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And now, Spider-Man the musical: Can it spin gold on Broadway?

'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,' already the most expensive Broadway show ever, gives its creators a chance to mine the rich vein of dramatic material about Peter Parker's reluctant hero.

By Staff writer / November 27, 2010

In this publicity image released by the O&M Company, Reeve Carney, who portrays Peter Parker, poses at the "Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark" photo call on ABC's "Good Morning America" at The Hudson Theatre in New York.

Bruce Glikas/O&M Co./AP

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Los Angeles

Peter Parker’s Spider-Man has swung through most every mass medium of the past half century, from his comic book debut in 1962 to television, movies, and cartoons. Now, however, he is set to alight on the Great White Way in what is already the most expensive Broadway production ever mounted, some $60 million and counting.

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The musical extravaganza – "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," with music from Bono and The Edge – will debut in previews on Sunday with a scheduled January opening.

With so many explorations of the Peter Parker psyche, it’s hard to figure what is left to say, but as Glen Berger, co-creator of the musical's narrative, or "book," says, “this is a rich vein that comic book writers have been mining for years and they aren’t done yet.” The powerful mythic structure of the Peter Parker transformation into a deeply-conflicted and reluctant hero, he adds, “is really bottomless material.”

The wow factor

As for what the 2,000-seat theatrical experience can add to the Spider-Man canon, he says that while people will come expecting the wow factor of great modern stagecraft – and they will get it – the real emotional pow of the show comes from the deeper themes and narrative.

“How he goes from being bitten to the despair over the death of his Uncle Ben, to realizing he needs to become Spider-Man, we do it in five minutes,” he says, adding it doesn’t seem possible but with the music Bono has created and the stagecraft director Julie Taymor came up with, “you do it and you can feel your heart opening up and that’s the real wow.”

In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” this Sunday, Ms. Taymor points out that her goal is to deliver the kind of visceral immediacy only live theater can provide. “I’m trying to make the theatrical experience an environmental experience, we want to have the theater of it right in the laps of the audience,” she says.

The show reportedly has been delayed as technical issues involved with delivering that drop-jaw moment have flared, from injuries to glitches with the various flying harnesses required. These challenges do not daunt Ms. Taymor’s well-known creative bravura.

“I hate the comfort zone. … I don’t think that anything that’s really creative can be done without danger and risk,” says the two-time Tony winner, whose award-winning “Lion King” still plays in theaters around the world after 13 years.

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