Producers have once again delayed the opening of the troubled new Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” the fourth major delay in performances this year for the much-mocked show.
The official opening was pushed back 27 days, from Jan. 11 to Feb. 7, because a key actor has missed several previews due to injury and after producers decided that the creative team needs to work out more kinks before allowing critics to weigh in.
“Due to some unforeseeable setbacks, most notably the injury of a principal cast member, it has become clear that we need to give the team more time to fully execute their vision,” lead producer Michael Cohl said in a statement Friday. “I have no intention of cutting a single corner in getting to the finish line.”
The $65 million musical was dreamed up by Tony Award-winning director and co-writer Julie Taymor and U2’s Bono and The Edge, who wrote the music. More than eight years in the making, delays and money woes have plagued the show’s launch. In addition, three accidents have injured actors, including one who had both his wrists broken while practicing an aerial stunt.
The first preview on Nov. 28 did not go well. The musical had to be halted five times because of technical glitches and actress Natalie Mendoza — who plays Spider-Man’s evil love interest Arachne — was hit in the head by a rope and suffered a concussion. Her injury would eventually keep her sidelined for two weeks.
The show — whose costs easily dwarf Broadway’s last costliest show, the $25 million “Shrek the Musical” — may be about a comic book hero, but it has now itself become easy fodder for comics, with both Conan O’Brien and “Saturday Night Live” spoofing the show.
“The producers feel that the show is on track and they absolutely don’t want to open before the creative team has the opportunity to do everything they need to do to make it the show they want it to be,” said Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for the show.
While the show’s running time has been steadily cut and the number of in-show delays has dropped, audiences at previews seem confused about the role of Arachne and underwhelmed by the current finale.
Miramontez would not say what elements of the musical still need work. But he said the producers simply don’t want to open the show when it’s not ready. “The backstage mood is extremely upbeat,” he said. “Everybody remains on their path.”
The songwriters, currently on tour with U2 in Australia, are due to return in January to help get the show ready. “When Bono and Edge are back from the tour, they will absolutely be at the theater, participating in the process,” Miramontez said.
The show has been built specifically for the 1,928-seat Foxwoods Theatre on 42nd Street, meaning a traditional out-of-town tryout to fix glitches wasn’t possible. Cohl has said he considered delaying previews until the production had gelled better, but argued that the cast and crew had to bite the bullet eventually, even if they risked initial bad press.
The show’s massive costs — a 41-member cast, 18 orchestra members, complicated sets and 27 daring aerial stunts, including a battle between two characters over the audience — mean the theater will have to virtually sell out every show for several years just to break even. The weekly running bill has been put as high as $1 million. (Tickets are priced from $67.50-$135 for weekday performances and $67.50-$140 for weekend performances.)
Roberta Sloan, an actress, director, author and head of the Theater Education Concentration at Temple University, said there are many possible reasons that a production’s opening is postponed.
She said some possibilities include a story that doesn’t work, casting that doesn’t fit, props, stunts or costumes that aren’t ready, or music that isn’t fitting well. “The most common reason is that the producers are not happy with the shape that the show is in and do not feel that it will get positive reviews in its present state,” Sloan said.
Other Broadway shows have struggled with getting their sets and stunts to work during previews, including “Mary Poppins” in 2006 when the massive house set went off track and “Titanic,” which was plagued by numerous technical problems during its monthlong preview period in 1997. Both went on to be hits.
Producers of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” would like to be among them. “This show is so technically ambitious that ironing out the kinks, which sounds so simple, is not simple,” Miramontez said.