Elizabeth L. Wollman

Elizabeth L. Wollman is Assistant Professor of Music in the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Baruch College, CUNY. She is the author of The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical from Hair to Hedwig (University of Michigan, 2006) and the forthcoming Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City (Oxford University Press).



"Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and the Ambivalence of Spectacle"

Since beginning its run in November 2010, the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has set several dubious records: it violated all kinds of safety rules, had the longest preview period and, at $75 million, is the most expensive show ever launched in Broadway history. Director Julie Taymor ousted in March 2011, and several “fixers” were enlisted to address the show’s plot, book, score, choreography, and technical problems before a revamped version opened in June. Much of the blame for this debacle was placed on Taymor, who, when she joined the project, promised to create a “circus rock-‘n’-roll drama” unlike anything ever seen on Broadway. Taymor was depicted in the media as so obsessed with her own vision that she would stop at nothing to attain it. Yet U2’s Bono and the Edge, who scored the show but rarely attended rehearsals are hardly innocent pawns. Nor is the producing arm, peopled by men who know the rock world well and the theater world barely at all.

Spider-Man’s many problems imply a major (corporate) culture clash, and raise questions about how live musicals should function as spectacles in the media age. We take an interdisciplinary approach to investigate what went wrong with Spider Man. In exploring facets of producing, scoring, and directing in both versions of Spider-Man, we argue that this bungled attempt to revolutionize the Broadway musical is the result of clashing aesthetics borne from a desire to reinvigorate a medium that is transitioning in quest of a broader demographic.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

2:15pm EDT