“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.
At the stormy center of the book, which goes on sale Tuesday, is Julie Taymor, the gifted stage and screen director who sued her collaborators after she was fired from the musical before it officially opened. (The suit was settled out of court this year.)
Taymor initially hired Berger, then a relatively unknown playwright, to help her pen the musical’s script. But over the course of several years as the show faltered, Taymor had a bad falling out with practically all of the show’s major players. Berger wrote the memoir without Taymor’s collaboration.
“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” opened in 2011 at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York following a protracted preview period that saw a number of cast injuries, technical mishaps and bad media reports. The musical continues to run on Broadway and plans are underway for a touring version and a Las Vegas production.
The book presents a more-or-less chronological account of the making of “Spider-Man,” with Berger serving as a narrator of the biased variety. Here are a few of the juiciest gossip tidbits from the book. If you treasure surprises, stop reading now.
1. Taymor told Berger that he doesn’t have a soul. Berger and the show’s producers went behind Taymor’s back to implement “Plan X,” an emergency effort to revise the musical during the troubled preview period. When Taymor learned of the secret plan, she called Berger and launched into a tirade. “You don’t have a soul,” she apparently told her former collaborator.
2. Bono and the Edge supported Plan X. The U2 musicians not only wrote the songs for “Spider-Man,” they also were a major force behind the scenes, especially when it came to doing away with Taymor’s vision of the show. According to the book, both musicians subverted Taymor’s authority and backed Plan X. Bono tried to patch things up with Taymor by calling her in 2011 to invite her to opening night. She accepted.
3. It’s payback time for New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel. During the show’s troubled development, Riedel regularly broke news about technical problems and cast injuries. Berger gets his revenge in the book by describing the journalist as a “parasite-carrying blood-sucking mosquito depositing the larvae of an elephantiasis-causing filial worm under the skin of our show.”
4. Julie Taymor resents critic Ben Brantley for his review of “The Lion King.” Taymor is apparently someone who can hold a grudge for a long time. The director has never forgiven Brantley, the New York Times’ theater critic, for his review of “The Lion King.” The book also shows her obsessing over reviews of her movies “Across the Universe” (mixed) and “The Tempest” (universally panned).
5. Alan Cumming was paid to do virtually nothing. The Scottish actor signed on the play the Green Goblin in 2009. As the musical languished in development, he continued to get paid a monthly retainer until he decided to accept a role on CBS’ “The Good Wife,” leading Taymor to release him before rehearsals had even begun. The role was eventually taken by Patrick Page.