PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 5-11: Spider-Man Gets New Creative Team; Championship Misses the Hoop

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 5-11: Spider-Man Gets New Creative Team; Championship Misses the Hoop
 
The replacement of Julie Taymor as director of the $65 million musical monster known as Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark was perhaps inevitable. Aside from a rather fawning profile in New York magazine (and on TV's "60 Minutes") last year, she's been nothing but bad-mouthed in the press — for her overspending; her reported unwillingness to take advice or change her script; for the athletic staging that resulted in the injuries of several cast members; for the length of the preview process and the seemingly glacial pace of improvements to the show. Just one of these deficiencies would have gotten another director booted from the production a long time ago.

Tony winner Julie Taymor
Tony winner Julie Taymor Photo by John Hogg

And yet, Taymor's dismissal (officially, she is still part of the team) this week also came as a shock, for the woman behind The Lion King seemed so untouchable, so Teflon. Certainly, she acted as if she thought she was. But, as the recent firing of another formerly "indispensable" talent — actor Charlie Sheen of television's No. 1 show "Two and a Half Man" — showed, no one is irreplaceable.

Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris cited Taymor's "previous commitments" as conflicting with her being able to work on improvements to the show. 

To fill the enormous vacuum created by Taymor's absence, the producers brought in director Philip William McKinley, a man known for directing circuses and Broadway's The Boy From Oz, and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, an acclaimed dramatist who also happens to be a Marvel Comics writer with a passion for the web-slinging superhero. The expanded creative team also includes musical consultant Paul Bogaev and sound designer Peter Hylenski, both of whom have already been working on improving the musical arrangements and sound quality, respectively, over the past few weeks. Arrangements and sound quality would seem to be the least of the production's worries following the blistering bad reviews.

The storyline and staging of the show are expected to change significantly, and Bono and The Edge will be writing some new songs. To implement the many changes, Spider-Man will do something Taymor never resorted to: the show will shut down. The Foxwoods Theatre will go dark (or, maybe we should say, will turn on the dark) sometime in the spring, and reopen in the summer. (It will not open on March 15, the most recent of the many scotched opening-night dates.) This means the Tonys and various other award-giving bodies will not have to deal with the vexing question of Spider-Man's eligibility this season.

Read the latest breaking development, including the announcement of a June opening-night date. ***

Kiefer Sutherland, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth and Jason Patric
photo by Joan Marcus

That Championship Season, the one famous play Jason Miller wrote and one of the glories of Joseph Papp's reign at the New York Shakespeare Festival, opened on Broadway this week in its first-ever Broadway revival. That first production starred actors who would become stars — Charles Durning and Paul Sorvino. This time, Gregory Mosher directors actors who are already stars — Kiefer Sutherland, Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth and Jason Patric, who is Miller's son.

Though the revival had been highly anticipated, the critical reception was muted. Most reviews indicated the that 1972 play had not aged well, and was showing its rudimentary, naturalistic seams. Morever, many thought the acting was overdone, needlessly emphasizing what were already painfully clear characters and themes.

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American Idiot is leaving Broadway this spring, surely earlier than its creators and producers would have originally predicted when this once-hot property arrived in New York back in March 2010.

Billie Joe Armstrong
photo by Krissie Fullerton

The rock musical, based on the Green Day concept album of the same name, will close April 24 at the St. James Theatre. It will have run barely over a year, following 421 performances on Broadway and 27 previews. The first national tour launches in the fall. No word how close the producers will come to recouping their investment.

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, who gave the show its best weeks at the box office, will return to the role of St. Jimmy for the final three weeks of the Broadway run, starting April 5.

Though the show was touted in some corners, and would seem to have had a built-in fan base among devotees of the album, American Idiot never became the Times Square-energizing sensation many expected. The musical was nominated for the 2010 Tony as Best Musical, but won only two Tonys for its scenic and lighting design. The lack of a Tony nomination for conceiver, co-librettist and director Michael Mayer was one of the head-scratchers of 2010.

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You can't get away from those Streep girls lately.

Grace Gummer, Streep's daughter (all the Streep children go by their father's name), is currently in previews in the Broadway revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.

And this week we learned that Grace's more experienced older sis, Mamie Gummer, has taken a role alongside Hamish Linklater and Jenn Gambatese in the spring Classic Stage Company production of David Ives' The School for Lies.

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Hollywood performers who take a Broadway detour may talk about their love of the theatre and their wish to challenge themselves. But everyone knows they all share one other basic motivation. So you have to give comedienne Kathy Griffin credit for stating it baldy in her new show, which began March 11 at the Belasco: Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony.

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