American Psycho Coming to the Broadway Stage? Maybe, with Some Help From Spider Man

Sometimes you just have to take a moment to take in a story and let the disbelief wash away before contemplating a new Broadway project. It certainly seems like producers are searching for anything to adapt with a musical score. It certainly seemed that way with Spider Man Turn Off the Dark, but this latest project may seem a more unlikely quest.

American Psycho, the Bret Eaton-Ellis novel, is being adapted for the musical stage and will have a private reading at a Manhattan workshop. Composer Duncan Sheik and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have been working on the adaptation. Names like Benjamin Walker from Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and Reeve Carney from Spider-Man are participating in the workshop.

At first I took a look at this Playbill article and scoffed, but the combination of blood and satire have worked before. Ever heard of Sweeney Todd? These projects can take years to come to fruition on Broadway, so you best get your Spider Man tickets now to see the work of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Reeve Carney in person in 2011.

Reeve Carney to Sell Spider-Man Tickets Until May 2012

Not too long ago I remember reading reviews of Julie Taymor’s version of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. One particular reviewer took a turn at being an oracle and stated that the musical would do well during the busy tourist season in the summer, but audiences would shrink and leave the Foxwoods Theatre half empty come fall and winter. Well, the show was rewritten, the preview period extended to record length, and now it appears the reviewer may have to eat his words. Reeve Carney, who portrays Peter Parker and Spider-Man, has had his contract extended to May 12, 2012.

True, according to TicketNews, a secondary ticket industry resource, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has seen its ranking drop to sixth among Broadway shows. However, there are a couple of Broadway mainstays even farther down the list. So, if Lion King and Phantom of the Opera can manage to maintain their long residencies, then I have to think Spider-Man is safe at number six, especially if the show is banking nearly $1.2 million a week.

Reeve Carney will be taking some time off though. He will be off for a few weeks this winter as he portrays Jeff Buckley in what appears to be the only legitimate biopic of the legendary rockers life. Carney, who is also the lead singer of a Los Angeles-based blues rock group, will lend his vocal talents to tracks for the film. Personally, I cannot wait to hear his rendition of “Hallelujah”, the cover that introduced so many of us to the musician. Principle shooting for the film is set to begin November of this year, but until then fans can purchase Spider Man tickets to see Reeves portrayal of Peter Parker and Spider Man on Broadway.

First Spider Man Tickets for a Musical, then a Music Video, What?s Next?

Broadway has been recording and releasing cast recordings since 1931 when Fred and Adele Astaire recording a limited release of songs from the Band Wagon. This was the first step to tearing down the wall between the confines of the theatre and home entertainment and mass media. Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark new music video “Rise Above 1” may have torn down whatever remained standing of that wall.

The music video is an obvious ploy to sell more Spider Man tickets, but this injection of a device so modern and mainstream into the marketing plan, one which has already included the radio release of “Rise Above 1” as a radio single, is truly a momentous move. Of course, the very fact that Broadway openly embraced the stage adaptation of a comic book is a telling maneuver. Basically, Broadway wants to be more “mainstream” and attract a broader audience.

The release of a music video and a radio single is about as mainstream as a production can be in this day and age. Then again, the theatre, perhaps once considered an exalted entertainment medium, has quickly become the part of the synergized entertainment industry. Sure, musicals like Rent and Mamma Mia have been made into movies, but quite a bit of time typically elapsed between the debut production and the Hollywood screening. Looking forward to 2012, several 2011 Broadway musicals are already slated for the silver screen.

Next year, audiences will have the choice of purchasing War Horse tickets and Book of Mormon tickets to see the critically acclaimed productions on the stage in Broadway (or on tour) or in the comfort of the movie theater.

Developments like these have made the 21st century an interesting time for live theatre. Though it is still most often an intimate affair between the actors and actresses on stage and those who purchased seats for a seat at a theatre, most likely with more tradition than the local Cineplex, the theatre has become much more accessible to an audience that spell the experience “theater”.

The nostalgic may wax poetic about the death of classic theater. This is a completely fabricated argument of course. Just as many big budget musicals are based on big budget movies as the other way around, in fact Broadway may be drawing more “inspiration” for the movies’ box office than their own at this point time (Lion King, Catch Me If You Can anyone?). The point being that Spider Man has released a music video, War Horse and Book of Mormon are already Hollywood bound, and Broadway theater is what always has been, all about the money and the exposure.

The 2011 Tony Awards: An Unofficial Marketing Event for Book of Mormon Tickets

The 65th annual Tony Awards ran like a typical CBS comedy, few surprises but well produced with enough laughs to keep it interesting. The award show began with a hilarious opening number from Neil Patrick Harris and a few choice guests from the Beacon Theatre main floor declared (in song) that Broadway is no longer just for the gay anymore. Then the show officially commenced and the presenters began heaping Tony upon Tony in the Book of Mormon’s award basket (I am not sure this actually exists, but how else would you store nine awards during a live broadcast).

Standing at the podium to present the Tony Award for best musical, the last and most anticipated award of the Tony’s, Chris Rock aptly summed up the evening, “This is such a waste of time, it’s like taking a hooker to the dinner.”

The Book of Mormon, of course, had won the Tony Award, just as many had expected. The musical began the night as the favorite and rightfully so. The musical sprang forth from the minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone from South Park and Orgazmo fame and Robert Lopez, the mastermind behind Avenue Q. Together they lovingly targeted religion and exposed its flaws, but embraced its powerful message. The lewd and crude brain trust did this so well that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a calibrated response, carefully chiding the musical but seemingly forcibly recognizing its comedic and entertaining value, while celebrating the actual Book of Mormon.

At the end of the evening the Book of Mormon won for the following:

  • Best Musical
  • Best Book of a Musical
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Nikki M. James)
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Scott Pask)
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical (Ann Roth)
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Brian MacDevitt)
  • Best Sound Design of a Musical (Brian Ronan)
  • Best Direction of a Musical (Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker)
  • Best Orchestrations: (Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus)

While the Book of Mormon celebrated, the producers and creative team of Spider Man cringed for two hours as they became the running gag of the night. Yes, Spider Man unveiled its latest number for the new and improved stage version, which opens June 12, 2011, but mostly Bono, the Edge, and the investors had to sit idly by as Neil Patrick Harris pulled a Tosh.O and put 30 seconds on the board to reel off as many Spidey musical jokes as possible. Bono and the Edge displayed a great sense of humor, noting that “In rock ‘n’ roll deadlines are just lies your manager tells you to get you back in the bus.”

In the end Spider Man Turn Off the Dark may get the last laugh. Despite over 150 preview performances and a book rewrite the musical is still earning over one million dollars a week. The latest Broadway grosses for the week of May 30 through June 5, 2011 show lauded Book of Mormon earning $1,173,580 at 102.4 percent capacity and Spider Man earning $1,150,208 at 95.8 percent capacity. It easily conceivable for Spider Man Turn Off the Dark tickets to sell at a near Cats level for years to come, while the Book Of Mormon tickets may be theater tickets for a musical production with a much shorter shelf life.

Spider Man Turn Off the Dark, Tickets to a Bloated Musical or Tickets to a Musical Hated by Bloated

So here is a simple question: If a Broadway musical is earning well over a million dollars in previews is it possible to truly refer to the musical as an epic failure? This is the angle lost amidst the news that Spider Man Turn Off the Dark has suffered both injuries to the actors and actresses and the now departed director’s pride.

So while Julie Taymor has stepped down (RE: fired, but with dignity) and accused of pursing this project completely inept of the classic Spider Man source material, seemingly millions of people are in line or online trying to purchase Spider Man Turn Off the Dark tickets. And the show is still in previews! Meanwhile, the much anticipated Spider Man musical is set to take three weeks off to give Philip William McKinley a chance to work his way through the apparently troubled script.

Basically, this all stinks of a media circus whose participants are gorging on every negative detail being emitted like spider radiation from the production. While New York Post theater critic Michael Riedel has anticipated the musical will succeed with the summer tourist crowds before dying in fall, it is perhaps former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich who best represents my point. He saw no way Spider Man Turn Off the Dark to right its course this deep into the preview season. The only caveat to this comment is that he has yet to see the production! (Of course to be fair, neither have I.)

Perhaps the Wall Street Journal is the least partial and most accurate in questioning why Spider Man Turn Off the Dark has already been reviewed in previews when most musicals are given the opportunity to reach opening night before reading the dreaded reviews the next morning. So, while the most expensive vehicle in Broadway history (until the Phantom sequel at least) has had a run of bad press, it seems no press is bad as Spider Man continues to outsell all but two other big Broadway musicals, Wicked and the Lion King.