“Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is getting a new Webmaster.
Producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris announced that veteran Broadway director Phil McKinley and playwright and comic writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have joined the troubled show’s creative team. Where does that leave director and show creator Julie Taymor?
According to the press release from the “Spider-Man” camp, “Julie Taymor is not leaving the creative team. Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie's previous commitments mean that past March 15th, she cannot work the 24/7 necessary to make the changes in the production in order to be ready for our opening.”
That March 15th opening night date has now been pushed back to an unspecified date in the summer. That would, according to the press release, give the creative team time to revamp the show. It would also presumably mean the show will miss the window to be eligible for the Tony Awards, which are in June. The release also made no mention of a temporary shutdown of the show, to allow for new songs and rehearsals.
While the producers and even Bono and The Edge went to great pains in the press release to insist Taymor was still part of the Spider plan, it seems clear she lost a power struggle. At least one of the lead performers in “Spider-Man: TOTD” had publicly backed Taymor.
“It would be so disappointing if it is true. Julie is at the heart of this project, said TV Carpio, the actress who portrays the villainess Arachne in the musical. Carpio spoke to Newsarama Tuesday, shortly before the rumors of Taymor’s possibly imminent departure broke.
“Arachne and the story she is trying to tell is [Taymor’s] story. Not HER story, but she is at the heart of it, what she’s trying to do here,” said Carpio. “Love her or hate her, the fact that she takes risks is what makes her amazing. Who would touch the Beatles catalog [for a movie]? Not many. She took that risk and did something awesome with it. The same with Spider-Man.”
Carpio’s big career break came when Taymor cast her as Prudence in her acclaimed Beatles musical film “Across The Universe.” They have become friends, and defends her as an artist unafraid to try to be audacious and groundbreaking.
“I’m sure you can always find flaws in things, but the fact is she took that risk. Who would think of putting Spider-Man on Broadway? The concept is laughable to many people but she did it and did something out of the box with it, and that’s
During its brief run, “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” has already become shorthand for Broadway folly.
Onstage accidents and injuries, budget overruns, delays in production, a near-bankruptcy, constant rewrites, not to mention the seemingly never-ending run of preview performances – around 100 as of Wednesday – it’s all been covered in all forms of media for months. Critics even broke the longstanding theatre tradition of not reviewing a show in previews. They were not kind.
The Times said it could be one of the worst musicals in history. Others, such as the NY Post’s influential theater reporter Michael Riedel, have teed off on the show and it’s behind-the-scenes drama like a Piñata.
All the bad press has forced the cast to, according to Carpio, ‘circle the wagons.’ She said most of the performers no longer read any reviews or news stories about the show.
“I know Reeve [Carney, who plays Peter Parker] doesn’t read any of the reviews,” she said. “It really honestly doesn’t affect me. I don’t have cable TV or my own Internet service, so [it’s easy for me]…” she laughs.
Carpio doesn’t seem too affected by the negative buzz, but does wonder why the criticism has become so…personal.
“I can’t really understand it other than something superficial. [As if critics were enjoying piling on]…as an actor, you always try to see what’s behind someone’s actions, why they do what they do,” she said.”
“What are we trying to do here? We’re just making art. We’re not killing anybody. The cast and crew love working together…we’re so grateful to have a job…”
Carpio, born in Oklahoma City but raised in Hong Kong, says she was more of an anime girl than a comics geek growing up. Once she was cast in “Spider-Man: TOTD,” she did enough research to know Arachne was former Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter’s alias in the Marvel Universe. Drawing on what she knows of the Spider-Man mythos, she makes an interesting parallel between the musical and its namesake.
“It’s sort of like Spider-Man.,” she said in regards to the negativity surrounding the production. “Jameson is always trying to take down Spider-Man. It’s like, ‘what does he have against Spider-Man?’ You really can’t answer it, other than just trying to take him down. It’s really art imitating life.”
Carpio has been with “Spider-Man: TOTD” since the beginning.
She said she introduced Taymor to her future Web Slinger, Reeve Carney.
“She was looking for two years [for the right person]. She asked me at lunch one day with my dad and Evan Rachel Wood, ‘TV, you know anybody?’ and I had just taken Evan and Jim [Sturgess, from “Across the Universe”] to see Reeve and his band Carney. Evan and I had talked about how Reeve would be amazing [for the role]. I dragged her to the Mercury Lounge to see them and she loved him. She didn’t give him a free pass, she put him through the ringer like everyone else, but…it’s amazing to work with her. With Julie, because she works with a lot of the same people, same crew…it’s like family.”
Carpio was first signed to play Miss Arrow, one of four comics nerds who, as part of the musical’s framing device, spin the story that makes up the crux of the show. Carpio said she came up with an entire backstory to that character to help her understand her better.
“Why would she want to hang out with these 3 other geeks? Miss Arrow comes up with the character of Arachne in the show [the story within the story] So I came up with the idea that she [Miss Arrow] was in love with Spider-Man and was projecting her feelings into the character of Arachne.”
Once Natalie Mendoza suffered a concussion and decided to leave the show, Carpio stepped in to the role as Peter Parker’s nemesis, Arachne. She spends the entire show in a cocoon-like costume, elevated by wires. It’s a challenging role to say the least, technical and physically.
During a recent performance, Carpio’s mic came off as she was in the middle of a climactic fight scene with Carney’s Spider-Man. As she struggled to put the mic back in place, Carpio managed to continue fighting with Carney, AND still sing her number.
We asked her about the numerous injuries to other members of the cast, most notably Christopher Tierney, who suffered numerous fractures when he fell 30 feet during a performance in December. Carpio points out she suffered a concussion while doing “RENT” a few years ago – and that show had no wirework. To her, the injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of trying to push the envelope with aerial acrobatics that have never been attempted before on Broadway.
“We talk about it all the time. To do the show that we have, people ask me if we’re scared…there’s no room for fear or room to think about what might happen,” Carpio said. “You only have room in your brain enough to focus and concentrate on what you’re going to do for the next 2 or 3 hours of your life. It takes that kind of laser focus and awareness to do what you have to do.”