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Jewish World Review
Nov 29, 2011
/ 3 Kislev, 5772
Surprise! Spider-Man may weave a profitable web
It is a timeworn plot device that generations of ridicule have failed to kill, as a group of youngsters, faced with the loss of their beloved orphanage, beloved farm or beloved 401(k)s, suddenly decided, "Let's put on a show!"
Unsurprisingly -- otherwise, it wouldn't be a timeworn device -- the show overcomes all kinds of humorous and near-heartbreaking obstacles to succeed, the sinister minions of Wall Street are paid off, the farm is saved from being paved over by developers, Skippy is released from the pound and the young thespians rethink their opposition to capitalism.
Broadway investors know that putting on a show requires tremendous amounts of money, luck and talent, and then will probably fail anyway. And that is why the survival of the musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" is this season's feel-good, and potentially very profitable, story.
The extremely high-tech stage adaptation of "Spider-Man," based on the popular comic-book series and subsequent movies, opened for previews a year ago Monday. The reviews were disastrous, suggesting that, at $75 million, "Spider-Man" was a clear front-runner for Broadway's most expensive flop.
Surprisingly, audiences showed up and grew steadily -- less, one suspects, from a commitment to the legacies of Thalia and Dionysus than on the chance of seeing one of the show's numerous mechanical malfunctions fling an actor into the second balcony or drop one into the basement or leaving him dangling high above the expensive seats while stagehands worked frantically to lower him back to safety.
In December, the official opening was postponed to February; in January, the opening was postponed until March; in March, the original director was fired and the opening postponed yet again, to June 14. And the show closed for three weeks to be thoroughly reworked, usually a sign that a production is on life support.
But, finally, on June 14, "Spider-Man" formally opened and the audiences kept on coming, a miracle on 42nd Street, site of the production's theater.
Movies that open poorly are usually rushed overseas, and that appeared to be "Spider-Man's" fate, but now the producers are planning to keep the show in New York, perhaps adding some new music and plot flourishes, in the increasing likelihood that the show will recoup its investment while on Broadway.
Apparently magic still happens on the Great White Way.
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