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Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Glen Berger

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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

Song of Spider Man

1

It’s Just a Play


The four drinks I knocked back on an empty stomach in the empty VIP room were finally kicking in. The conversations around me in the crowded lobby had become amplified and muffled, like I was floating in a diving bell surrounded by a lot of classy-looking fish. Fine. Just so long as I didn’t have to talk to any of them. Any moment now, the lights were going to blink, and then we’d have to take our seats, and I’d be saved. Except, no, I’d still be screwed. Because there wasn’t a drug in the world that would make sitting through the show tonight anything but unremitting torture.

We were already thirty minutes behind schedule. They were holding the curtain because everyone was having such a fine time gabbing with each other. So I had to come up with a plan because hiding would be pathetic, but people were going to try to talk to me, or worse—congratulate me. It was opening night. And I was the cowriter. Giant letters spelled out my name on that building-sized sign out front. So congratulating me would seem like the thing to do. But this show was a special case, and I was a special case in this special case, and so collecting “congratulations” was like collecting a pile of wet socks.

Of course, I imagined it was a hundred times worse for her. And, oh man, how the two of us yattered so eagerly about this night once upon a time. To think there was a time when—no, I couldn’t think about any of that—I just had to walk purposefully and no one would stop me to talk. So I sidled past Bill Clinton and Lou Reed, Salman Rushdie, John McEnroe—it was like being trapped in an updated version of the Sgt. Pepper album cover. I figured I’d be fine so long as I didn’t run into her, because I wouldn’t know what to say. But I ran into someone else, and he immediately walked away which, like a sliding set piece, revealed . . . her. And I didn’t know what to say.

Julie Taymor. She was standing near the doors that led out to Forty-third Street. She wasn’t going to come at all tonight, which was boggling. Yet understandable. And, in being understandable, even more boggling. It had been three months since I’d last seen her, and the rush of old, cozy feelings smacked against The New Reality, and the impact made me just sick.

Even now, I carry the dream with me every day—to make up with her. So it all can be as sunny as it once was. Publishing a book detailing our six years together might not be the most effective way to achieve that. In fact, I was warned not to write about any of this. But I can’t help it—it’s a story, and that’s what we do with stories. We tell them. In fact, this whole book is a story about storytelling—the story of an epic attempt by earnest human beings to tell a story and to tell that story brilliantly. Only, there’s this:

Before something can be brilliant, it first has to be competent.

—from My List of Lessons Learned

One should probably begin the story of the making and remaking of a Broadway musical about Spider-Man with that hallowed day in 1962 when Stan Lee, along with illustrator Steve Ditko, came up with The Big Idea: Bullied high schooler acquires spider powers.

It’s a trim little setup. And just different enough to be revolutionary. Not only was this teenaged Peter Parker suddenly burdened with “great responsibilities,” he still had to run the every-day gauntlet every teenager has to run—the social troubles, the money troubles, the dermatological troubles . . .

A comic-book panel would depict a publisher sitting behind a cluttered desk in the cramped Madison Avenue offices of Marvel Comics staring at a sketch of a figure wearing a bodysuit covered in webbing. Lee and Ditko would be standing on the other side of the desk, looking on expectantly. The publisher would be looking . . . doubtful.

“Several months later . . .” would read the caption in our next panel. Lee and Ditko’s new superhero is swinging with a hoodlum under his arm on the cover of Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy #15. It’s our webslinger’s debut, and it’s in the final issue of an anthology series already slotted to be canceled. That’s how dubious the publisher was of this new “spider-man” idea.

The next comic-book panel would flash us forward forty years. It would be a split screen depicting the gleaming offices of media giant Marvel Entertainment on one side and the makeshift office of two almost-entirely-untested Broadway producers on the other. The producers are being informed via phone that they’ve just been granted the rights to make a musical out of Marvel’s most treasured property: Spider-Man. Exclamation points shine above the producers’ heads.

But if this is a story about storytelling cast through the prism of Spider-Man the Musical, then maybe we should be starting fifty-thousand years ago, back in a time when the world was teeming with Paleolithic ceremonies featuring singing, dancing, and human characters endowed with animal powers. In a large, single-paneled splash page, we would see two prehistoric figures arguing over just how their musical performance is supposed to go. On their hairy faces—anger, exasperation. Why? Because collaboration, by definition, requires humans to interact with each other. Which means every moment in a collaboration quivers with the potential for transcendental connection. And also fury, and hair-tearing frustration, and silences as icy as distant planets. Just look at Lee and Ditko. You think they had a falling-out? Of course they had a falling-out.

Another scene to ink and color: a twenty-first-century living room, somewhere in the United States, or Sweden, or South America. Children have commandeered couch cushions and bathrobes. One of them is pretending to be Spider-Man. By the looks of it, their pretending includes a large cast of characters and an elaborate plot.

Storytelling. It’s what homo sapiens do. We do it as automatically as a pancreas produces insulin. We’re compelled to codify otherwise-random events into cause and effect. Into patterns. Into narrative. It’s a drive that in part makes humans so human. And it’s a hunger that drove the creators of this confounded musical (as well as its audiences) into spasms of excitement, disappointment, and a few dozen other emotions as the show careened down the long road to its much-delayed opening night.

And it’s why my last comic-book panel would depict a scene from opening night. I would draw it in an emo-manga style, with a smudged, cocktail-sipping crowd in the background. In the foreground, a woman with flowing hair framing sad-smiling eyes is regarding the addled-looking man in front of her. The man’s heart is on his sleeve, his tongue is in a knot, and in the banner at the top of the panel, that poor schmuck’s thoughts from over a year later are revealed:

I loved her. I still do.

With heart-scarred bewilderment,

I love her. . . .

And the thing of it is . . . she despises me.

Julie Taymor despises me with photograph-shredding rage. Or so I hear. Though maybe by now she’s past caring. After all, it’s been thirty months since that last phone call; that last lit match on a kerosene-doused relationship, six years of collaboration KAFWOOOSH! . . .

Sure, yes, maybe she’s moved on. But I doubt it. While I was writing this book, teams of lawyers were busy submitting suits and countersuits. Among other demands, Julie wanted half of my money. And I wasn’t about to give it to her.

Here’s what happened. . . .

Or—wait—let me say one more thing first.

I am aware—I really am—that the following pages contain metaphors more appropriate for an account of an amputation tent in the Crimean War; adjectives best saved for the Apollo space program or the Bataan Death March. Next to events of actual weight, I know this whole thing sounds self-important as hell.

That said, for those who lived through this odyssey, very high stakes were involved, and very real costs were exacted, and I wouldn’t want to minimize that fact. And so it is with simultaneous irony, bitterness, and innocent awe that I state this (because I know it, but I’m going to forget it):

This book? It’s about a play.

Just a play.

Just a fucking play.

Okay. Here’s what happened. . . .

Revue de presse

“An absorbing… account of one of show biz's more bizarre real-life adventures.” (USA Today)

“Mr. Berger knows how to write, and he can tell a good story.” (New York Times)

“Juicy and entertaining…” (Entertainment Weekly)

"Hilarious and engrossing. . .” (Miami Herald-Tribune)

“Self-deprecating, funny, wise… and more than a little wistful…” (American Theatre Magazine)

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark turned out to be a dud, but Berger’s book is one of the best recent accounts of the making and unmaking of a big Broadway show.” (Connecticut Post)

“This book should be required reading for all theater students.” (TheaterMania.com)

“This juicy memoir offers up the requisite dirt to make a satisfying read for Broadway carrions and disaster junkies alike….” (TheaterMania.com)

“An entertaining tell-all about this infamous musical that, in the fall of 2010, made headlines almost every day…. an accurate and candid account.” (New York Post)

“[A] captivating new tell-all….a fascinating conflict between art and commerce, ideology and reality, and friends-turned-enemies….If you only know Turn Off the Dark for the countless jokes it spawned, illuminate yourself to the true story of what happened. It's more funny and strange than you could have possibly imagined.” (Topless Robot)

“[Berger] packs six years’ worth of unbearable turmoil into 384 vastly readable pages. The result should be required reading for not only theater majors, but business majors in colleges nationwide….SONG OF SPIDER-MAN is an eye-opener, even for those who followed the press closely.” (Bookgasm.com)

“An additive tell-all… [Berger’s] a damn fine story-teller." (Word and Film)

"A truly remarkable book." (Reviews Gate)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3042 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 385 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 1451684576
  • Editeur : Simon & Schuster; Édition : Reprint (5 novembre 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00BSB2C2O
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°654.533 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires en ligne

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  80 commentaires
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Caught in the Web 6 novembre 2013
Par Eric - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
After reading all those articles about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark in the newspapers I couldn’t wait to find out what really happened with that ill-fated Broadway musical. Reading Berger's book did not disappoint. On the contrary, it surpassed my expectations. It is highly informative and insightful, especially in regard to all the intricacies, intrigues and complexities that accompanied this high caliber production from its inception to the long awaited opening night. I was fascinated by the many unexpected turns of events, which made me wonder if, in fact, there is such a thing as providence – some divine or nefarious intervention that goes beyond mere luck or chance. Apart from a great story, told with skill and humor, I found Song of Spider-Man full of life lessons which gave me pause to ponder. It’s an important discourse on Trust and Communication, which holds true in any situation where human beings have to work together, whether it’s in the theater, in business, politics or in the grand institution of life. I couldn’t put the book down.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Five star book about a one star musical 17 novembre 2013
Par Hal Jordan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Glen Berger is the co-author of the "book" -- the words other than the song lyrics -- for the Broadway musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. He stuck with the play through more than six years of drafts, rewrites, the firing of superstar director Julie Taymor, the complete revamping of the show, and -- finally -- the relative success of the new version.

I saw the original version of Spider-Man and it was, by far, the worst experience I have ever had in a theater. The plot was incoherent, the music (by Bono and The Edge of U2) was mediocre -- and the lyrics were often unintelligible because of the muddy sound system -- the attempts at humor fell flat, and the attempts at transmitting a message fell even flatter. Berger was clearly responsible for some of these problems … and yet, he has written a terrific book about his experiences.

I'm not sure what I was expecting -- probably a hatchet job laying all of the blame on Taymor -- but what I got was a funny, insightful, candid, honest, even-handed attempt to make sense of his long experience with this play. Sure Taymor comes off as a bit of an inflexible egomaniac -- and her tendency to blow up at the expense of assistant set directors and the like, is very unappealing -- but Berger bends over backward to play it straight, and, at least as far as I can see, he succeeds.

Clearly, Berger should be kept far away from writing Broadway musicals, by the use of machine gun nests backed up by drones, if necessary. But he should be encouraged to write more first-person nonfiction. I don't know what else he has done in his life that he can write about, but on the basis of this book, I would be happy to read his account of walking his dog and brushing his teeth. If you have an interest in Broadway musicals, the theater in general, or just this particular, much discussed, show, you will love this book. I would give it 10 stars if I could.

Final point: The book is remarkably free of glitches. There are a couple of minuscule things: He changes someone's age within a couple of paragraphs and he apparently doesn't know the difference between an editorial (written by the editors of a newspaper) and an op-ed (written by an invited contributor). But the book is mercifully free of the typos, omitted words, repetitions of whole paragraphs within a few pages, and other problems that plague modern publishing. Maybe he had a good editor, but given the sorry state of modern publishing, I would guess he actually took the time to proofread the book. Who would think we would have gotten to the point that doing so would merit praise?

Final, final point: His last name is Berger; his wife's last name is Almquist. Their kids have the last name of Bergquist. How neat is that?
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Better Than It Has Any Right to Be! 9 novembre 2013
Par C. Gaines - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I have never seen Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The first person I knew who had seen Spider-Man was actually present during the infamous December 20, 2010 preview performance when an actor fell 30 feet into the pit in front of the stage during a botched stunt. Like most people, I followed the weekly horrors of our favorite neighborhood Spider-Man in those early days with a nearly sick since of delight and a large helping of schadenfreude. Who thought this would be a good idea in the first place?

Glen Berger's book, honestly, is about a million times better than it has any right to be. I mean that in a positive sense, because after all, he's writing about a show (as he astutely points out in the first chapter). That's it. Just a show. However, through his narrative style (which, I will admit, took a bit of time to get used to), his frequent, but significant, diversions and allusions, as well as his almost frighteningly specific recollections of every thought and feeling he must have had during his six year long chronology with the musical, I am presently more interested in seeing this show than I had ever been! The fact that the show is still running three years after it's first flawed preview performance is a testament to something -- or, perhaps more accurately, a lot of somethings -- and since I missed the first iteration of the show, I am now looking forward to not missing the current one.

Having never seen the musical, I wasn't sure how accessible the book would be. Luckily, it was extremely. Additionally, all of the early buzz on the book was that it was a "tell-all" (perhaps, sure, it is...) and that Julie Taymor was raked over hot coals in the book (she will probably feel that she was, but I, however, didn't really feel that way). However, the book isn't quite as sensational as some journalists would like you to believe. It's an "airing out the dirty laundry" book, sure, but it's presented fairly by Berger for what it is: one man's account in the eye of the storm. Reading it through that lense, and knowing that others in the eye might have their own perspectives, made it easy for me to digest this narrative. These are Berger's facts (heavily corroborated with emails and journalistic reports sprinkled throughout), and I sincerely found myself captivated while reading them.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An insightful, pleasure to read page-turner 14 novembre 2013
Par Heyace - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Everyone's heard the story in the press. Here's the story from an insider who saw it all go down.

Reasons I enjoyed it:

First off, Mr. Berger writes an entertaining story. We already know what's going to happen because we all saw it play out in the press, so he concentrates on the little details that keep you hooked, like a little quip from Bono, or an insightful moment from Taymor, or his own willful disregard of his better instincts. Each one catapults you to the next.

Second, he doesn't come off as the hero. Far from it. I think when he "mealymouth"'s his support for Plan X (the third or fourth plan to fix the musical from Taymor's initial staging) he comes off as the polar opposite of the Tony-winning Taymor who can make snap decisions that are 95% of the time brilliant. He comes off as one of those people who bitch behind the scenes but don't have the courage of their convictions.

Third, he's funny. There's some laugh out loud moments in this book. It's not the content that makes you laugh (unless you find disaster funny) it's his style and references. I was thinking how his situation was so like "Bullets Over Broadway" just seconds before he pointed out how his situation was just like Bullets Over Broadway. There were dozens of these moments in the book.

Fourth, if you've ever done theatre, at any level, you'll appreciate what's going on here. Dictatorial direction, sudden deaths, pushing changes right up to curtain time, egos that run rampant, temperamental actors, yearning for transcendence but not able to transcend, it's all here, writ large, as large as it gets. He couldn't have had a bigger canvas, and he covers it all.

Fifth, although this may have been his own way of creating sympathy for himself (who knows?) I found his self doubt and introspection a nice counterpoint to the narrative, which moves right along with no breathers. Perhaps this was all in his head, or in retrospect. Doesn't matter, it worked.

Finally, the book-long tension on the subject of loyalty was the real prize here. No spoilers, but it plays all the way through the epilogue, so be sure you read it all. If you've ever had the opportunity to work with people who are truly brilliant (like Taymor, Bono, Edge) imagine what would happen when the boat splits in half and you have to figure out where your loyalties lie. It's enough to make you depressed, ill, or worse. To the author's credit, it hurts but it never makes you want to put the book down.

Awesome read. Fun subject, great characters, a happy ending (sort of). If you're the kind of person who enjoys watching train wrecks or disaster videos, this is for you. But it also has redemption in it, in a way that isn't simple or compartmentalized or predictable, so there's more depth here than you might expect.

Recommended.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 The problems with this book are a microcosm of the problems with the musical. 3 décembre 2014
Par S.P. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
The underlying story is fascinating, a cautionary tale of artists run amok while costs, bad decisions, and injuries continue to pile up. However, the author's self-indulgent writing style embodies the kind of unchecked artistic vision that plagued the production. That may not be a deal-breaker for every reader, but I found it insufferable at times, and it disrupted the flow of the book for me.

Berger dismisses the executives from Marvel (who question the direction of the story) as "the suits," even though the book makes it clear that the production desperately needed an adult- someone who was willing to set boundaries for Julie Taymor and the creative team. Likewise, this book needs an editor who will rein in the author's fawning idol worship of Taymor and the little side references and tangents that plague the book. He is clearly in awe of her, at times suggesting an almost romantic love. This idealization results in a biased point of view that idealizes every nuance of Taymor's personality and decision making. Berger presents himself as almost obtuse in his naivete, at times taking a tortured path to justify Taymor's decisions or frame them as them as the complex thinking of an artist, as he does in this example about her decision to name him in her lawsuit:

"Of course, suing me wasn't about the money. The amount she was seeking from me was the equivalent to what she made in royalties every four or five days from The Lion King. No-- she sued me because the deepest yearning in an artist is the desire to communicate. And revenge is communication. Only instead of thoughts , or a spectrum of emotions, you're conveying pain. You're communicating your pain to the people you believe caused you this pain so that they can understand it in their bones. And rather than with words, or paint, or music, the medium of revenge is violence-- the infliction of a physical or psychic wound."

The story sometimes glosses over key events or chunks of time while lingering lovingly of the nuances of Taymor's personality. Berger dedicates fewer words to the accident that ended a young dancer's career and resulted in the partial amputation of the dancer's foot than he dedicates to a theory that the hours of tech spent indulging Taymor's obsession with minute differences in lighting hues isn't insanity, but evidence of the possibility that she might be a tetrachromat (a still largely hypothetical idea that some women may have an extra type of cone in their eyes that allows them to distinguish between colors the rest of us find identical). In some ways, Berger's cult-like support of Taymor is even more absurd than Taymor's behavior.

Berger's inability to focus his narrative is almost as frustrating as his idol worship of Taymor. The narrative jumps through time and space and between actual events and Berger's imagination (he often writes as if he knows exactly and in great detail what Taymor is thinking at a given point in the story, even when he would have no way of knowing). The narrative of the production is complex and interesting enough without Berger evoking mastodons in a prehistoric Times Square or Taymor's life changing revelations on the edge of an active volcano.

The contrast is sharp between the ephemeral whims of the "creatives" and the real world implications of their hubris. By some estimates, the $65 million production generated more than a quarter billion dollars in grosses, but investors still lost about $60 million. Many actors and dancers were injured, some seriously. It's easy to be the spoiled "artiste" when you're spending other people's money and no one holds you accountable for the end result. None of the key players are sympathetic in this book. It feels like a modern day version of "The Emperor's New Clothes", but Berger isn't in on the twist.

It's worth slogging through the painful writing for an engrossing story. But the book would have been so much better written by a more neutral party.
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