A Tangled Web: Spider-Man's Glen Berger on Broadway, Critics and Backstage Drama

By Steven Suskin
29 Dec 2013

Glen Berger
Glen Berger
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark's co-librettist Glen Berger chats with Playbill.com about the creation of the musical, its lengthy preview period and its long-delayed Broadway opening and upcoming closing. 

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Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark has announced that it will close Jan. 4, 2014, after a run of 1,268 performances. Co-librettist Glen Berger has just published his memoir of the creation of the show, "Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History" [Simon & Schuster]. (To read our review, click here.) Playbill's Steven Suskin spoke with Berger as the show entered its final performances.

SS: What do you find the most rewarding moment in the show?

GB: I remember being in meetings at set designer George Tsypin's studio, just spending entire days — hours and hours and hours — watching these engineers and designers and Julie Taymor just trying to wrap their heads around certain challenges that nobody ever had to face before in a Broadway show. There's a moment when the full-size Chrysler Building is coming in from the flies upside down, and just before it hits the floor it begins to fold out with its point coming straight at the audience. When that was first proposed, it seemed like something we wouldn't be able to accomplish. I remember the first time that we actually saw it happen during tech rehearsals, and every time since then, I get a little shiver.



SS: What was the scariest moment?

GB: The moment after Chris Tierney fell. [Tierney, one of the flying Spider-Men, fell 30 feet to the concrete floor during the preview Dec. 20, 2010, his harness having been improperly attached.] I was in the stage manager's office at the time, you could see what had just happened on the little monitor that's there. It took a split second for the brain to comprehend what just happened, and the next second you're thinking, is that even survivable? We all ran back towards where it happened. Hearing that Chris was even alive was one of the most emotional moments in my life, and pretty much probably everyone else in the theatre.

SS: What was the most depressing moment?

GB: I guess in early March of 2011 [after many critics reviewed the show despite the postponement of the official opening]. I didn't know what the future of the show was going to be from that point forward, all I knew was that Julie wasn't coming back. It was depressing in the sense that despite best efforts, something of the original dream for the show had died. It wasn't even a question of making the show more viable. The original vision that we had been working towards for over six years, we couldn't get to work. It was now well and truly dead. The producers — and our own guts — were making it clear that we might not even make it to April. I made a personal vow to myself, whatever happened, if the show could make it to the following September, I'd be content; and if it made it to January of 2012, I would never be unhappy about anything ever again. (I've broken my vow.) Going to January 2014 goes well beyond what anyone could have hoped for back in February 2011.

 Continued...