I never saw Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. My only knowledge of the show was that there were many injuries surrounding the show. The show closed several years ago and never really crossed my radar after that. That is until the book Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History came to my attention. Published in 2013, it was written by Glen Berger, the co-writer of the show, and is a tell-all book that reveals what happened behind the scenes of the now infamous musical.
This book gives attention to what really happened behind the scenes of the show, not just what Michael Riedel printed in his column in The New York Post. From the very beginning stages to the injuries, to the eventual opening after 182 previews. The book also proves something that some critics thought wasn't true after seeing Turn Off the Dark -- that Berger can tell a good story.
Well paced and well written, reading Berger's memories of the production feels like talking to an old friend. Because the story is told from his perspective, it allows the reader to get inside his head through the whole creative process. And here's the big thing: it doesn't make excuses or try to justify aspects of the show. It simply recounts what happened behind closed doors, in tech rehearsals, and more; as well as discussing the toll it took on Berger himself. It's engaging and also a warning. Things can fail spectacularly. And while the show did end up running for over 1,000 performances (something even critically acclaimed shows don't achieve), it failed to make back the $75 million investment that was poured into the show, a number that no other show has come close to since. However the show's reputation and the story surrounding it are both things that everyone can wonder at.
Interestingly enough, the book initially went into production in mid-2013, while the production did not close until January of 2014. In the New York Times article that was published the day after the show closed it was noted that Berger was the only member of the original creative team to attend the final performance. And that speaks to Berger's passion. While the years he spent working on the show are the main things reflected in the book, a question he says he was frequently asked is why he didn't step away. And while not explicitly stated, it is evident that this show became a massive part of his life in all possible ways, as it did for everyone who stepped foot into the Foxwoods Theater (now known as the Lyric) as a part of the cast or creative team. Indeed, Joe Allen's released a statement saying they would not put a poster from the show on their wall with other Broadway flops, as it ran for three years and provided steady employment to people in the theater community. And while the musical may now be infamous and controversial, the show itself and Berger's book achieve two things. The first, to warn future creators of what could happen to a show. And the second, to show the good that can comes out of a show despite the behind-the-scenes drama: employment for many actors, and touching the hearts of many.