Julie Taymor Steps Down As Director Of The Spider-Man Musical, Replacements Appointed

Posted by March 9, 2011 Comment

If I don’t see Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark before March 15th, then I don’t think I’ll ever want to see it at all.

Why? Because Julie Taymor, the initiator of the project, has stepped down as director, and after that date, the new director and writer, Philip William McKinley and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, will be overseeing some big overhauls

From the night of the very first preview, the musical has been facing criticism for it’s unexpected structure, and it’s refusal to adhere to Spider-Man canon. In the second act, the show apparently becomes something surprising, something that moves far away from accepted Spider-Man lore, and becomes an expression of Taymor’s ideas about myth and archetype.

Well, good. It sounds like somebody with something to say is making an effort to say it. I’d much rather that than another do-over of a story that’s already well told, plenty of times elsewhere (and many more times, told badly too). In this case, Spider-Man was an image that Taymor could use, interrogate and build on, not just copy and clone and re-sell. She was bringing her agenda to the characters and the storylines, and there was a huge disconnect for many audience members. Audience members, I guess, that wanted the show to be what they wanted it to be, rather than just surrendering to the director’s ambitions and seeing how it worked on those terms.

I’ve read criticisms of the show that say Taymor’s failing is in thinking she’s bigger than the Spider-Man mythos. This is to miss the point entirely. Honestly: what value is there in a retread, in a new work that simply repackages the old? The hope for any work of art is that it expresses something, and wouldn’t we want this something to have meaning to the work’s creators? Besides, the Spider-Man mythos can in no way be reduced or impinged by the addition of new works, it can only be expanded, or at worst, just refracted, reflected upon in a new way,

It’s more important that Turn Off The Dark is true to Taymor’s vision than that it’s true to what Spider-Man fans want. They can choose what they want to enjoy and experience, and if that thing is old comics, new comics, the movies, the 70s TV show, slash-fic they find on the internet or anything else at all, then they are of course welcome to it – but they have no use in imposing a dictate on an artist or a creator.

I’m sad to see Julie Taymor stepping away from something she created out of passion and love and ambition because it’s not fitting in the box expected for it.

I’m not trying to claim that the show was perfect, and I’m not trying to claim that the show didn’t need work, but for the transformations and edits to make sense and be coherent, and to fulfill the vision of the creator, then the creator needs to be there to discuss them. What the show needs is back-up for Taymor, not replacements.

So, what we’ll have now is a new show, effectively adapted from Taymor’s. Nobody will have any idea yet of how close or far away from her vision it will be, but I can’t imagine the expensive sets and wire-work can be reimagined too drastically. I do expect the most idiosyncratic ideas will be removed, however, and I even expect that the book will be pulled in line with familiar Spider-Man continuity. What the new writer and director will be doing is taking Taymor’s work, and modeling it like it’s a block of clay, and making their new work out of it.

Just as Taymor did when she took Spider-Man and fashioned her musical in the first place.

The difference, I feel, is that she was working from her own vision and that the new team are hired-hand cavalry members sent in to make nervous investors more confident that this expensive show will run forever and recoup its lofty costs. I wish the new team the best, and nothing would make me happier than to hear that they have fashioned a masterpiece, but so far, I see no indication that they’d even be expected to try.

Poor souls.

I think this show was crushed because its audience sweet spot – those who are interested in Spider-Man, can live with U2 and want to see what Taymor has to say, and how she has to say it – was considered too narrow a target by those who could instead just go for “those who are interested in Spider-Man and can live with U2” and care very little about alienating Ms. Taymor’s fanbase.

My interest in this show is over. My interest in Julie Taymor isn’t even dented.

(Last Updated March 9, 2011 7:45 pm )

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