Avenue Q (a musical that MANY thought would never be a success beyond the fringe and semi-masses of off-Broadway-only fans) has a song in it called "Schadenfreude" which is all about taking pleasure in another's failure. And I think to a large extent, S-MTOTD is a victim of such a thing.
Before the show even booked a theatre, and was announced solely as a concept, I read blogs and message board posts that said things like: "I hate it already." and "I refuse to see any show about a super hero." OK, maybe the second is simply a statement of opinion over a genre, like saying "I refuse to see any film based on a Nicholas Sparks novel because I hate his books." But the first - which I read dozens of times in various forms - really? A dismissal before anything has even been announced? .... hmmm.
Then the bashing continued with the announcement that Julie Taymor was on board. I respect anyone who has an opinion about a body of work, provided that they have seen said body of work. A lot of people have seen The Lion King, an astonishing theatrical achievement, even if you don't like it. But did you see The Green Bird? Juan Darien? Probably not. And her movies, while equally stunning to look at, have their detractors, too. So, I can fully see people saying things about her style or "vision", etc., but I do have a problem with the bashing of her character. And for this simple reason: unless you have worked directly with her, and I mean directly, not "my friend was a swing in the show at The New Victory and she heard the actors talking about Julie on the street," or "my aunt is an usher at the Foxwoods and blah blah blah"... unless you actually are in her show and can speak honestly about her as a director, why are you talking about her alleged ego, self-praise, and drive? You know, they used to say the same things about Bob Fosse... Lucille Ball...William Shakespeare. Maybe Ms. Taymor should be thrilled with the public vilification her reputation is getting in the press and all over the Internet. She is in superb company.
Like Spider-Man, previous "whipping boys" Titanic and Cats and Starlight Express before it, all of these shows were, in their time, the most expensive ever produced. Is that the issue? The $65M budget also seems to be a bone of contention with folks. Is it your money? Has the government offered taxpayer bailouts to the show? Are you forced to buy a ticket for a preview, an actual performance or the closing night? The answer to all of those -unless you are a producer - is NO. So while you may say things like "what a shame to waste so much money on any Broadway show, good, bad or indifferent during these hard times," and be perfectly justified in saying so, no one but the people who could actually lose everything by investing everything they have in the show has any right to print a single word about the budget. SIDE NOTE: Julie Taymor does not print the money she spends. Producers give it to her. She is not the problem there, either. They can say "no" at any point.
Related to the budget and Ms. Taymor: She, herself, has said, "People expect to see Spider-Man fly in a certain way. A $25M "Spider-Man" wouldn't give them what they want to see." And that is true, 100%. People want to see Spidey move like he does in the movies, which may never ever happen live. But to give it a close approximation, whole new technologies have been invented and re-worked for live theatre because of this show. Are glitches going to happen? Sure. Ask they guys who invented the airplane, the light bulb and air conditioning. All three were met with injury, public outcries and detractors. Can you imagine life without those three things? And we are only talking theatre here, at least the flying apparatus doesn't change life as we know it... but who knows how it can be used in future shows? We've come a long way from metal boards being pounded for thunder haven't we? Still, had the design team and Ms. Taymor come up with anything less, she'd be taken to task for that, too.
All I am saying is this. Have your opinion. Express it loudly and proudly. Don't like the changes to the traditional Spider-Man story? Think the book is a mess? Hate the score? Fine. Say so. But only do so if you have actually seen the show or are working on it. Otherwise, why are you talking at all about it?
If it ends up a fast flop, so be it. If it ends up being a huge hit, so be it. After I've seen it, I will feel free to love it or hate it. But even if it is the worst thing I've ever seen, I won't laugh at it. A lot of people are employed because of it. The surrounding economy of it stands to make the city and local merchants a lot of money in these hard times. And artistically, no one will be able to accuse them of not putting everything they have into it.
If it is a fast flop, I guess the naysayers will have the last laugh. And there is a certain pleasure in watching the mighty fall, I guess. But are the powers that be at one Broadway musical really "the mighty". "Schadenfreude" they call it. But there is another term that people might want to consider as they do their happy dance each time something goes wrong. That term is "karma." And I hear it can be a real bitch when it is your time.
Please let me hear what you have to say! Leave comments here, email me or Tweet me.