She came, she saw, she spent $65 million on a Spider-Man musical and left before it opened. That's a decent epitaph for director Julie Taymor's eight-year stewardship of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, which ended yesterday. While producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris insist Taymor is "not leaving the creative team," she's been replaced as director by Phillip William McKinley and will have no day-to-day involvement with a planned three-month "major overhaul" of the show.
The New York Times says Taymor felt she was "pushed aside" because of the show's bad reviews and her refusal "make changes that the producers and her fellow creators, Bono and the Edge, had sought." So, like everything deemed nonfunctional on Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, writes The A.V. Club's Sean O'Neal, Taymor was summarily "pitched over the side of the volcano...and left to smolder among the shale and burnt char."
New York magazine has likened Taymor to "a downtown artist with big theories and a powerful, if not always lucid, sense of conceptual purity" and she's prone to windy public statements about the need to "be true to what you believe as an artist all the way through." Even her cast didn't really like her very much. But according to the Times, she was also "far and away [the show's] chief creative force." The Times' report Tuesday that Bono "had taken a direct role in the talks [about how to fix the show and whether to replace Taymor" was surprising given that he was "away for much of the show’s preview period." In fact, he only began attending preview performances in January. The Times today notes Taymor's reputation as a "proud perfectionist" and "star auteur," which was well-established when Bono and The Edge hired her in 2002. For nine years, Taymor was free to embed her "creative DNA" in the show--in addition to directing, she co-wrote the book, and designed Spider-Man's mask.
Taymor, writes Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News, "must be humiliated" that McKinley is replacing her. Other than The Boy From Oz, which received "uniformly weak reviews [and] would have been a flop without star Hugh Jackman," McKinley's "other big credit is staging Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus," an experience Dziemianowicz believes is less like Broadway directing and "more like calling the shots on a military exercise. It’s about the order and the lineup: Elephants over here! Tigers there! Jugglers and clowns, look lively!"
The Times says Bono and The Edge are "expected to play a greater role" in the production and have already written two new songs, including a "new Act II opener that reflects Peter Parker’s struggle between being a young man and being Spider-man." It better work. With Taymor gone, it's just the two of them now, alone in the dark.