For a good old-fashioned story of an out-of-control production and budget, check out Michael Riedel’s New York Post story on the saga of Spider-Man: the Musical, the Broadway show by director Julie Taymor and songwriter Bono; it was repeatedly delayed, ran out of money as its budget ballooned to something like $50 million, lost several cast members due to delays — including Alan Cumming, who quit his role as the Green Goblin to take a regular role on The Good Wife — and, when it opens this fall, will have to be the most massive hit in history just to break even. While not commenting on the budget, Taymor confirmed to the New York Times that the show will lose money unless it’s a success on the level of her stage version of The Lion King.
The Riedel article at least puts the blame for this kind of thing where it usually belongs, on the producer: he notes that the biggest blow to the production was that the original producer died of a stroke, to be replaced by someone with no producing experience. It’s the job of the director to create stage magic, and it’s the job of the producer to make sure that the director doesn’t exceed the budget. Unfortunately, there are a lot of producers in New York and Hollywood who are unable or unwilling to assert that kind of authority.
Various demos of the song “A Boy Falls From the Sky” have been floating around for a while, and they all make the song sound pretty terrible. So this may simply be another one of those shows where a more modestly-budgeted production wouldn’t make money either, in the sense that the show needs to be as big as it can to keep people from asking a) Why can’t we hum these tunes and b) Why did they make this into a stage show in the first place?
The article also draws comparisons to the infamous Lord of the Rings stage show in Toronto, though I can’t imagine that Spider-Man could be as bad as that was. Though there are some disturbing potential points of comparison: most obviously, Lord of the Rings was not a musical (there was singing, but only as incidental music; no character songs), and Taymor is also emphasizing that Spider-Man isn’t really a musical and that the lead character “is not going to sing and dance in tights.” If the lead character isn’t going to sing, why write songs anyway? And why wouldn’t Spider-Man, a rather extroverted and fun-loving character, burst into song? He’s not exactly Peer Gynt.