ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Tangled Web: Julie Taymor and the Spiderman Musical

Julie_Taymor As Broadway watchers likely already know, the Bono/The Edge-inspired Broadsay musical, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark has already cost $65 million dollars to produce, which is more than twice the amount of any Broadway production.  The show also costs $1 million a week to run, but that's okay, since it brings in $1.3 million a week -- and that's in.

Still, critics who have attended previews of the show have been less than enthusiastic.  Here, for example, is what Ben Brantley had to say in the New York Times.  It seems like the show is not coming together under its current artistic team, and the producers recently announced that the show's opening, most recently scheduled for March 15th, will be delayed again.  My spidey-sense and the New York Times suggest that the new opening date will be June 14th.  

News broke earlier this month that Tony Award winning director, and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, Julie Taymor, is stepping down from her position as director of the musical: .  According to this report on, the move is now official and the two sides are determining how to work out the contractual issues.  

It seems that both parties are trying to avoid anything approaching litigation.  Time reports that, although it seems like Taymor was ousted, the producers of the show issued a press release indicating that she has simply agreed to step aside from her day-to-day duties" so that the show can be overhauled [again] under the direction of the new team led by Philip William McKinley.  From the Press Release:

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. We cannot exaggerate how technically difficult it is to make such changes to a show of this complexity, so it's with great pride that we announce that Phil McKinley is joining the creative team. Phil is hugely experienced with productions of this scale and is exactly what SPIDER-MAN Turn off the Dark needs right now.

The New York Times notes that Taymor will retain her title of "director" of the show and will also be credited as a script writer, but that sources close to Taymor claim that she was forced out because she would not agree to make substantial changes to the show.  These include scaling back the "Arachne" character and dropped a big production number called "Deeply Furious" that involved numerous shoed lady-spiders.  Pity.  The Times characterized Ms. Taymor's contract as giving her "broad creative control over the musical."  

[Jared Vasiliauskus and JT]

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