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12:45pm Update: Producers Say Taymor to 'Step Down' from SPIDER-MAN


Patrick Healy in the New York Times is now reporting that lead producer Michael Cohl has 'told at least two investors and one other person involved with the Broadway musical that its director Julie Taymor, will step aside once negotiations about complex contractual matters like her creative legal rights and her considerable financial stake in any profits are concluded.'

BroadwayWorld.com has just checked with a source close to Taymor, who tells us that legal negotiations are now occurring, regarding credit, the various union protections that she's entitled to (as director, co-bookwriter and for her design credits), and a share of future royalties amongst other complicated contractual issues. These talks are said to be proceeding on a professional basis, while Taymor herself is 'extremely disappointed and deeply distressed' about the current turn of events. They believe that at the conclusion of these negotiations, she will indeed depart the production. 

Earlier today others added to the trickle of information leaking out of the production, with Michael Riedel in the New York Post reporting that Christopher Ashley (Memphis, Xanadu, All Shook Up, The Rocky Horror Show) is likely to take over direction duties from Julie Taymor. Riedel reports that it's unknown if she will continue with the production in some capacity, take a break and return or what as negotiations are still ongoing. He pegs the hiatus as 4-6 weeks, to begin at the end of April, but also notes that the sheer technical complexity of the production will make large scale changes difficult. 

Additionally, the Daily News reported (in a story oddly attributed to its theatre critic, Joe Dziemianowicz and two reporters) that "Taymor, 58, has walked away from the show she co-wrote and worked relentlessly to bring to Broadway, a source close to the production said Tuesday night. "Taymor is out. She's left the building," the source told The News."

Sources tell BroadwayWorld.com that behind the scenes talks have been 'making progess' and that the cast, which has not been made aware yet of the specifics, has been told to expect that announcement to come tomorrow (Wednesday) as was promised on Friday. All the involved players have been involved in complex, and closed door sessions.

We're told that with now under 7 days remaining until the show's currently scheduled opening on March 15th, that everyone involved is feeling 'intense pressure' to reveal to the cast, crew, family members and out of town guests who have booked trips (and rescheduled multiple times each time the opening has been delayed) what the next steps will be for the musical sooner rather than later. It's expected by those involved that the announcement will at minimum include the widely speculated delay of any sort of official opening until June. The production would then make March 15th a celebration and thank you to the company and crew for the massive amounts of rehearsal and work on the show since it began previews on November 28, 2010. 

BroadwayWorld.com exclusively reported details on Friday from an email from the show's producers, Michael Cohl and Jere Harris, that went out to the cast and crew. That email thanked the cast for their patience, support and dedication during 'trying times' and noted that they are aware they're at a pivotal moment in the show's history and will be 'making some very difficult choices,' the results of which will be 'revealed by the middle of next week'.

On Monday night, the New York Times reported that discussions and negotiations are underway for director and co-bookwriter Julie Taymor to either 'work with a newly expanded creative team to fix the critically derided $65 million musical or to possibly leave the show.' The paper sources all of this to anonymous sources as the producers have insisted that the talks are private, but they do note that for the first time Bono himself is directly involved in the negotiations.

As to the possibilities of Taymor departing or accepting help, they note that as of Monday night, 'they were not sure if Ms. Taymor would stay or go as director' and that 'The names of multiple directors, choreographers and playwrights have been ricocheting around the Broadway community for days now. It was not clear on Monday who would be hired.'

After five delays, the show is currently scheduled to open on March 15th, 2011, but it now seems likely that the show will likely be delayed again, possibly to June of 2011. A delay past April 28th would make it inelligible for this year's Tony Awards.

Word went out last week that Bono, who wrote the music and lyrics for SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK attended the show last Tuesday night to analyze the musical's progress since he last attended the production to lend his help in January, along with rumors over the last weeks (denied by the production) that they were bringing on additional team members for the book/direction. As for whether the producers would delay the opening of the show yet again, spokesperson Rick Miramontez, said earlier this week that "all decisions are made as a group."

We checked with other members of the media, who traditionally would have received officially reviewers invitations by now to see one of the show's final previews and none had yet received them. Requests for a comment went unanswered as of this story's publication.

The show features direction by Tony® Award-winner Julie Taymor (The Tempest, Across The Universe, The Lion King), music and lyrics by 22-time Grammy® Award-winners Bono and The Edge, a book co-written by Taymor and Glen Berger (Underneath The Lintel) and one of the most iconic title characters of all time, SPIDER-MAN.


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