- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” opens Tuesday. Where have we heard that before?

But this time _ the sixth scheduled opening, for those keeping score _ producers mean business. The $70 million show, shorn of its original director Julie Taymor, reworked from top to bottom and missing a few actors, finally officially begins after a record-setting preview period.

Taymor herself is expected to attend, according to her spokeswoman, Mara Buxbaum. “She is so proud of the cast, crew, musicians and creatives with whom she worked on this amazing project for so many years and she looks forward to sharing in tonight’s celebration,” Buxbaum said in a statement.

Among the celebrities expected to attend are former President Bill Clinton, Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, Barbara Walters, Steve Martin, Liv Tyler, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Liam Neeson, Vanessa Redgrave, Spike Lee, Christy Turlington, Ed Burns, Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Strokes and John McEnroe. U2’s Bono and The Edge, the show’s music writers, will also be on hand.

Taymor, the Tony Award-winning co-writer and director, was fired from “Spider-Man” after delays, accidents, poor audience reaction and money woes turned the musical into a punch line.

The principal cast _ Reeve Carney as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane Watson, T.V. Carpio as a spider-woman named Arachne, and Patrick Page as the Green Goblin _ have been with the production since the tortured beginning.

The show’s planned opening was initially set for Feb. 18, 2010, but financial issues forced producers to suspend work. A new opening was set for Dec. 21, but that was pushed back to Jan. 11, then again to Feb. 7 and then to March 15. “Spider-Man” has broken the record for the longest preview period in Broadway history.

Injuries to several cast members _ including a 35-foot fall by a stunt actor playing the web-slinger that left him with a skull fracture and cracked vertebrae _ have marred the production, as well as the defection of a lead actress after she suffered a concussion.

Many theater critics grew impatient and their reviews that appeared in early February _ a violation of the established agreement by critics to wait for opening night to weigh in _ were mostly savage pans.

Producers finally intervened in March, firing Taymor and shutting down the show for four weeks to retool. Taymor was replaced by Philip William McKinley, who directed the Hugh Jackman musical “The Boy From Oz,” in 2003.

Co-book writer Glenn Berger and newly hired playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has written comic books and for the HBO series “Big Love,” toned down the story’s darker themes, and expanded the romantic angle between Peter Parker and Mary Jane.

Consistently strong weekly revenues are critical for the show to break even and to begin repaying investors. Last week the show earned $1.2 million _ a little more than 60 percent of its $1.9 million potential.





Mark Kennedy can be reached at https://twitter.com/KennedyTwits



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