U2 bringing Spider-Man musical to Broadway — Can this superhero conquer the Tonys?
Bono and the Edge of U2 are the latest mainstream musicians to pen songs for a Broadway show. They have teamed up with visionary director Julie Taymor to bring "Spider-Man" to Broadway next year. The show — titled "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" — will tell the story of the superhero's origins. Beyond that there is no word as to which villains will appear, nor is there any official news of casting, though Evan Rachel Wood ("The Wrestler") may be starring.
While this will be the first legit musical for these 22-time Grammy Award winners, they are in capable hands with Julie Taymor. Back in 1997, she transformed the Disney animated film "The Lion King" into a dazzling stage musical that is still running on Broadway. The show won six 1998 Tony Awards, including best musical, and Taymor became the first woman to win for directing a musical.
However, Elton John and Tim Rice — who won the 1994 Oscar for the film's love song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" — lost the score award to Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens ("Ragtime"). They won this award two years later for "Aida." Though that show ran four years, John's next musical, "Lestat" — which reunited him with long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin — ran only four weeks in 2006. However, this season John is back on Broadway with the smash hit "Billy Elliot," which could well pull sweep the Tony Awards this June.
When other popular musicmakers have come to Broadway with new or improved works, they have usually landed at least a Tony Award nomination. For 1993's "Tommy," Pete Townshend tied with Broadway veterans John Kander and Fred Ebb ("The Kiss of the Spiderwoman") for the score award. Paul Simon also competed for that 1998 score award with lyricist Derek Walcott for the critically dismissed "The Capeman." In 2002, Harry Connick, Jr. was nominated for "Thou Shalt Not" but lost to Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan, who came up with additional tunes for best musical champ "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Though "Taboo" was a 2004 flop, Boy George did contend for his score — he lost to Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who wrote the songs for best musical winner "Avenue Q." And last season, singer-songwriter Stew lost the score award to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and starred in best musical winner "In the Heights" but won the best book award for "Passing Strange."
However, the road to success on Broadway is littered with flops based on hit song catalogs. Just three seasons ago, the success of "Jersey Boys" — a musical biography told through the songs of the Four Seasons that swept the 2006 Tony Awards — spawned a trio of misfires: "All Shook Up" (using the music of Elvis Presley), "Good Vibrations" (Beach Boys) and "Imagine" (John Lennon). Even acclaimed director-choreographer Twyla Tharp, who scored a hit in 2003 with "Movin' Out" — a dance musical set to the songs of Billy Joel — flopped with her 2006 follow-up "The Times They Are A-Changin,' " based on the music of Bob Dylan.
Photo: Marvel Comics