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  • Prose and Purpose

    After 25 years on the job, a former provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.

The Return of/to Spiderman
July 24, 2011 - 7:50pm

An earlier blog focused on my family trip to see Spiderman, Turn Off The Dark. My wife, two kids, and I thoroughly enjoyed the production. Much of the staging was spectacular, and the story – though it faltered somewhat in the second act—easily held our attention. This original version closed for three weeks for some rewriting and reopened with much more favorable reviews. My kids very much wanted to see the revised version (and actually would also have been pleased to see the original version again) so this past weekend we made our second Spiderman trip. There is much good news and there is some less than good news.

The second act was a vast improvement over the original version. The story line was much crisper and clearer, and there was also no superfluous filler (such as a song about Arachne, the spider’s show wardrobe). There was also more of Dr Osborn aka the Green Goblin, a villain played with real gusto and talent by Peter Page. The music by Bono and The Edge was also enhanced and seemed to be much more effective in this revised version. The downside, to some extent the other side of the crisper story line coin, was that the story lost the nuance of the more complete Arachne story. My younger daughter missed the added focus on Arachne and felt its removal was a loss. For the rest of us, though we missed seeing more of Arachne, the gain much more than made up for the loss.

What makes this show special, in its first iteration or the new version, is the staging. It remains brilliant as do the costumes and the sets. Without the flair inherent in Julie Taymor’s vision of Spiderman, no amount of revision could have been made this production memorable. And the producers and directors of Spiderman were completely correct, the show needed the time and attention to go through the evolution that many Broadway shows need, and given the scale of the production that process needed it happen under the glare of the Broadway lights. Where the producers and directors were wrong is in underestimating the time this evolution would take. The resulting five postponements of the opening just served to erode confidence in the show, certainly not a help when the goal is at least earn back the $75 million that this production cost.

As I stated in my last blog on Spiderman many of the most memorable authors often required many drafts and many rewrites before an outstanding final product emerged. And many educators recognize that the development of our most outstanding students and graduates is often also an evolutionary process. For Spiderman, Turn Off The Dark the process is complete, the story did “Rise Above” and the result is certainly worth the wait. The evolution of Peter Parker and the evolution of many of our students is always a journey where the final product is certainly worth the wait.


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