Bring up bad reviews to an artist and you risk them walking out of an interview. Bring up “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” reviews with Bono and the Edge and you’ll get nothing but agreement.
When “Good Morning America” correspondent Cynthia McFadden sat down with the U2 bandmates to talk about the new revisions to their troubled superhero passion project, she brought up Ben Brantley’s harsh February review from The New York Times, where he wrote that it may rank among the worst musicals ever made.
“It was the sort of stuff we were saying backstage,” Bono says of the criticism. “It might be a little hard for some other people around here to take that but we don’t disagree with The New York Times.” The Times was one of many media outlets that decided to review the show while it was still in previews after delays pushed back its official opening multiple times.
Bono didn’t shy away from looking to the show’s former director, Julie Taymor, as the primary reason that the show had sputtered out with the critics. Taymor left the show in March.
“Julie would not accept this but she got very close, so close that perhaps she couldn’t see it. We were going at it and coming back and we could see very clearly what we thought were the problems and she didn’t they they were as big a problem as we did. And sometimes at a point like that you have to say ‘look, you are too close.’”
The admission from Bono was a remarkable about-face from his position during a “60 Minutes” sitdown in November where he admitted that Taymor’s involvement with “Spider-Man” had been his primary reason for agreeing to write the show’s music.
Phil McKinley, who had directed Hugh Jackman to his Tony-winning performance in “The Boy From Oz,’ took over after Taymor’s exit. He’s in a tough position as he tries to get the record-settling $70 million musical back on track. Many working on the show refer to McKinley as “Spider Doc” as he tries to fix the production that critics complained suffered from muddy plots and half-baked characters. He’s also working on improving safety issues around the high-wire stunts that sent several cast members to the hospital with cracked ribs, broken feet and internal bleeding.
Both Bono and the Edge hope that “Spider-Man’ brings future success that validates Taymor’s passion. “Julie is an incredible artist, really a very gifted girl. It’s a shame she’s not with us to see it to its conclusion, because a lot of what’s magic about it is hers.”