It’s no contest: Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, from the moment of inception, has proved to be the messiest experience ever to grace Broadway. Which probably has some correlation with its being Broadway’s highest grossing show ever–a record established over this past New Year’s weekend. But, as in a lurid comic book plot, Taymor remains the dark presence in lurking in the shadows–Maleficent like–banished from any association with her own creation. She responded by suing the show for royalties, claiming that, while she was relegated to the background, her script has still been in use in the show which now been running for three-quarters of a year. This week the legal battle over who truly owns the play goes into full swing, as Spiderman’s producer’s take Taymor to court for breach of contract.
For an artist who’s achieved some measure of success, it’s not uncommon to witness one’s work seriously revised, rewritten, reconceived or taken completely out of context. Such is the price of recognition. But the thing that makes the Taymor vs. Conglomerate battle so bloody is that it’s the ultimate cautionary tale. A director who’s work on Broadway has been hailed as visionary pretty much since the ’90s is offered a tired Marvel-infused concept with more debt to the blockbuster genre than anything to be found on the modern stage and told to work it into something great. In the process, her creativity allows her to wander away from the original story, and there the trouble begins. Even Bono, her collaborator, in this most recent battle, sides with the producers, saying that Taymor was rigidly stubborn when it came to other people’s ideas (we wonder whose.)
As much as we’re on the side of the underdog in this fight, we wonder if it wouldn’t be somehow more purposeful, more healing, and less obnoxious if Taymor focused on a new work altogether instead of digging up the ashes of a dead project.