Julie Taymor Out as Director of ‘Spider-man’

BY Mike Melia  March 10, 2011 at 1:20 PM EST

'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark'; photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

The curtain has fallen for Julie Taymor, director of the problem-plagued Broadway musical, ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’. The show’s producers announced Wednesday night that Taymor will be stepping down and that Philip William McKinley will replace her.

Taymor, who gained acclaim and a reputation as one of theater’s most creative minds for the highly successful “The Lion King,” had been much more than a director of “Spider-Man.” She worked on the production for nine years, assuming the role of one of its creators, writing the script with playwright Glen Berger and even designing many of the costumes.

“Julie was really the god of this production,” said Patrick Healy, theater reporter for the New York Times. “It was her creation. It has her DNA deep in it.”

Listen to a conversation with Patrick Healy here:

“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” is the most expensive Broadway show ever, with a price tag of $65 million, and has been the most talked about show of the year. It set a record for the number of preview performances, more than 100 to date, compared to the normal 30, and its official opening has been delayed six times, the latest pushing it from March 15 until the summer.

Despite the volume of attention, most of it has been negative, with critics panning the show and scores of reports chronicling the show’s many technical problems, which have led to some serious accidents and actors leaving the show.

The show’s producers and fellow creators, Bono and the Edge from U2, had become increasingly frustrated with these setbacks and Taymor’s unwillingness to make changes, according Taymor’s friends and colleagues who spoke to Healy.

“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will now be reworked under McKinley’s direction. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has been hired to rewrite the script. Aguirre-Sacasa is a playwright, but has also written a number of Spider-Man comic books for Marvel in recent years. Bono and the Edge are expected to write two new songs for the show as well.

Taymor had made clear she wanted “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” to be a story about myth and the struggles of living with super powers. She went so far as to create new characters to add to that narrative. But the producers and Bono and the Edge will reshape the production to focus more on Peter Parker and the love story between him and Mary Jane Watson.

“Most of all the show wasn’t fun enough in the eyes of some audience members. It wasn’t as involving or wasn’t as rollicking or as moving,” said Healy. “It got, for a lot of people, very confusing in terms of what the story was.”

The show is expected to shut down for two to three weeks this spring to give the cast a break and allow the new team to rework the production. With production costs of nearly $1 million per week and the looming $65 million to repay, the show can’t shut down for long.

“It would almost be financially negligent to the investors if the producers just shut it down entirely,” said Healy. “They are also faced with the question of will we be able to build a new great kind of show in such little time.”