Saturday, January 15, 2011

Et Tu, Spider-Man?

Et Tu, Spider-Man?

In the annals of Broadway history, who could have ever thought one show would be capable of such betrayal as Spider-Man - Turn Off The Dark?

Now, for the fifth time during previews, Julie Taymor's beleaguered, best-selling show on Broadway has announced that its opening night has been delayed, without any trace of irony, to the Ides of March -- yes, March 15 -- from February 7.

Even though I'm one of those dreaded theatre bloggers whom former Bloomberg critic (and now fellow theatre blogger) John Simon called "vermin," I have tried to play the Broadway game. That is, I have dutifully respected embargoes by not reviewing any show until the time it actually opens. After all, that's a Broadway tradition among critics, and I believe if you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, you just may want to observe the rules.

I've also gone so far as to defend this production from one particular writer, who at one time all but suggested that Spider-Man would never make it to Broadway.

Since I always buy my own tickets to see productions, I try my level best to time my attendance for each Broadway show to ensure I'm seeing one of the final previews if the work hasn't already opened.

Such was the case when I first purchased tickets back in 2009, nearly a year in advance of the originally scheduled opening date for early 2010 (those tickets were subsequently refunded after it became clear that the production was temporarily grinding to a halt).

Such was also the case when I bought tickets for a December 18 performance after the newly rescheduled opening night of December 21 was set. Subsequently, opening night shifted to late January. Since I could not get a refund, I decided to go see the preview anyway. Yet, I dutifully remained publicly mum on what I saw on stage, even after Christopher Tierney's nearly fatal fall occurred just two days later.

I further respected the embargo, even after the opening night shifted yet again to February 7, which was when theatre critics Linda Winer (Newsday) and Jeremy Gerard (Bloomberg) provided mini-reviews of preview performances they saw much to the chagrin of the production. Naturally, a spokesman for the production cried foul.

Fast forward to Thursday. With no new reports of mounting casualties or incidents, I began to think that Spider-Man just might open on February 7 after all. I decided to take the plunge and purchase tickets for my third time, booking the show for the very end of January when critics would start seeing the final, untinkered (or "frozen") version. 

Later that same evening, reports surfaced that Spider-Man would postpone opening night once again, this time to March 15.  Friday morning, I tweeted, "Spider-Man delays opening for fifth time to March 15 to deploy new ending. I should have waited a day to buy new tix."

It wasn't long before I heard from The New York Times' incisive theatre writer, Patrick Healy, who quotes me in his story today on how the producers are defending their decision. I told him, "As a blogger who pays for his own ticket, Spider-Man is getting to be very expensive. This is the second time I thought I had tickets to see a frozen production, only to learn that I'm only going to see another preview. They need to reconsider what they're charging for preview tickets. It's very disappointing to think I'll have to pay even more to come again and see the finished product."

Thanks, Spider-Man, for making me feel like such a chump. You've not only betrayed someone like me who, at least until now, has respected both your creative process and time-honored traditions by remaining silent on what is to be found on your stage (as well as flying over your audience), but through what is looking more and more each day like a web of deceit, you've also likely duped thousands of audience members who think they're seeing a finished product and paying full price to do so. That's just wrong.

Beware, the Ides of March!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 15 January, 2011, Anonymous Alicia Dempster said...

Billy just raised a very valid point that I agree with. He thinks that this is more about money than the creative process (as it has been all along). With their Schadenfraude-driven audiences driving the preview box office to 100% capacity, it looks like they are prolonging the preview period. We think the producers fear the inevitable: bad reviews and how they will impact ticket sales.

At 16 January, 2011, Blogger Aaron Riccio said...

Haven't really ever tried to exchange tickets at the box office, but if you buy tickets for a non-preview performance that then becomes a preview performance, are you allowed to get a refund? I would certainly call foul on that: otherwise, I think theaters have every right to charge whatever they want for previews -- it's up to us in the audience to refuse to pay it.

At 16 January, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There had been enough "buzz" for a long, long time which lead to strong advance interest prior to the beginning of previews for the producers to try to go with no discounts. It's rare, but other shows have, or certainly would do the same if they could. As far as delays for re-works, this show needs so much, if there wasn't $65MM on the line it would probably have closed during previews; wounds would have been licked, and this dog would have disappeared into the night.


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