'Spider-Man' producer Michael Cohl on last night's messy preview: 'It went much better than I expected.'

Spiderman-Turn-out-the-LightThe much-anticipated, much-delayed stage spectacle Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark held its first public performance last night at NYC’s Foxwoods Theater on 42nd St., and — as you could have guessed, judging from the years-long development of the most expensive musical in Broadway history — there were a few problems. Reports indicate that the $65 million show started 24 minutes late, stopped at least four times in the first act due to technical snags with several of the aerial stunts, and ran more than three hours long. (On the plus side, it also garnered a mostly favorable piece on last night’s 60 Minutes.)

The show, directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor (The Lion King) and featuring the music of U2’s Bono and The Edge, is clearly going through a very public birthing process before its official Jan. 11 opening. “It went much better last night than expected,” says producer Michael Cohl, a former Live Nation executive who’s worked on concert tours with the Rolling Stones and U2 and produced stage shows from Spamalot to La Cage aux Folles. “As far as the show is concerned, I’m ecstatic. We came within just inches of getting through the entire second half without a stop. In your first preview, I think that’s quite extraordinary. It is a preview. It is a look inside the process of creating what will be the final live show, and that show will be shown to the world on Jan. 11. Last night was by no means an opening.”

The show doesn’t have another public performance until this coming Wednesday, Dec. 1. So how will the producers fix the show’s problems? “We’ll go over an analysis of what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening next time,” Cohl tells EW. “We’ll keep working on it and working on it. It’s probably a little more difficult than the average show people do, and in order to make it work, that’s why we’re here so early and why we’re not going to have our official opening until Jan. 11.”

Cohl couldn’t seem more calm about the whole situation — he promises Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will be in full working order by its fifth performance, which would would be this Saturday, Dec. 4. Despite all the negative press, he says he’s encouraged by the response of theatergoers who attended last night. “I thought the audience enjoyed it,” Cohl says. “They stood at the end and clapped; they laughed at the jokes; they clapped after every song. I thought it was a 10 out of a 10 in the category of first previews.”

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

More on ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ from EW.com:
‘Spider-Man’ the musical on ’60 Minutes': A first look at a big hit or a big turkey?
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark': New video features Bono, Julie Taymor, gorgeous-looking nonsense
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ musical details revealed: Are you getting drawn into its web?
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ images: And you thought Emo Spider-man was bizarre!
The ‘Spider-Man’ musical: A circus ‘rock-n-roll drama’? Really?

Comments (30 total) Add your comment
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  • Joseph

    I’m dreaming that I would be able to see this musical one day soon!

    • ld

      Dream bigger…

      • Kevin M.

        Well, I dunno, dreaming that it’ll stick around long enough TO see is pretty big…

  • Alex

    I think it will work, or at least it will be interisting and daring. There isnt alot of art thats willing to try something like this, so I hope its good.

  • Briana

    I have been waiting for years for this show. I hope everything works out.

    • actfast

      I’d get tickets soon – this isn’t likely to run very long.

  • Iliana

    CARRIE the musical will finally be taken off its perch as the biggest Broadway flop ever, I guarantee you that.

    • Nathan

      Spider-Man 3 will start to look a lot better by comparison as well!

  • Sara

    Only three hours? Hell, I saw the world premiere of the Lord of the Rings musical and it was a solid four. Longest night of my life!

  • bubber miley

    “U2 Spiderman Broadway play” sounds like three random nouns thrown together.

    • Brad in Edmonton

      Yep. It’s the definitive “Family Guy” joke.

    • Karl

      I kid you not, your comment made me laugh out LOUD.

  • Jason

    I’m a huge theater geek — I know I should have faith here, but really, I’m starting to doubt this is going to work. Technical concerns aside, I’m hearing the score is pretty mediocre and the book is muddled, and THAT, my friends, is Trouble with a capital T.

    • KRibbons

      that rhymes with P

      • Ames

        And that stands for pool!

  • Rob Grizzly

    Started 24 minutes late, stopped at least four times in the first act, and ran more than three hours long- and that’s BETTER THAN HE EXPECTED?
    So you’re telling me Cohl anticipated worse than that?? Jeez…
    Optimism is good, but I’d hardly call that 10 out of 10.

    • art

      like he said, it’s a preview.

      • Alan

        Despite what the producer said — “We came within just inches of getting through the entire second half without a stop. In your first preview, I think that’s quite extraordinary.” — it’s actually rather unusual for a first preview to have to stop even once.

        Obviously, this show is one of the most technically complicated in history and it does sound like things could have been rather worse. But by saying what he did — suggesting that it’s normal for a show to have to come to a dead halt a bunch of times at the first preview — he just made himself sound foolish.

    • emt

      At least spiderman didn’t break his arms again. So there’s that…

  • Arachnaphobic

    I was THERE last night for the preview. It was truly awful! We got to the theater at 6:00 pm for the 6:30 show and didn’t get out until after 10:00! Technical problems aside (I understand it was a preview and can’t fault them for stopping to fix issues), what made the show so bad was the “story”–it was bizarre, boring, and disjointed. Perhaps the worst element was entirely unnecessary “Geek Chorus” (a pun, not a typo)–a couple of actors playing comic book nerds who popped up at random parts of the show to narrarate/ explain certain parts of the story. Their appearance took me right out of the story every time though. Some parts were cartoony and other parts dark and serious-a very odd combination. This show can only be saved by a major rewrite (I would recommend going dark and serious over cartoony too)! The only redeeming parts of my experience last night: the four lead actors had excellent singing voices and the music by Bono and The Edge was pretty good (I went because I am a huge U2 fan, so I may be biased on that point too).

  • jt

    This looks amazing! Julie Taymor is a super genius, so I have no doubts this will succeed wildly.

  • vincey

    Sorry, folks. A “preview” is not a sneak-peak at the behind-the-scenes shenanigans involved in putting on a play. The show should be polished and audience-ready by the first preview. Dress Rehearsals are for the kinks.

  • sara

    Seriously, the producer really isn’t doing himself or the show any favors by saying it was better than he expected. If he expected it to be that bad they probably should not have had the preview. What he should be saying is they had some problems and that they will work their arses off to fix them. Pretending it isn’t that bad is simply stupid.

  • Brian Shapiro

    I remember in 1978 how excited everyone was for the premier of Spiderman’s big live action TV show. It was a total dud. It’s too bad that this Broadway flop is even associated with Spidey. What a drag.

  • Felix

    I think it’s funny that the producer says the show will be in full working order by its fifth performance I’d be pissed if I was one of the people who bought tickets for one of the first four shows.

    • Psac

      I have tickets for the sixth show, so I guess I should be happy! :)

  • Chris

    I hate to say this, but the whole thing just seems like a REALLY bad idea.

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