Rise Above: An Intro to Designing Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

Photo Jacob Cohl

Oh, what a tangled web Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has woven. The most hotly anticipated Broadway musical of the 2010-2011 season instead opened the 2011-2012 one on June 14, after a record-setting number of preview performances (182) at the Foxwoods Theatre, highly publicized accidents, a change in direction and a subsequent three-week shutdown for revisions this spring, and an ever-ballooning budget, all relayed on the (worldwide) web as the work in progress generated international headlines. Read all about it on Wikipedia, etc. Suffice it to say that a joke about the show's finances actually made it into the finished production. “I'm a $65 million circus tragedy,” wails the villainous Green Goblin at one point. “Well, more like $75 million.”

That $75 million is three times as much as Broadway's previous record holder, Shrek the Musical, or so it's said. Yet it's up there on the stage, or, more precisely, above the stage, around the theatre, and over your head, as Spider-Man (and his stunt doubles) save New York from Goblin-generated disaster and wins the heart of Mary Jane Watson, via some tricky airborne maneuvers conceived and executed by aerial designer Scott Rogers and aerial rigging designer Jaque Paquin, and performed on aerial effects equipment provided by Fisher Technical Services Inc.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a newfangled fusion of theatrical extravaganza, pop opera, and rock ‘n' roll circus, with music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge (who had the idea for a Spidey production around the time the Marvel mainstay first ensnared moviegoers in 2002) and credits that eventually morphed into the following configuration: original direction by Julie Taymor, of The Lion King fame, creative consultant Philip Wm. McKinley (The Boy from Oz), and book by Taymor, Glen Berger, and Roberto Aguirre–Sacasa. (Its chief producers are concert touring impresario Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris, the founder and chairman/CEO of entertainment technology supplier Production Resource Group.

But aerial acrobatics aren't all that's keeping Spider-Man aloft. He had considerable help from a design team that worked tirelessly on the production for four years, including set designer George Tsypin, lighting designer Don Holder, costume designer Eiko Ishioka, projection design by Kyle Cooper and Howard Werner, and sound by Peter Hylenski and Jonathan Deans.

What you'll find within this microsite are extensive details—stories, photos, sketches, plots, video--on how these and myriad other artisans built the show from the ground up. Ace reporters Robert Cashill and Ellen Lampert-Gréaux contributed many of these stories.

Check back often: we'll be adding new content regularly for the next two months.

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