Spider-Man caught in recession's tangled web: Is he now a failed product?

When most people hear that someone is planning a Broadway musical version of the Spider-Man franchise, the reaction is usually the same: "They're what?"

Well, that's what we thought about The Lion King, too, and sure enough, that stage version turned into one of the biggest smashes of our generation. Bearing that in mind, and bearing in mind that The Lion King's visual genius, Julie Taymor (also of the movies Across the Universe and Frida), had agreed to design and stage an eye-popping live version of the Webslinger, theater insiders knew that the prospect was intriguing.

Then it was announced that U2's Bono and The Edge would be doing the music for the show, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. And in June, when stars Alan Cumming and Evan Rachel Wood were announced as attached, the concept seemed exciting to non-Broadway types, too.
The show, budgeted at $40 million (the biggest ever for Broadway) promised to be a spectacular display of stage wizardry including likely to dazzle, with plenty of mind-bending, Taymor-esque imagery such as whacked-out giant puppets and Peter Parker flying all around the theater.

It was as if the comic book hero might turn out to be the hero of an ailing Broadway industry, too. Suddenly, the idea of a Spider-Man musical seemed -- dare anyone say it? -- cool.

But the New York Daily News reports that despite all those big names and promising players, the backers can't (forgive the pun) swing it. Financial issues have done what the Green Goblin has failed to do for decades: stop Spidey.

Hello Entertainment, one of the producers, admitted to "an unexpected cash flow problem" that has caused the show to "suspend" (their pun this time) production. Tickets were supposed to go on sale on Sept. 12, a date the official Web site still promotes.

Producers swear they'll be able to whip up funds in time to begin preview performances in February. I hope they're right. I've never seen a Julie Taymor stage show didn't repay the high ticket price in creativity and thrills, and that's a lot more than I can say for almost any other Broadway musical these days, well-written though many are.

If it's money they need, might I suggest they call another Marvel Comics hero, Tony Stark? If he can afford to build that cool Iron Man suit, he can certainly afford to lose a bundle on the Broadway stage.

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