‘Spider-Man’ musical looks for fresh faces in Hollywood

Director Philip William McKinley, left, and actor Reeve Carney watch an audition for the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" at the Hollywood Methodist Church in Los Angeles on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

They lined up early on Monday morning with their head shots and résumés in hand, all hoping to land a part in the mega-musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”

The creative team behind the most expensive musical in Broadway history came to Los Angeles with a big to-do list: Now that legal obstacles concerning ousted director Julie Taymor are officially settled, producers of “Spider-Man” are launching new versions of the musical, including a Las Vegas arena production, a touring arena show and a production in Germany.

With each incarnation requiring its own ensemble of actors and aerialists, producers have cast their nets far and wide for actors with big lungs and agile bodies.


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“There’s an innocence you want for the part [of Peter Parker],” said director Philip William McKinley, who was overseeing Monday’s open casting call at a church in Hollywood.

In addition, the Peter Parker role requires actors to sing and engage in complex aerial stunts, sometimes at the same time. In any given performance, there are nine actors who play Spider-Man, most of whom perform the more complex aerial scenes.

“Not being afraid of heights is very important,” McKinley said.

McKinley -- who took over the director’s chair after Taymor was fired from the production in 2011 -- said he was casting for a variety of roles, including Mary Jane, the hero’s love interest.

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Joining him was actor Reeve Carney, who has played Peter Parker since the musical began previews at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York in 2010. The actor is scheduled to leave the Broadway production on Sept. 15 after more than 900 performances.

Carney helped to greet the hopefuls who lined up early for the audition. “I hope I’m not making you guys nervous,” he said. The actor said in a separate interview that he missed Sunday’s performance on Broadway to fly to L.A., but expects to be back in time for Tuesday evening.

His advice to any actor playing Peter Parker eight times a week is to “drink enough water. You also have to eat well and get enough rest.”

Despite the variable level of talent that open casting calls can bring, McKinley said he enjoys the process of meeting performers. After he went down the line of actors, he conferred with an assistant about who looked most promising.

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Each actor performed a musical selection of their own choosing for the auditions. (Rock numbers were a popular choice.) Those who impressed the team were asked to return to perform songs or scenes from the musical.

“Spider-Man was my favorite superhero growing up,” said actor Spencer Broschard, who is hoping to land the role of Peter Parker. “So it would be cool to be able to put on the Spidey suit.”

The Philadelphia native, who now lives in L.A., said he’s never acted on stage before, but said he was drawn to the show in part because of the score by U2’s Bono and the Edge.

Some of the actors who came had tried out for the musical before. Hilary Maiberger, who drove in from Redlands, said she previously auditioned for the show and is still hoping for the role of Mary Jane. The actress recently played the role of Belle in a touring production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

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The Broadway production has seen a number of cast injuries incurred during the action sequences. When asked about past accidents, McKinley replied, “I don’t think those are going to happen anymore. Our safety plans are higher than any other show on Broadway.”

The prospect of danger didn’t deter actor Kolton Kolbaba from showing up for the casting call. The actor, who hails from Washington and now lives in Studio City, said he has experience in gymnastics and has acted in theater since high school.

“I had no second thoughts” about the show, he said, adding that the danger quotient “kind of adds to the thrill.”

No dates have been set for the planned arena versions of “Spider-Man.” The planned production in Germany will be performed in German, according to McKinley.

Monday’s auditions in Hollywood were expected to bring in around 100 hopeful actors. The event is part of a larger casting process for the musical that includes an open call in New York scheduled for next week, as well as other private auditions.

“Spider-Man” is the most expensive Broadway show in history, with a price tag estimated at $75 million. The show, which was overhauled following Taymor’s dramatic departure, received mixed to negative reviews but continues to be a top grosser on Broadway.


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