Julie Taymor this season's media Pinata. But could her departure unmask another culprit?

Given all the problems plaguing Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, it was probably inevitable that someone besides the actors would fall. Since previews of the $65 million (and counting) Broadway musical began last November, four performers have been injured, including Spidey himself, who went tumbling 30 feet into the pit, breaking four ribs and sustaining a hairline fracture to his skull. OSHA descended on the Foxwoods Theatre to investigate, and fined the producers $12,600.

All might have been excused had audiences and critics actually liked the show. But with reviews like "'Spider-Man' is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst" in The New York Times, somebody had to be blamed. So it wasn't much of a shock when the show's celebrated director, Julie Taymor--whose Lion King has grossed $4.5 billion in its 14-year-run--finally got her walking papers last week. With much schadenfreude (Taymor isn't the easiest director to work with, as anyone will tell you), Broadway wags are predicting she'll never work in this town again.

But has justice been served to the real villain of Spider-Man?

The score, created by U2's Bono and the Edge, isn't made up of catchy, easily digestible pop songs in the "Hakuna Matata" vein. Even production sources admit to being mystified by what they describe as the joylessness of the music. "With the promise of U2, why they don't have this big kick-ass, pulse-racing number that sends people out on a cloud is a big, big question," one person involved with the show says. "And if Julie Taymor was standing in

the way of that, she's not anymore."

When audiences walk out of Spider-Man, you don't hear them singing show tunes. You hear their disapproval. "You just don't leave with a song in your head," Suzy Fink of Chicago says after a recent performance. …