Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Friday, November 29, 2013

Broadway's Troubled Spider-Man to "Turn Off the Dark" for Good on January 6 ... $60 Million in the RED. Vegas-for-Rehab, Next Stop.

Musical May Set Record for Greatest Investment Loss in Gotham History 


For those of us who follow the epic ups and downs of Broadway,  the heroic desperation of producers in the face of scathing reviews to save a troubled tuner can be quite compelling. Big history about this points to near-inevitable flop outcomes.

Previews for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, as some of you will recall,  were panned by a few critics breaking ranks with a tradition of not issuing opinions until opening night. They just could not help themselves, I suppose, from gloating over an epic turnkey in the making.

Such pre-opening trauma does make for fun, unless it's a show you are in.

Circus Director Called in to Save Reckless Aerial Show

This lead to the preview version being closed down for major reworking.   Direcotr Julie Taymor, of Lion King fame, was fired, and, to the rescue, came former Ringling Bros. Circus stager, and a very good one, Philip William McKinley to implement fresh direction, working with a rewritten book by a virtual unknown hack with hardly a track record to speak of.  The latter, to me, spelled trouble.

The revised version officially "opened" on June 14, 2011, to a groaning mixture of grudgingly so-so reviews.   The moppet market, opined the critics, might mop it up and make it click, well, for a few years maybe. On that count, they were spot on.   But the money pros guessed that the odds for turning a profit on so expensive a production were virtually impossible.

For an impressive streak, the retooled Spider-Man, with less-hazardous aerial exploits, seemed to be proving its harshest critics wrong.  Business looked good, in the 80% and above range, but then a slippage at the box office began to settle in, ominously.  When a show, ball park guess here, hovers around the 70% mark, and some weeks falls below,  you've got trouble on your hands.  Too many weeks below 70% tells me it ain't gonna last very long.  (Cinderella, stuck in this sub-par category, should not be around for long either.)

Spider-Man held on longer than I estimated, given a mediocre box office. They kept pouring more money into the losing venture.

Julie Taymor: Now the Kiss of Death?

Came the reckoning in late August, this year, when ticket sales slumped too far south.  Around that time, they tacked back onto the marque the  name of the show's original director, Ms. I-Am-Director-Hear-Me-Roar Taymor.  Possibly their last act of desperation was to bank on Taymor's name rebooting ticket sales.  Didn't happen.  Show will close on January 4, then head for Sin City, hoping to turn around its fate in a scaled-down staging with smaller nut, recoup the loss and eventually make hay..

So far, they are $60 million in the hole, estimates The New York Times, as reported by Forbes magazine.  Even then, they've hauled in around $200 million in ticket sales..

Vegas likes flash and motion -- think Liberace and Cirque du Soleil.  Perhaps the show will find a more eager audience in Sin City, where other such aerial-intense offerings from the Montreal monster are still, I assume, reaping big bucks.  Insiders don't sound too confident.

A road tour?  Ooooo, so expensive to mount.  And who will come?   But a flop on Broadway can so easily be a "hit" anywhere outside of New York City.  Funny how Americans love Broadway, no matter what it sends 'em on tour.  Just one opening night (how I'd love one myself, truth be told), no matter what happens the next day, can make you a legend.  You were there. And "there" marks you as a player.

Tell-All Book Promises More Excitement

Broadway's giddy post-mortem celebrants are lapping it all up.  Seems. that Ms. Taymor has an ego equal to a thousand Spider-Women.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times by David Ng, ""Song of Spider-Man" is a tell-all memoir about the contentious behind-the-scenes drama that dominated the most expensive show in Broadway history. Written by Glen Berger, who co-wrote the script for the $75-million spectacle, the book provides a juicy insider account of artistic egos run amok."

Did I tell you about what fun it can be watching Big Egos along the Great White Way Rising and Falling?

Spider-Man could never turn back the odious onus of a doomed date on Broadway.  As for the theatre-circus angle, talked about in the beginning.  Rarely works out.  The harder they try, the harder they die..

Some of us who've never been there are laughing a little.   Nothing quite like the smug darkness of a flop over the Great White Way. 

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