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As one can imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can't imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theater history. Song of Spider-Man is playwright Glen Berger's story of a theatrical dream - or nightmare - come true. Renowned direct As one can imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can't imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theater history. Song of Spider-Man is playwright Glen Berger's story of a theatrical dream - or nightmare - come true. Renowned director Julie Taymor picked Berger to cowrite the book for a $25 million Spider-Man musical. Together - along with U2's Bono and Edge - they would shape a work that was technically daring and emotionally profound, with a story fueled by the hero's quest for love - and the villains' quest for revenge. Or at least, that's what they'd hoped for. But when charismatic producer Tony Adams died suddenly, the show began to lose its footing. Soon the budget was ballooning, financing was evaporating, and producers were jumping ship or getting demoted. And then came the injuries. And then came word-of- mouth about the show itself. What followed was a pageant of foul-ups, falling-outs, ever-more-harrowing mishaps, and a whole lot of malfunctioning spider legs. This "circus-rock-and-roll-drama," with its $65 million price tag, had become more of a spectacle than its creators ever wished for. During the show's unprecedented seven months of previews, the company's struggles to reach opening night inspired breathless tabloid coverage and garnered international notoriety. Through it all, Berger observed the chaos with his signature mix of big ambition and self-deprecating humor. Song of Spider-Man records the journey of this cast and crew as a hilarious memoir about friendship, collaboration, the foibles of hubris, and the power of art to remind us that we're alive.


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As one can imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can't imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theater history. Song of Spider-Man is playwright Glen Berger's story of a theatrical dream - or nightmare - come true. Renowned direct As one can imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can't imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theater history. Song of Spider-Man is playwright Glen Berger's story of a theatrical dream - or nightmare - come true. Renowned director Julie Taymor picked Berger to cowrite the book for a $25 million Spider-Man musical. Together - along with U2's Bono and Edge - they would shape a work that was technically daring and emotionally profound, with a story fueled by the hero's quest for love - and the villains' quest for revenge. Or at least, that's what they'd hoped for. But when charismatic producer Tony Adams died suddenly, the show began to lose its footing. Soon the budget was ballooning, financing was evaporating, and producers were jumping ship or getting demoted. And then came the injuries. And then came word-of- mouth about the show itself. What followed was a pageant of foul-ups, falling-outs, ever-more-harrowing mishaps, and a whole lot of malfunctioning spider legs. This "circus-rock-and-roll-drama," with its $65 million price tag, had become more of a spectacle than its creators ever wished for. During the show's unprecedented seven months of previews, the company's struggles to reach opening night inspired breathless tabloid coverage and garnered international notoriety. Through it all, Berger observed the chaos with his signature mix of big ambition and self-deprecating humor. Song of Spider-Man records the journey of this cast and crew as a hilarious memoir about friendship, collaboration, the foibles of hubris, and the power of art to remind us that we're alive.

30 review for Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Caleb Hoyer

    This book is a tragicomic account of the development and production of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. It captures so many fascinating elements of the creative process, from the joys and frustrations of collaboration, to the influence of corporations and the press on the development of art, to the eternal struggle between executing a unique artistic vision and satisfying an audience’s expectations. These issues are presented with a fun, dishy backstage tone at times, but with a serious literary si This book is a tragicomic account of the development and production of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. It captures so many fascinating elements of the creative process, from the joys and frustrations of collaboration, to the influence of corporations and the press on the development of art, to the eternal struggle between executing a unique artistic vision and satisfying an audience’s expectations. These issues are presented with a fun, dishy backstage tone at times, but with a serious literary significance at others. It was wild to read at this point in my life, because I tangentially know several of the people involved, and I was very aware that I was reading the subjective impression of just one person involved. But still, even if just taking the story as a work of fiction, it still presents an unbelievably compelling depiction of the creation of a piece of theater. The portrait it renders of Julie Taymor is simultaneously tragic, horrifying, and inspiring. She sometimes seems like the sole voice of integrity on the team, and then at the next moment seems like a bully unwilling to listen to anyone else. But then, when you least expect it, you realize she’s just one person, as vulnerable and as human as anyone else. The parallels that Glen Berger draws between her and the mythical figure of her obsession, Arachne, are chilling and heartbreaking. I will say, though I feel the author presents her in a multi-faceted light, I was still hyperaware that she was the ONLY woman on the creative team, and in the moments where she was portrayed as the belligerent genius who wouldn’t listen to reason, there did feel like there was a current of misogyny in the writing. I’m not sure if that’s fair. I don’t think mere criticism of a woman is problematic if her behavior or work warrants it, but it was still something I noticed, and something that I think would have been at least partially mediated if ANY of the people criticizing her had also been female. That caveat notwithstanding, I still found this book to be outrageously entertaining, thought-provoking, dramatic, funny, and sad. I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who works in any creative field.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen Rubin

    A friend told me he was obsessed with this memoir, so of course I had to read it. It's an outstanding look at art, collaboration, vision, commerce, regret...loved it. A friend told me he was obsessed with this memoir, so of course I had to read it. It's an outstanding look at art, collaboration, vision, commerce, regret...loved it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I feel dirty having read this, like I've been rifling through Julie Taymor's dirty laundry. Well, through the dirty laundry of anyone and everyone who was ever involved with Spider-man. Glen Berger has obviously not learned from the advice he repeats throughout his gossipy memoir: not be the victim. Instead, he exacts his revenge on everyone the only way he can; he KNEW about the parts of the show that were not working. He just didn't say anything. He regards bloggers with venom, but then turns a I feel dirty having read this, like I've been rifling through Julie Taymor's dirty laundry. Well, through the dirty laundry of anyone and everyone who was ever involved with Spider-man. Glen Berger has obviously not learned from the advice he repeats throughout his gossipy memoir: not be the victim. Instead, he exacts his revenge on everyone the only way he can; he KNEW about the parts of the show that were not working. He just didn't say anything. He regards bloggers with venom, but then turns around and quotes a positive blog post (a post I actually commented on in 2011 singing the praises of the Taymor aspects of 1.0) just so he can juxtapose it with a negative newspaper review. Remember, the worst thing you can be in Berger's world is a newspaper critic (especially if your name is Michael Riedel). Sure, Spider-man 1.0 was a hot mess - but there was a great deal of enjoyment gleaned from the spectacle (minus the shoe song, of course. 2.0 was alright, but too boring in comparison). The Broadway drama of Berger's spectacle of a book? Not so enjoyable. While you could debate whether the world needed a musical version of Spider-man, I can unequivocally assure you that Song of Spider-Man's presence is needed by no one in the world aside from our hurt little victim, Glen Berger.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gina Dalfonzo

    A flawed but fascinating tale of a Broadway musical gone horribly wrong, told by the playwright who helplessly watched it all happen. Berger is a compelling storyteller, and I would have given his story four stars, but for three things: -- Excessive use of italics. This is very noticeable and jarring -- so jarring I can't believe his editor let it go by. -- Uneven and sometimes solipsistic writing. I realize that for someone caught in the middle of this mess, detachment would be very hard to achi A flawed but fascinating tale of a Broadway musical gone horribly wrong, told by the playwright who helplessly watched it all happen. Berger is a compelling storyteller, and I would have given his story four stars, but for three things: -- Excessive use of italics. This is very noticeable and jarring -- so jarring I can't believe his editor let it go by. -- Uneven and sometimes solipsistic writing. I realize that for someone caught in the middle of this mess, detachment would be very hard to achieve, but sometimes the story is desperately in need of a little perspective. For instance, he gives us lots of details about inconsequential matters but glosses over major events like Julie Taymor's firing. In another example, describing stuntman Chris Tierney's horrific accident, Berger takes time to emphasize that it happened at the very spot that some guru or shaman or something had told him was full of "dark energy." Dude. You have a broken man lying at your feet. At this particular point in time, nobody cares about your dark energy, okay? -- A truly tasteless (and barely coherent) one-liner about the hypothetical assassination of then-President Bush. I don't care what your political affiliations are, who the president is, or how you feel about him, there are lines you don't cross. That's one of them. So, the final verdict is three stars instead of four.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katy Campbell

    I saw this show in the fall of 2013 with my dad (much to my 16-year-old chagrin), but my dad was quick to remind me that I can see Phantom of the Opera forever, but this would be our one and only chance to see Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark. And boy am I glad we did. Not that it was spectacular or anything, but that it was such a spectacle, and one so doomed to fail from the start (I mean, a MUSICAL for SPIDER-MAN?) that the likelihood of another production was so astronomically low (and remains I saw this show in the fall of 2013 with my dad (much to my 16-year-old chagrin), but my dad was quick to remind me that I can see Phantom of the Opera forever, but this would be our one and only chance to see Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark. And boy am I glad we did. Not that it was spectacular or anything, but that it was such a spectacle, and one so doomed to fail from the start (I mean, a MUSICAL for SPIDER-MAN?) that the likelihood of another production was so astronomically low (and remains that way). This book sheds a whole new light on the psychedelic and inexplicable show we paid a measly $65/ticket to see that evening. And now, as a working actor, I can definitively say that I never want to be a part of any production remotely resembling this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    As someone who appreciates Broadway spectacle, I heard about the chain of catastrophes that comprised the Spider-Man musical and couldn't help but be intrigued. How could things have come to such a pass? Well, Glen Berger, responsible for the book of that infamous turkey, steps in to tell the unlikely tale. Miscommunications, power struggles, unfortunate coincedences, and, yes, ghastly bone-cracking accidents abound. Frankly, it's difficult to be sympathetic to Berger. He comes off as the quinte As someone who appreciates Broadway spectacle, I heard about the chain of catastrophes that comprised the Spider-Man musical and couldn't help but be intrigued. How could things have come to such a pass? Well, Glen Berger, responsible for the book of that infamous turkey, steps in to tell the unlikely tale. Miscommunications, power struggles, unfortunate coincedences, and, yes, ghastly bone-cracking accidents abound. Frankly, it's difficult to be sympathetic to Berger. He comes off as the quintessential Woody-Allen-film Beta Male. Utterly starstruck at the prospect of working with Julie Taymor, he instantly takes a nebbishy backseat to her overweening directorial vision. He leaves his wife and children in the lurch to pursue this project, eventually spending nine straight months in New York to see the show through to production, with mortgage notices coming fast and furious and the chances of the hoped-for million dollar payday rapidly dwindling. Perhaps he includes those details to make the reader understand the pressure he was under. But for me, it made him seem like a jerk, and made me feel sorry for his wife. A dedication and a one-paragraph apotheosis in the acknowledgements is nowhere near enough recompense(especially after chapter upon chapter of Taymor deification). After you finish the whole sorry saga, it's impossible not to engage in Monday morning quarterbacking. And for what it's worth, here's my analysis. Taymor's staging of The Lion King works because if the respect for the culture it's drawing from. The music, the choreography, the story elements that touch on African traditional beliefs--all of these elements seek to represent the source culture faithfully onstage. Not so, Spider-Man. Over and over, Berger mentions Taymor's (and, to a degree, his own) disdain for middle America - "suburban" is a favorite pejorative. "Commercial" concerns are for other people. "Art by poll?" Contemptible. (Never mind the fact that when purveyors of middlebrow media Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck attend previews, these principles evaporate in the feverish rush to gain favor.) The problem is, middle-class culture is what gave rise to Spider-Man, and to comic books in general. You can have amazing costumes, crazy sets and stunts, but you can't expect a story to ring true if you can't respect the culture that gave birth to it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tasha Robinson

    It's pretty easy to see where in this book the author is being melodramatic about his six-year experience working on Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, a Broadway musical with so many highly publicized problems that the Onion published a news brief about a nuclear bomb accidentally going off during one of its rehearsals, and vaporizing Manhattan. It's also easy to see where Berger elides over some of his own contributions to the musical's problems, including repeatedly not speaking up for himself or It's pretty easy to see where in this book the author is being melodramatic about his six-year experience working on Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, a Broadway musical with so many highly publicized problems that the Onion published a news brief about a nuclear bomb accidentally going off during one of its rehearsals, and vaporizing Manhattan. It's also easy to see where Berger elides over some of his own contributions to the musical's problems, including repeatedly not speaking up for himself or going along with whoever had the strongest voice in the room. That said, this is a fascinating book. It's pretty instructive in the process that goes into creating a Broadway musical, and especially in working with a lot of high-powered egos and conflicting demands. But it's also an intimate look into the problems that plagued the musical. People like me who were only vaguely aware of it through headlines about budget overruns and people being injured on set will find much, much more personal detail here about what went wrong and why, and how it happened, and what the creators were trying to do, and why they couldn't get there. It's also a prompt to look a little deeper into what they did accomplish. I was always kind of dismissive of the entire idea of this musical because the title sounds silly and the idea of a Spider-Man Broadway musical seems like yet another wearying attempt to draw franchises and spin-offs out of every possible familiar IP. But watching some of the video on YouTube of what they did accomplish onstage, I became pretty convinced that Berger was right, and that a lot of talent and ambition and good ideas went into this show, and that they were hamstrung by bad luck and a casually, thoughtlessly toxic response from the media — especially The New York Post's Michael Riedel, who here comes across as a slightly more evil version of Satan Incarnate. I feel like I could use a second version of this story in this level of detail but from someone else's perspective, because as I say, Berger tends to cover his own ass or respond to drama with the outsized feelings of a theater kid. But still, I'm very glad I read this and know more about the story, and I'm still sorry I didn't get to see it, because as much as people seemingly hated Julie Taymor's original vision for the musical (which went through two radically different iterations, broken down in useful detail on Wikipedia), it sounds like it was really something to see.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Iris

    A mercilessly entertaining, deeply sad telling of a creative dream deferred. "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" was a "circus rock-and-roll drama" infamous as the biggest flop in Broadway history. Even as it set records for attendance and box office, its success couldn't make up debts from many years of delays and technical catastrophes. Glen Berger was the show's co-bookwriter with director Julie Taymor, and part of the tight-knit creative team with Bono and the Edge (who come across as the most d A mercilessly entertaining, deeply sad telling of a creative dream deferred. "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" was a "circus rock-and-roll drama" infamous as the biggest flop in Broadway history. Even as it set records for attendance and box office, its success couldn't make up debts from many years of delays and technical catastrophes. Glen Berger was the show's co-bookwriter with director Julie Taymor, and part of the tight-knit creative team with Bono and the Edge (who come across as the most down-to-earth, hardworking people). He never places blame on anyone except himself...well, and Taymor, reluctantly. The show was cursed by cthonic forces and by the paradoxically repressive freedom of an unlimited budget and no deadlines. At heart, this is a workplace drama with very good and very bad examples of collaboration and leadership.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anthony O'Connor

    I actually paused a book by an author I love to read this bizarrely compelling story of a Broadway musical gone horribly wrong. At times funny, excruciating and familiar, it tells the tale of hubris and a desire to create good art, at the cost of sanity and safety. A brisk but utterly engaging yarn.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This is a remarkable, extraordinary read and a real eye-opener for anyone who follows and/or engages in the Theatre. Mr. Berger does not hold back and retells the sad tale in brutal honesty.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Great reading, but very frustrating at the same time. This is the "inside" story of the debacle that was the Spiderman musical-or at least, it's the book writer's very biased view of what happened and what went wrong. What's frustrating is that the guy doesn't seem to GET it a lot of the time. Spiderman did not fail because the critics were mean, or they never could figure out how to get some of the set pieces to work, or because there were so many unfortunate accidents. It didn't make it because Great reading, but very frustrating at the same time. This is the "inside" story of the debacle that was the Spiderman musical-or at least, it's the book writer's very biased view of what happened and what went wrong. What's frustrating is that the guy doesn't seem to GET it a lot of the time. Spiderman did not fail because the critics were mean, or they never could figure out how to get some of the set pieces to work, or because there were so many unfortunate accidents. It didn't make it because THE SHOW WAS BAD. BOTH versions-the infamous 1.0, and the "improved" 2.0. Look-I'll admit I never got the opportunity to see either version but after reading this, I've looked at clips online and I've listened the soundtrack. The music is AWFUL and I'm sorry, I know he's Broadway's new darling, but Reeve Carney's breathy whisper singing does nothing for me. And even on the SOUNDTRACK, the overpowering instruments drown out the singer to the point I can't understand the words, so I can imagine how well it worked in live theater. And the story looks worse. Berger's basic thesis here is that version 1.0, Julie Taymor's version, failed because she was making Great Art, which is not Marvel or anyone else wanted. And then she was, perhaps fairly, perhaps not, fired when she refused to compromise and became impossible to work with. My own take? You can read between the lines-a number about the VILLAIN GOING SHOE SHOPPING. It's got a GEEK Chorus (Do you GET IT? Really, are you sure you GET THE SUBTLETY?) These are the hills Julie Taymor chose to die on. It's not that it failed because she was some misunderstood Mozart making Great Symphonies for the unappreciative public who wanted another Salieri, it's that she was making BAD Mozart. Here's my take on Julie Taymor having seen Titus, Tempest, etc. She's not a director. She's a very talented and overpaid set designer. She designs beautiful spectacles, but can't relate to actors or help them develop their characters for shit. She's more interested in her extravagant set design then telling a good story-yes I know the Lion King. Here's the thing-The Lion King is basically Hamlet with cute animals, and even Julie Taymor's epic ego doesn't allow for the possibility of improving on Hamlet. The Lion King succeeded because it didn't NEED her to understand anything about character, or acting, or plot. It just required pretty costumes and movement. So, anyway, back to this book. It is an in depth exploration of what can only be described as a trainwreck from start to finish. And that is very interesting and very entertaining. Yes, I admit that there's more than a touch of Spidenfreude in how much I enjoyed reading about this disaster. It just could have been a much better book if the author had been willing to do less whining and buck passing and more in depth self reflection about his role in the disaster. So many times, he records how he thought this or that didn't sound good, but HE DIDN'T SPEAK UP. He's far from the only problem, but his passivity and Yes Man-ing is definitely ONE of the big problems. My favorite passage he complained about Michael Riedel of the New York Times calling him inexperienced or some such thing (unfortunately I didn't highlight the passage). And he mentions his off Broadway play and his multiple Emmys-and I looked it up and they are for CHILDREN'S TELEVISION EPISODES. And, not that that's not a valid art form. BUt it hardly proves you're qualified to write the book for the most expensive musical in Broadway history, dude. Anyway, the book is definitely worth reading if you are into Broadway, and especially Broadway flops. It just could have reached higher and become a tale for non-Broadway fans of art gone wrong, but like the musical it's based on, it lacks the appeal to transcend genre to a larger audience.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Danny Kapinos

    This was not just one of the best books about the theatre I've ever read, it's also one of the most thrilling books I've ever read. Reading the story behind Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, as chronicled by the show's own book writer, is the most cathartic experience I've had in months. All the struggles every theatre artist has faced--from the terror of being unable to raise enough money to create your project to the banality of moving through tech so slowly that time seems to move backward (not t This was not just one of the best books about the theatre I've ever read, it's also one of the most thrilling books I've ever read. Reading the story behind Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, as chronicled by the show's own book writer, is the most cathartic experience I've had in months. All the struggles every theatre artist has faced--from the terror of being unable to raise enough money to create your project to the banality of moving through tech so slowly that time seems to move backward (not to mention the egos and personalities!)--imagine the worst, most painful version, and what happened on Spiderman makes that look quaint. Right from the beginning, when the creative team is in a conference room signing their contracts, full of dreams and nothing but high hopes, their producer has a seizure and dies on the spot. Like a perfect Greek tragedy, you can't tell if the characters in this book are cursed or if their lack of humility is creating their inevitable downfalls. This musical made headlines for the near-fatal injury of a cast member, but that event hardly makes the list of the top ten "WTF?!" moments in this book. The story is so engrossing and un-put-down-able that I can't believe nobody had recommended it to me yet. This is a book I know I'm going to come back to every time I'm in the middle of a trying tech process (and what tech process isn't trying?). I'm recommending it to everyone I know in the theatre and also to everyone I know who isn't in the theatre.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Nichols

    I loved this book, because of the writing. It is well laid out; He is funny and sharp. I was surprised this got so many mediocre to bad reviews? A lot of people called Glen Berger a bad writer? I don't know, I had a tough time seeing that. But I am not a literary scholar. I can't imagine what these critics would say about the slop I put out. There is no way Berger is a bad writer. They also accuse Berger of cashing in on others expense: like you would not after 6 years of torture! he was not apid I loved this book, because of the writing. It is well laid out; He is funny and sharp. I was surprised this got so many mediocre to bad reviews? A lot of people called Glen Berger a bad writer? I don't know, I had a tough time seeing that. But I am not a literary scholar. I can't imagine what these critics would say about the slop I put out. There is no way Berger is a bad writer. They also accuse Berger of cashing in on others expense: like you would not after 6 years of torture! he was not apid for 6 years! I think Berger writes with empathy. I does not bash anyone. Ironically I was told to read this book because an agent suggested I write the story of how my self-polished (typo laded) book, got made it to Hollywood, (THis IS THat Productions) and eventually released by Lions Gate (American loser) and the book eventually picked up by Major publisher (Simon and Schuster) and the stupid film was on HBO last night! FEb3) I tried to write a comedy and it was made into a tragedy, if I write a book I am going to use a sledge hammer, not because I want to but I cant write with the nuance/humanity of Berger. Here is an article I wrote on what it is like to be the subject of an indie catastrophe. file:///C:/Users/adpub.AMAG/AppData/L...

  14. 5 out of 5

    M

    human beings are weird as hell and everything we do makes absolutely no sense three stars for writing (idk, less? glen berger is intense, clearly still feeling everything very deeply, not a particularly good prose stylist), five stars for actual events occurring in book and that any of this ever happened

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I wanted a fun, quick read about the behind the scenes drama involved in making the disastrous Spiderman musical. (I would a book like this about every show, to be honest.) This book is that in spades, but it's also a really smart treatise on storytelling by a well-read, funny writer who hardly considers himself blameless in the debacle. It reminded me how fun it is to try to figure out how to fix broken stories (SO fun). What got Julie Taymor hooked on doing Spiderman was the story of Arachne. I wanted a fun, quick read about the behind the scenes drama involved in making the disastrous Spiderman musical. (I would a book like this about every show, to be honest.) This book is that in spades, but it's also a really smart treatise on storytelling by a well-read, funny writer who hardly considers himself blameless in the debacle. It reminded me how fun it is to try to figure out how to fix broken stories (SO fun). What got Julie Taymor hooked on doing Spiderman was the story of Arachne. Berger uses Arachne as a way to talk about Taymor; was she punished for hubris, or was she smited by gods she had surpassed? It's a really useful and intriguing analogy. But all along he's holding back this Icharus reference, which is right in the show's biggest song, and turns out to be -of course - the perfect way to think about the show itself. It takes a skilled, restrained writer to sit on that for 350 pages. Anyway I loved this book. If you have any curiosity about it, go for it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Wilson

    3.5. A hyper-gossipy memoir that contains some really interesting stuff about just what goes into creating a project this big and also reads as a defense of the author's involvement every step along the way. Also it's truly amazing this musical a) Ever existed in the first place - Greek myths and U2 wedged into a superhero musical? and b) Lasted as long as it did. Made me really want to go see a show, though. Sigh. 3.5. A hyper-gossipy memoir that contains some really interesting stuff about just what goes into creating a project this big and also reads as a defense of the author's involvement every step along the way. Also it's truly amazing this musical a) Ever existed in the first place - Greek myths and U2 wedged into a superhero musical? and b) Lasted as long as it did. Made me really want to go see a show, though. Sigh.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    I have rarely been as entertained as I was while reading this novel. Berger is charmingly self-deprecating, and the string of events that he discusses are almost too absurd to believe. I found myself laughing out loud often but also sympathizing with all involved.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    Completely fascinating.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    First Reads Review - Song of Spider-Man by Glen Berger So I regret in some ways winning this book, because while I enjoy comic books and musical theater and find the topic fairly interesting, this is a nearly 400-page book about a musical. Reading the musical itself would probably have been much more entertaining. This is more memoir than anything, the writer putting his own words out there perhaps in an attempt to seek understanding in a conversation that seems to have been dominated by more pow First Reads Review - Song of Spider-Man by Glen Berger So I regret in some ways winning this book, because while I enjoy comic books and musical theater and find the topic fairly interesting, this is a nearly 400-page book about a musical. Reading the musical itself would probably have been much more entertaining. This is more memoir than anything, the writer putting his own words out there perhaps in an attempt to seek understanding in a conversation that seems to have been dominated by more powerful players. And I can sympathize. He does come across as fairly sympathetic, if also a bit weak. But then, he also comes across as vulnerable, more so than anyone else in the production, but also more so than he probably deserves. As he himself points out, he is not a failed writer. It seems to me that it was really his fault for getting into the situation he found himself in. But then, the book is about hubris. It's an interesting and myriad story, to be sure, full of grand plans and expectations and disappointment and compromise and drama. These are some big personalities that are being shown. Hilariously, to me the Edge comes across as the most with it among the bunch, but perhaps that's just me. And the story the book tells is interesting, filled with intrigue and twists and bad luck and that hubris that shows up again and again. There is a sense of frustration that Berger emotes throughout, the sense that this was always out of his hands, that he was something close to a victim in this when his thoughts and allegiances shift so often. Again, he needed the job more than most, but even so it's a little difficult to be sympathetic at times when he has no good alternative to what's going wrong with the show. And I guess that was my main problem with the book, that so many things are vague and interpreted by the author. Of course he can't give us all the specifics, and unless I had seen all the performances of the show I don't really know the dialogue changes, the musical numbers. So when he has problems with Julie Taymor's vision of the show, and wants to rework things a certain way, he invites change. And perhaps that was innocent enough, but at the same time he gets the change and then thinks things change too much and complains that instead of being too Taymor, it's too corny. I get the feeling that he was never satisfied with the product, but I think that he shares the blame there and wants to try and pass that off on his collaborators. And I guess I felt that it was a bit of a sad story in the end, because it does feel that the show lost its vision, lost its punch, in order to make back some of the money it had squandered. I do think that the problem might have been more that it was too expensive. It was done to capitalize on something popular, but was being run for an audience that probably didn't want to see the show. Ambition. Hubris. Whatever. In the end I just sort of stopped caring and wanted the dramatic saga to be over. This book went on and on. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. It was fine. And as such, because I cannot award it two and a half stars, I can give it three stars out of five.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Oh man, where do I begin? I guess I should mention that this was my pick for our book club. I love Broadway. I love musicals. I am pretty sure in my past life I was a Broadway star, and in this life I just have the love of it with none of the talent. I had read the "drama" of Spiderman and was excited to read some gossip from an inside source. All I was left with, however, is a little relief that I didn't spend money to see this show. First, Glen Berger, the author. HOLY SH*T MAN, grow some ball Oh man, where do I begin? I guess I should mention that this was my pick for our book club. I love Broadway. I love musicals. I am pretty sure in my past life I was a Broadway star, and in this life I just have the love of it with none of the talent. I had read the "drama" of Spiderman and was excited to read some gossip from an inside source. All I was left with, however, is a little relief that I didn't spend money to see this show. First, Glen Berger, the author. HOLY SH*T MAN, grow some balls! He spends all of this book, whining and complaining about the process of creating a musical. "I can't pay my mortgage", "I don't see my family", "Julie hates me", "Oh no, they are going to replace me". Blah, blah, blah! No wonder the storyline of the musical sucked! Not only that, he paints himself as a traitor! He's Team Julie at the start and by the end, he's left her and joined the "new team". Then he says how he doesn't understand why no one (cast/crew/production) trusts him. Hmmmm…I can't imagine. Then we have the dynamic duo of Bono & Edge. Yes, very cool to have the stars of U2 writing your music. But seriously, did you think there would be success when your composer/lyricist team is constantly traveling around the world on tour? Jeez…my 5th graders could tell you that was a recipe for disaster! Finally, Julie Taymor. I must be honest that she is the reason I wanted to read this book. I am a fan of her work. Anyone who has seen Lion King the musical should realize what a true genius she is. I was hoping to get some insight as to why it is one could go from creating what is on track to be the longest running Broadway show (and is already the highest grossing) to being released from her work with Spiderman. I feel like I got some of those answers. She's egotistical. She's control freak, type A. She's tunnel visioned. Perhaps that is what a director needs to be. However, I think she got so stuck on her vision, she couldn't see the ship sinking before her eyes. And when people tried to create patches to save it, she refused to let them. I find it hard to believe these are new traits. This isn't something that just happened. So, I am left with the question…..what happened? It's hard to say….mostly because this is Berger's version of the events. I'd love to read her take/rebuttal/book on her experience with Spiderman. I do know that I don't blame her for not wanting to talk to Glen any longer. He sold her out….and what does he have to show for it? A closed show…and a shitty book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark Schlatter

    I picked this up 1) because I love behind-the-scenes books, 2) because I'm a big superhero fan, and 3) because I was fascinated by the disaster the Spider-man musical threatened to be and became. It's important to note that this is not a work of journalism --- this is a recollection of the history of the show by Glen Berger (the writer of the musical's book). And it's very clear early on that Berger worships Julie Taymor, the director and creative impetus behind the musical. That worship is tempe I picked this up 1) because I love behind-the-scenes books, 2) because I'm a big superhero fan, and 3) because I was fascinated by the disaster the Spider-man musical threatened to be and became. It's important to note that this is not a work of journalism --- this is a recollection of the history of the show by Glen Berger (the writer of the musical's book). And it's very clear early on that Berger worships Julie Taymor, the director and creative impetus behind the musical. That worship is tempered as time passes, but a central focus of the book is Taymor's and Berger's relationship. Sadly, I found this the least interesting part of the work --- most of the writing here circles around the stress, the emotional management, and ultimately the question of betrayal. I know it's compelling to Berger, but I found it repetitive with more fidelity on Berger's part than seemed warranted. There's also a tendency in early pages to foreshadow shoes yet to drop (e.g., this decision about the set will lead to monumental problems later on). However, it's hard to see the seperate shoes dropping later on when you are surrounded by falling pianos. Two things really worked for me in the book. First, Berger clearly and convincingly details the origins of the show's woes, specifically the early committment to huge set pieces that dictated far too much and left little room for flexibility. Second, Berger agonizingly describes the struggle to tech the show (with, at one point, the rehearsals teching about thirty seconds of show per night). Perhaps because Berger is less involved in this portion, the writing is tighter and more compelling. If you are a theatre fan (and especially if you have done tech in a show), I'd recommend picking this up for a diversion. It's a quick read with some fascinating insight into one of the most controversial shows in recent history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    A guilty pleasure, and barely that. Berger is actually a pretty lousy writer, amply illuminated by the book for the musical SPIDER-MAN and even more evident in this book. It's a quick read, since the author has virtually no insight as to why the staggeringly expensive musician went entirely off the rails. The portrait of director Julie Taymor has many remarkable facets, revealing her explosive temper. But Berger has so little sense for why this project may have been doomed from the outset. An ine A guilty pleasure, and barely that. Berger is actually a pretty lousy writer, amply illuminated by the book for the musical SPIDER-MAN and even more evident in this book. It's a quick read, since the author has virtually no insight as to why the staggeringly expensive musician went entirely off the rails. The portrait of director Julie Taymor has many remarkable facets, revealing her explosive temper. But Berger has so little sense for why this project may have been doomed from the outset. An inexperienced producer, composers and lyricists with no background in theatre, and a third-tier TV writer with no musical credits. Julie Taymor is without doubt a visionary, even brilliant director. The opening sequence of THE LION KING us simply staggering as theatrical some tactile. But she abhors pop culture; so why us she directing a musical based on a comic-book hero? Berger never thinks to ask this question. The book is filled with insider info, backstage gossip, and a few remarkable stories. But Berger tends to underline and italicize, to draw attention, and (sadly) to whine. HE wasn't getting paid. HIS mortgage was in danger of falling behind. Bono wouldn't pick up the check for all their fancy meals. His dog dies. I kid you not; he actually drags his dying pooch into the tale of his hardship and woe. There are some vivid moments within these pages, especially the terrible preview when actor Chris Tierney is improperly secured and falls 30 feet into the pit. Despite hugs ardently expressed admiration and devotion for Julie Taymor, Berger never misses a moment to bury the shiv in her. Our Hollywood friends love the expression "you'll never eat lunch in this town again." Berger now ranks with Jeremy Pivens among Broadway's leading pariahs.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ernie.tedeschi

    Song of Spider-Man is, at its core, a story about story telling, and when it focuses on that, it's an engrossing page turner. Berger is an accessible and often humorous narrator of the six-year creative process for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, a process which he, as the book writer, was knee-deep in. He weaves a tale of art, genius, collaboration, business, and, of course, failure, with an array of complex and compelling characters, among whom is director Julie Taymor, the protagonist who evol Song of Spider-Man is, at its core, a story about story telling, and when it focuses on that, it's an engrossing page turner. Berger is an accessible and often humorous narrator of the six-year creative process for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, a process which he, as the book writer, was knee-deep in. He weaves a tale of art, genius, collaboration, business, and, of course, failure, with an array of complex and compelling characters, among whom is director Julie Taymor, the protagonist who evolves into an antagonist. If I were to criticize Berger for anything, it's that I never fully trust him as a narrator, and I can't quite shake the feeling that I've walked into the middle of a fascinating but polarizing and acidic argument between two former friends. Part of this I think is because while I appreciate Berger's apparent openness, his narrative needs a little more perspective and introspection. As is, the show just evolves (or devolves) at a geometric rate, without clear opinions from our narrator about what moments contributed the most to the show's fate. Similarly, Julie Taymor is intensely scrutinized in the book, while others, notably Bono and the Edge, come out looking like heroes. Perhaps this is dispassionate observance. Perhaps this the result of a complex web of emotional loyalties. Perhaps it's a combination of both. The bottom line is that if you're looking for a readable, gripping, and above all human story, then you'll enjoy this and breeze through it quickly. Recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    It has been a decade since Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark first began previews, accompanied by endless reports about injured actors and workplace safety hazards. With a budget exceeding sixty million dollars, an endless barrage of reported injuries, and suggestions that the plot was nigh incoherent, the musical had all the makings of a colossal train wreck. And, for a while, it delivered on that promise, with continued reports of technical mistakes and feuding creatives. But, eventually, it just It has been a decade since Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark first began previews, accompanied by endless reports about injured actors and workplace safety hazards. With a budget exceeding sixty million dollars, an endless barrage of reported injuries, and suggestions that the plot was nigh incoherent, the musical had all the makings of a colossal train wreck. And, for a while, it delivered on that promise, with continued reports of technical mistakes and feuding creatives. But, eventually, it just fizzled out. After months and months of previews, the ousting of its director, and endless lousy press, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark opened on June 14, 2011. But what happened? Glen Berger, co-writer of the musical’s script, seeks to answer this in his account of the musical’s creation, Song of Spider-Man. While reading as more of a gossipy, biased memoir than an objective, neutral account, Song of Spider-Man is an entertaining and revealing look at how Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark went from being an anticipated Broadway spectacle to a “sixty-five million dollar circus tragedy.” Song of Spider-Man is part recounting of the events that led to the creation and demise of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and part memoir from the show’s co-writer, Glen Berger. As a result, the book reads as a sort of Frankenstein combination of historical record and gossip column. There is nothing more valuable when examining the creation of something than having the account of someone fundamental in creating that thing to refer to. So, having Berger detail his experience working on this show is, obviously, the book’s biggest asset. Any journalist could cobble together a strictly historical look at the creation of the musical, or some kind of oral history, but only those who were involved can tell us exactly how it felt to be involved in the making of the musical. And that's exactly what Berger does with this book. Throughout, he walks readers through his experience over the six+ years he spent on the show. He chronicles its early days, its tech woes, and—most salaciously—the dismissal of its original director. Song of Spider-Man does not paint Julie Taymor in a positive light. I wouldn’t say it’s a total hit piece against her either, but Berger’s bias is clear—even if it’s understandable. Here, Taymor is depicted as a director with an unwavering vision who is unwilling, or unable, to make any compromises that might result in the bettering of their show. This does not create a particularly enjoyable workplace environment, but it is something that women directors get criticized for far more than male directors guilty of doing the exact same things do. To be fair to Taymor, this was an approach that had netted her (and plenty of other directors) countless acclaim and success, but it was a recipe for disaster on this show. Honestly, everyone involved in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark on a creative level bears some responsibility for what went wrong. As shown in Berger’s book, there was a fundamental breakdown in communication between all of them, with most of the creative team never being fully honest with Taymor until they executed their—frankly sneaky—plan to completely overhaul the show’s second act, triggering a deeply understandable negative reaction from Taymor. Song of Spider-Man is an account of a friendship and partnership falling apart. It is an account of how dysfunctional workplace environments loaded with miscommunications can destroy a project. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for everyone involved at different times. On the flip side, Song of Spider-Man doesn’t really paint Berger as a victim, or the hero, either. His prose is frequently littered with self-deprecation and moments of seemingly-introspective looks into the ways he contributed to all that went wrong here. Obviously, he’s not going to fully rake himself over the coals, but he also doesn’t completely whitewash his flaws—which gives the whole book a bit more credibility than it might have otherwise had. He shows how lousy a husband and father he was during the development of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark; he shows how his lack of communication contributed to all of the structural problems prevalent in the show’s script; he seems to take responsibility for the role he played in Taymor’s eventual ouster. It’s a surprisingly reflective look at the role he played in this story. Naturally, there’s no way he can be totally objective here, and the book never reads like an account with any real objectivity. While this direct insight from someone deeply involved with the show is the book's best aspect, it's also its greatest weakness. There are numerous instances where it's blatant how one-sided the book is. Readers only hear from other players through the lens of Berger. This is not his fault—he can only share what he knows and what he heard. But it does leave a pretty big hole where other viewpoints might be. I'd kill for Taymor, or Bono and the Edge, or even the producers to write their own books that detail their experiences making this musical. I think is such a fascinating example of good ideas and good intentions ruined by dysfunction and miscommunication. For what it is, Song of Spider-Man is an absolutely fascinating look at the creation, downfall, and rebirth of one of Broadway's most infamous musicals—told directly from the point of view of someone intimately involved in its creation. As a result, it often reads more biased than one purely interested in the creation of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark might want, but once you get past that, you’re left with an entertaining and insightful look behind the scenes of the musical. I wish Berger focused more on some of the creative elements that went into making the show and less on the already-heavily-reported drama that went down, but this is a book that’s hard to complain about. It’s a page-turner that will have you hooked from its first page to its last. It’s the perfect drama: filled with intrigue, betrayal, humor, and hope. If you love the theatre, this is a book you should read. If you have any interest in the Spider-Man musical, this is a book you must read. And if you simply like well-written books about real things that have happened, this is a book you must read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Roxana

    If the point of this book was to make Berger look better in the aftermath of the Turn Off the Dark fiasco, it didn't succeed. He comes off looking whiny, cowardly, toadying, and worst of all, bad at collaboration. And this is his own version of events! If there's any single message to be learned from reading this process+gossip tell-all of one of the most expensive and literally dangerous flops in Broadway history, it's that a bad collaboration is just a bad collaboration from day one. The wrong If the point of this book was to make Berger look better in the aftermath of the Turn Off the Dark fiasco, it didn't succeed. He comes off looking whiny, cowardly, toadying, and worst of all, bad at collaboration. And this is his own version of events! If there's any single message to be learned from reading this process+gossip tell-all of one of the most expensive and literally dangerous flops in Broadway history, it's that a bad collaboration is just a bad collaboration from day one. The wrong people working together on the wrong project, with a ton of money and many other peoples' livelihoods and lives at stake, isn't the situation to act like you saw what was wrong with the script months earlier but didn't feel like saying anything until it was even more too late. Finishing this book makes me want to go personally apologize to Julie Taymor.

  26. 5 out of 5

    MJ

    This is, without a doubt, the most entertaining nonfiction book I've ever read, and it is also completely B A N A N A S. I agree with Mer's statement that the writing itself is probably only worth a 3-star, but for sheer thrill value and the tale of how Patrick Page overcame severe depression to become the surrogate father of 30 cast members it's worth 12 stars. If you aren't convinced to read this yet, just listen to this song (https://soundcloud.com/cruiseman/deep...) and know that refusing to This is, without a doubt, the most entertaining nonfiction book I've ever read, and it is also completely B A N A N A S. I agree with Mer's statement that the writing itself is probably only worth a 3-star, but for sheer thrill value and the tale of how Patrick Page overcame severe depression to become the surrogate father of 30 cast members it's worth 12 stars. If you aren't convinced to read this yet, just listen to this song (https://soundcloud.com/cruiseman/deep...) and know that refusing to cut this scene in which spider dancers with 8 plastic sexy lady legs put on high heels is literally the hill Julie Taymor chose to die on. Really. Julie Taymor, Tony winner, Oscar nominee, got fired from this show because she refused to cut "CAN YOU RESIST A SPIDER KISS???" Read this book. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Enlighten yourself. Rise above.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christal

    I'm forever sad I never got to see the original Spiderman 1.0. I'm forever sad I never got to see the original Spiderman 1.0.

  28. 5 out of 5

    victoria.p

    Entertaining look at the difficulties experienced in putting the Spider-Man musical on Broadway.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Klobetime

    Even though Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is often called one of the biggest disasters ever produced on Broadway, it is a show I dearly would have liked to have seen. Spider-Man is one of my favorite heroes, and the descriptions of the action scenes in the show sound amazing. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin battling in the air above the audience, leaping off walls, briefly landing in the aisles before soaring off again. As great as that sounds, Song of Spider-Man makes it clear what a mess th Even though Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is often called one of the biggest disasters ever produced on Broadway, it is a show I dearly would have liked to have seen. Spider-Man is one of my favorite heroes, and the descriptions of the action scenes in the show sound amazing. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin battling in the air above the audience, leaping off walls, briefly landing in the aisles before soaring off again. As great as that sounds, Song of Spider-Man makes it clear what a mess the musical actually was. The reason the show was such a train wreck was the creative minds behind the show didn't understand what makes Spider-Man special. Interestingly, the author of the book is one of those creative minds. Berger details how he and Julie Taymor came up with the story, and then proceeds to cover how it clearly didn't work while they steadfastly held to their original vision. Spider-Man was created in 1962, and in the decades since has been populated with scores of memorable characters. For whatever reason, Berger and Taymor decided to have the main antagonist in the musical be a character from Greek mythology instead. Eventually the producers of Turn Off the Dark brought in a different creative team that salvaged what they could, but the show never could shake the bad press. Sadly, for as honest as Berger is while discussing the trials and tribulations of the musical, I don't think he ever came to terms with why it all went wrong. He writes of how the plot was eviscerated on the internet and he was so upset he'd go online and respond to the haters (spoiler, it didn't help). He simply couldn't understand why people were disemboweling a show that they had never seen, much less not even being complete yet! I agree the internet can be an awful place and comic fans in particular are famously impossible to please, but it simply isn't that difficult to see why. Imagine if in The Lion King Simba defeats Scar at the end of act one, and then in act two he has to fight a poacher that is Artemis in disguise. It would be awful, right? Well, that is basically the plot of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Amusingly, Taymor is the force behind The Lion King as well, but didn't stray from the source material there. Song of Spider-Man is a great look behind the curtains at what it takes to create a Broadway production. (It is especially interesting as the musical wasn't a successful one.) Berger doesn't pull any punches either. As a main character in the tale he comes off as indecisive and feckless in some places, fawning and obsequious in others; but, he shares it all, giving an overall impression of honesty. Anyone interested in musical theater should enjoy this. First Sentence: The four drinks I knocked back on an empty stomach in the empty VIP room were finally kicking in.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sofia Sorrentino

    We're just trying to put on a play..... Simply sublime. Absolutely exceeded all my expectations. What starts out as a darkly comic retelling of a theatrical endeavor that seemed to be bulletproof, only for such a storm of bad luck to strike that it seemed as if the gods themselves were raining hellfire down on the cast and crew, becomes a bittersweet, touching exploration of the nature of art, storytelling, and human connection and collaboration. It's packed with all of the juicy behind-the-s We're just trying to put on a play..... Simply sublime. Absolutely exceeded all my expectations. What starts out as a darkly comic retelling of a theatrical endeavor that seemed to be bulletproof, only for such a storm of bad luck to strike that it seemed as if the gods themselves were raining hellfire down on the cast and crew, becomes a bittersweet, touching exploration of the nature of art, storytelling, and human connection and collaboration. It's packed with all of the juicy behind-the-scenes gossip and wild anecdotes you'd expect from a peek behind the curtain at the biggest flop in Broadway history, but it is also unexpectedly heartwarming and emotional. No one on the tortured creative team comes out looking innocent, not even the worn-down, beleaguered writer himself Glen Berger, but no one comes out looking entirely guilty either. Everyone pours blood, sweat, tears, years of their lives, and pieces of their hearts and souls into art that they can only hope will be well-received - but ultimately, its just another show. It all lives for the moment. The curtain rises, the curtain falls, the cycle continues. And after all of the hullabaloo has died down, everyone involved as no choice but to pick up the pieces and start all over again. Also, Glen Berger is a fantastic writer, and he makes what is ultimately a pretty depressing story into a delightfully entertaining light read. Here are just a few of my favorite out-of-context moments(which should also give you some idea of how insane this story gets...) "Phil's story about the incident at a European circus in which a little person was accidentally swallowed by a hippopotamus was the most harrowing thing I'd ever heard, with no apparent lesson to be gleaned other than you shouldn't devise trampoline acts involving both trotting hippopotami and little people." "Geez...how much masturbation did we have in this show?" "Nothing could be contrived in the mere twenty minutes of Tech allotted to make it look like Buttons wasn't being violated from behind by a green mutant." "The dancers are doing the 'eensy-weensy' spider?" "It was basically going to be that crowded stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers' A Night At The Opera, with a couple of superheros and a giant spider thrown in" P.S This book briefly made me feel bad about frequenting the toxic AF Broadway message boards as much as I do........but I'm still not going to stop reading those terrible preview threads that are just waiting to rip a new show apart every time one opens! Sorry, Glen Berger. P.P. S Michael Reidel can go to hell. Hey, that rhymed.

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