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Spidey on Great White Web

Times Staff Writer

It looks like Spider-Man will be swinging over to Broadway -- and bringing Bono with him.

Marvel Entertainment announced Thursday that the iconic web-slinger will be the subject of a major Broadway musical that will be directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor, who famously adapted “The Lion King” to stage, and feature music and lyrics by Bono and the Edge of U2.

Readings will start this summer for the splashy project, executives at Marvel Comics said. There’s no official word on a premiere date or any hints about early casting choices to play Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson or the other characters from the popular spandex soap opera.

It won’t be the first time a superhero has made it to Broadway; “It’s a Bird ... It’s a Plane ... It’s Superman” took flight in 1966 but didn’t click with the public. Spidey is the first Marvel Comics character to leap to the stage.

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The spindly wall-crawler, created in 1962 by the team of artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee, has already proved to be titan on the silver screen. The first two films in the popular Sony franchise have grossed $777 million in the U.S. alone while the third installment is poised to hit theaters on May 4, with the hero tussling this time with two shape-shifting foes (the gritty Sandman and the oily Venom), as well as the vengeful son of the late Green Goblin.

Spider-Man has his hands full as a cross-media property too. He will be a linchpin presence in the recently announced $1-billion Marvel Comics theme park in Dubai, set to open in 2011, and he will be the star of new animated television series for the Kids WB, which is scheduled to launch next year. There’s also the “Spider-Man 3" video game from Activision due in stores May 4.

Spider-Man has some of the most visually interesting villains in all of comics, and it would be a challenge for Taymor to deliver a viable stage adaptation of the mechanical tentacles of Doctor Octopus or the flying glider of the Green Goblin. But the director did win Tonys for direction and costume design for the wildly popular adaptation of “The Lion King,” which used puppetry, stilts, mechanically enhanced costumes and other tactics to create its complex vision of the jungle fable.

“The move to Broadway is something that we have had in mind at Marvel for a long time, but we had to find just the perfect team and we think that, absolutely, Julie Taymor has proven to be a world-class talent for realizing a difficult vision,” said David Maisel, chairman of Marvel Studios.

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Maisel is the former president of Livent Inc., the Broadway production company behind the Tony-winning show “Fosse.”

The Spider-Man musical is being produced by Hello Entertainment/David Garfinkle, Martin McCallum, Marvel Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The return to Broadway for Taymor will follow a turbulent Hollywood experience as director of “Across the Universe.” She has clashed with producer Joe Roth, an executive at Revolution Studios based at Sony, over the final cut of the offbeat film built around Beatles songs. Their differing visions of the movie are still being resolved.

Bono and the Edge, meanwhile, have done movie soundtrack work, but the rock heroes are newcomers to Broadway. They do have some super-hero resume lines however: Edge wrote and played the slinky theme song for “The Batman,” the stylized Kids WB cartoon series that premiered in 2004; U2 also contributed “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” to the “Batman Forever” film soundtrack in 1995.

geoff.boucher@latimes.com


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