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NEW YORK – Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark writers Roberto Aguire-Sacasa (Glee, Marvel Comics’ Sensational Spider-Man) and Glen Berger here on Sunday discussed the challenges of revamping and streamlining the once-troubled show.
During a New York Comic Con panel that added an air of Broadway to the convention amid a slew of events focused on such films as The Avengers and TV shows as Terra Nova and The Walking Dead, Berger recalled how plans to use holograms in theater aisles had to be axed.
The writer duo also explained to the audience of fanboys and -girls how time and budget constraints kept a beloved story about the origin of Spider-Man out of the Broadway show.
And they recalled how Berger became the de-facto voice of the Green Goblin character on the writing team by channeling a story about how Bono first met CNN founder Ted Turner.
The $70 million musical, the most expensive of all time, was originally directed by Julie Taymor, but reworked after various accidents, failed stunts and bad reviews.
One question from the New York Comic Con audience, which generally lauded the rewrite of the show, was why it doesn’t contain a popular burglary story that was also part of the first Sony Spider-Man movie.
“We all love the burglar story – it’s the quintessial Spider-Man origin story,” Aguire-Sacasa said. “When we reconvened to revamp the show, we all had a wish list of stuff we wanted to put back in. We all wanted to put the burglary back in. But there was such a limited amount of time and, at that point, budget that it was basically impossible.”
Berger also emphasized that what works in a movie or comic book doesn’t necessarily work on stage.
Improving clarity and focus and making sure that audiences stay engaged throughout the show was the key goal of the revamp, he said.
Berger also said that while a clause in the original contract he got from Marvel stated that the show had to have state-of-the-art technology, he said the creative team had to do away with some technology to focus more on the story.
“We really were looking at the latest holographic technology,” Berger said. “What we had in mind was these supervillains would be popping up next to you in the aisles. We thought that was possible, and it’s not [yet].”
Aguire-Sacasa added that in a multi-million dollar show with much spectacle, finding the humanity of characters and making people care about them was particularly important. “The more technology there is on stage, the harder it is to connect with the human beings on the stage,” he said.
In one key script change, the love story arc in the revamp of the stage show was concentrated on the relationship between Peter Parker aka Spider-Man and Mary-Jane, who audiences recognized as his love interest from the movies.
“Although there was a [more complicated] love story [including a third character] originally, we felt it was best to shift the focus back to Mary-Jane and Peter,” Aguire-Sacasa explained.
That also allowed the writers to change a Mary-Jane solo number to a duet with Peter Parker that further strengthened the characters and storyline, he said.
Several fans told the writers that they really enjoyed the expanded role of the Green Goblin in the show’s revamp.
“From the beginning, he had a comic and violent streak that was reading well on stage,” Berger said about the character and why he ended up getting an expanded presence in the revamp.
“Glen kind of was the de-facto voice of the Green Goblin, because he can just channel this crazy at a moment’s notice,” quipped Aguire-Sacasa.
Berger then explained how he channeled the character. “Originally, it came from Bono describing meeting Ted Turner for the first time,” he told fans. While the two were walking around in the fields outside of Atlanta, Turner pointed out a snake in the grass and suggested it was not poisonous snake, but his assistant corrected him, Berger recalled.
“Ted had already picked it up and said hell, you are right, it is [poisonous],” he said. Inspired by that story, the Green Goblin character for him became about transplanting that bundle of energy and personality into a scientist, he explained.
A couple of fans also asked about the reduced and refocused role of the Arachne character in the current version of the Broadway show.
Berger said that original showrunner Taymor wanted to add another female voice to the musical and create an amalgam of several female Marvel characters.
The production “asked Marvel if we could make a nice powerful composite,” he recalled. “That was the idea. It wasn’t working as well as it should have and could have.”
Aguire-Sacasa said that he was confused by the Arachne character given that he was a Spider-Man fan. “I thought what is this character,” he told fans. “But when you do a musical incarnation, you do want something unique and new. It makes it specific to Spider-Man on Broadway…so that it isn’t just the first movie on stage.”
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