The heavily rebooted version of Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark was unveiled Thursday after a three-and-a-half week hiatus.
The new show, rewritten by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, ventures closer to the original story line taken from the Spider-Man comic book. Aguirre-Sacasa is one of the writers of the Spider-Man series for Marvel.
"Scenes have gotten reshuffled, lines have gotten rewritten," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "Every scene has been touched in some way or altered in some way. A big thing was sorting out the story."
Producer Michael Cohl described the production as "brand new" as he greeted the audience in a crowded, but not sold-out show on Thursday.
'I'm a $65-million circus tragedy…Well more like a $75-million'—The Green Goblin
"When critics see your show you want them to love it," Cohl told CBC News. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had not been given its official opening despite being in preview since December and critics had reviled both the long period in preview and the show itself.
"When they don't like your show you get mad and trash the paper and you think about what they said. It's hard to make these kinds of changes. It's hard to part with people you've been working on. It's all difficult stuff. It's up, it's down. It's like being on a trampoline some of the time but it's what we do."
Jennifer Damiano, the actress who plays Mary Jane Watson, said the cast strongly supported the original production, which had a different story for "artistic reasons." "I know [for] people that had never seen [the show] before, [the original story] was their story of Spider-Man and some people were just missing certain aspects that they had really hoped were there. We had taken a different spin of things and it just wasn't sitting well with some people," Damiano said in an interview earlier this week in New York.
New songs by Bono and the Edge
The restructured show features a brand new song —A Freak Like Me — written by Bono and the Edge, two of the show's composers.
"The new songs are great," Cohl said. "The other songs that are still in the show have been improved. The sound is fantastic."
The audience learns more about main character Peter Parker, played by Reeve Carney, who turns into Spider-Man toward the end of Act I. Parker's romantic relationship with Mary Jane and the roles of parental figures Uncle Ben and Aunt May were also expanded.
"The storyline I think is the first thing that we started working on," Aguirre-Sacasa told CBC News. "There's more of the kind of true Spider-Man characters that fans have known and loved for 60-years."
The character Arachne, the primary villain in the original production by Julie Taymor, also had a radical transformation. In the new show, three of her songs were cut and Arachne now appears only a handful of times, this time as Parker's guardian angel.
Green Goblin has bigger role
To fill the role of the villain, the new production team expanded the storyline involving the Green Goblin, played by Patrick Page.
"We also expanded the role of Norman Osborne, who becomes the Green Goblin, he has a bigger arc. He goes throughout the show and he and Peter have a deeper connection, a deeper relationship," Aguirre-Sacasa said.
A climactic aerial battle between Spider-Man and the Goblin, which had originally occurred in the first act, was moved to the Act II finale.
The aerial stunts, performed by a team of Spider-Man stunt doubles, proved troublesome for the original production, which ran 145 previews. In one accident Dec. 20, Christopher Tierney's safety harness failed and the stunt-double fractured his skull and shoulder blade as well as four ribs and three vertebrae.
Tierney was back on stage Thursday with no sign of injury.
"I'm stronger coming back than I was before," he said. "Only a little soreness here and there."
Tierney said Spider-Man is now the safest show on Broadway, after the team enacted safety measures ordered by the government, labour officials and the Actors' Equity Association.
Thursday night's preview did have a flub, which added some comic relief. Page had to ad-lib when Spider-Man's mask was misplaced, forcing Carney to delay his entrance. "That Spider-Man is always tardy," Goblin said.
A few quips have been thrown in to lighten the action-packed story, including this self-referential gem uttered by Goblin.
"I'm a $65-million circus tragedy …Well more like a $75-million," he said, referring to the show's swollen price tag, the largest in Broadway history.
Taymor's original production did prove to be one of the largest financial hits of the 2010-11 Broadway season, earning almost $1.9 million US between Christmas and New Year's Day. However, the show's producers suggested only major improvements would sustain large audiences.
Aguirre-Sacasa said the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark team wanted to "support the vision that had been there [originally] and give it sort of a sturdier framework in terms of story, in terms of relationship between the characters [and] bring some more warmth and humour to the proceedings." Most of the artwork, including the stunning visuals and stagecraft of Taymor's original work, remains.
Taymor left the production when producers announced a revamp in March, but is still credited as the show's original director and one of three scriptwriters.
"None of this would be possible without her," Damiano said.