Web Sight

I'm not one of those lookie-loos who gawks at car wrecks when they pass by. That kind of human misery does not appeal to me. But for some reason, the type of human misery that does appeal to me is learning about artistic endeavors that collapse. Movies that flop. TV shows that implode. Plays that spiral out of control. That's not to say I get pleasure out of these disasters (necessarily). Just that I find them morbidly fascinating.

That's why, even though I knew nothing about the show's story or had heard a single note of its music, I swooped in on Glen Berger's 2013 book, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History. All I knew was what a lot of casual pop cultural observers knew: Ungodly expensive musical, several accidents and injuries, endless previews, and a fired director. I thought I was getting a book by a reporter or a theater fan that had dug into the story and done their research. When I perused the flap, I was surprised to see that Glen Berger is actually the co-writer of the show. A happy little chill ran through me; this was going to have some serious insider info.

Which it did! Any musical will have internal struggles as to what's wrong with the music, the staging, the pacing, the casting, etc. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is no different, but unlike other shows, its problems were well-publicized in the press and on the internet. Critics smelled blood in the water, and a lot of ink was spilled over what a disaster the show was turning into. By the end, director Julie Taymor was fired and lawsuits were flying back and forth. Berger was caught in the crossfire of all of this, and the book is his attempt to describe what was really going on behind the scenes; to explain what the creative team was going for and his perspective on the troubles that plagued them.

That's just it, though. It's all his perspective. Like any controversial story told from a single person's point of view, it's very one-sided and gossipy. Selective memory is all over the place. In one chapter, Berger appears to remember years-old conversations down to the word. In others, he'll describe a conversation turning into a screaming fight with no other details given.

It was still an interesting read, though. While I type this entry, I decided to fire up the soundtrack on Spotify to see what all the agita was about. It's pretty terrible. When all is said and done, the downfall of a not-very-good show isn't the biggest deal in the world. But walking step-by-step through the drama of a musical in free fall? Now that's a story.

Song of Spider-Man: B


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