The Protagonist: Spider-Man The Book—Insight Into a Closed World or Capitalizing on Failure?

Written by Alissa Fleck on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive, Uncategorized.


Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons

The announced this week , the playwright of reported media circus “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” signed on with Simon & Schuster to pen a book about the “most controversial musical in history.” It was also the most expensive, according to the Times.

Berger was charged with helping rewrite the play’s script after director was fired and a new writer and director came onboard to make Spider-Man “more family- and tourist-friendly,” reports the Times. While the show received poor reviews, it’s apparently been steadily gaining popularity since, though the jury’s still out on whether this can be attributed to the train-wreck effect.

After all, who can forget spectators’ harrowing accounts of actors literally plunging into the crowd on opening night?

coming to Broadway! When someone gets hurt in the SPIDER-MAN show, just wheel across the street and be the lead in this show,” tweeted screenwriter Brian Lynch.

The Daily News reported the show left a “trail of blood and broken bones” in its wake.

, head of concerts and touring at Academy of St. Martin In The Fields, saw the revised version of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” twice.

“The show is clearly flawed but still manages to have some engaging moments,” said van Aalst. “No matter what I feel about the music and the dialogue there is something to be said for the moment when a man dressed as Spider-Man takes a dive off the edge of the dress circle.”

“It’s thrilling,” he said.

Van Aalst has a unique relationship to the show — he wrote his thesis about the role of spectacle in mega musicals, particularly Spider-Man, which has its own chapter.

“For me the fascinating thing about Spider-Man was the access it gave the general public to the process of making a ‘blockbuster’ musical,” van Aalst said. “In particular the constant press attention and the court cases really opened up what is otherwise a closed world.”

Van Aalst said the book could be a useful tool in further opening up that world to the public. “I have no doubt that Glen Berger will have his own views on what went wrong (and right) in the genesis of the production and I certainly think that there will be an interest in the book,” he said.

“People love scandal and there is no question that Spider-Man provided it and itself capitalized on it so I don’t feel the new book should be criticized for continuing this trend,” said van Aalst.

“Having said that I still think that there still could be merit in the new book,” he added.

Tweeters of New York and beyond also had a lot to say about this development.

“I wonder who they’ll bring in to rewrite it,” tweeted one New York literary agent, who asked to remain anonymous.

He told The Protagonist while he’s seen neither incarnation of the show, he has some opinions about the book deal.

The agent said he was unwilling to shell out the big bucks for such a poorly reputed show. “But I did follow the news pretty regularly when it was still making headlines,” he said. “I have a background in theater, a love of Spider-Man comics, and a career in publishing — so the impulse to snark about the recent book deal was just too great to resist.”

Still others found reason to be genuinely excited. Jonathan Karp, publisher and executive vice-president of Simon & Schuster, thinks Berger’s book will be “insightful” and “just a good story,” as he told the Times.

Jason Zinoman, a theater writer for the Times, said book-writers everywhere should “rejoice” — presumably because Berger has taught us large-scale, public disaster is just another way of saying “future book deal.”

—Alissa Fleck

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