Producers of Broadway's "Spider-Man'' musical postponed the show's official opening for a stunning sixth time, announcing Wednesday that it will not officially open until this summer, and bringing in a new creative team that will include visionary Julie Taymor.
The delay revealed a production so trouble-plagued that it has taken itself out of the running for Tony Award consideration.
"The team will be implementing a new plan to make significant and exciting revisions to the production,'' lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris said in a statement. "This amended schedule will allow the time necessary to execute the plan, which will include revisions to the script.''
Philip William McKinley and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have joined the production to assist with new staging and rewrites. Musical consultants Paul Bogaev and sound designer Peter Hylenski are also on the new team.
"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,'' the producers said. "Julie's previous commitments mean that past March 15, she cannot work the 24/7 necessary to make the changes in the production in order to be ready for our opening.''
The highly unusual move came as "Spider-Man'' continues to defy the reviews and post impressive numbers at the box office. It was the second highest-grossing show on Broadway this week, after "Wicked,'' pulling in close to $1.3 million though it was slightly down from the week before.
Indeed, the scene at the Foxwoods Theatre Wednesday was in marked contrast to the turmoil in the headlines. The line to get into the matinee snaked well down a huge city block, and was filled with tourists, an entire class of schoolchildren and others clearly excited to see the much talked-about flying scenes including an aerial battle between Spider-Man and his nemesis, the Green Goblin.
"We came all the way from Utah to see this got in on the redeye this morning,'' said Scott Clayson , a father of four from Brigham City. His wife and two daughters, ages 18 and 20, were with him. "A big part of the appeal is all the tricks they do,''Clayson said. "We're really looking forward to it.''
After the show, daughter McKell, 20, was ebullient. "I loved it!'' she reported. "It was so different from anything I have ever seen. Really impressive.''
Given the brisk sales, among the many questions swirling around the production Wednesday was this: If a show is bringing in so much money, why would producers want to shut it down, even for a few weeks, and lose millions?
Such a decision, theater insiders said, was extraordinarily complex. Producers would have to compare the weekly grosses with the running costs which are surely enormous. And they'd need to
consider how long the show can continue to earn what it's making now not every show is selling out, and the numbers were slightly down this week.
They'd also need to consider whether the show, without changes, has the necessary longevity to eventually break even and then start making money.
Another reason to shut down briefly: Union rules mean there is very little rehearsal time available during a performance week, only four hours on single-performance days and that includes setup time. With so little time, how can a show be significantly revamped?
Taymor would not immediately respond to calls for comment Wednesday and has kept a relatively low profile as she tinkered with the show, though she referred to her troubles during a recent talk at TED, an annual tech conference held this year in Long Beach, Calif.
"I'm in 'The Crucible' right now,'' she said, referring to the Arthur Miller play about the Salem witch trials. "It's trial by fire.''
On Wednesday, a friend and longtime associate said the lack of time to hone the show had been one of Taymor's great frustrations.
"She's been distraught that there's so little time to rehearse,'' said Jeffrey Horowitz, artistic director of the Theatre for a New Audience.
Also distressing to Taymor, the director and creative mind behind the enormously successful "Lion King'' still No. 3 at the box office has been the tenor of much of the news coverage and online chatter. "It's hard I try not to look,'' she told The AP in a brief conversation in November.
"She's distraught at how she's been labeled,'' said Horowitz, who attended "Spider-Man'' three weeks ago at Taymor's invitation, and loved it. "They've said she's an artist only concerned with spectacle. I can tell you that all her visual ideas come from a deeply human idea of the story she is working on. And they say she's a 'perfectionist' well, what's wrong with being a perfectionist?''
"You don't hire people like Julie Taymor unless you want people who push boundaries,'' he added. "This show is a piece of art, and it has been described as a spectacle gone out of control. That is
dangerous -- for her, and for other artists who take risks.''