A Tangled Web: Spider-Man's Glen Berger on Broadway, Critics and Backstage Drama

By Steven Suskin
29 Dec 2013

Cover art

SS: Spider-Man was roughly handled by the press. What was your reaction when many of the critics insisted on reviewing the show at the time of the originally announced February opening date?

GB: Certainly on one level everybody was thinking, that's not fair. On another level, there was a sense that — well, they're going to do what they're going to. If we're not ready yet, that was the risk we took when we didn't do an out-of-town tryout. We felt they should cut us some slack. But this is show business. Who cuts people slack? That's the nature of the beast.

SS: Is there any of the cut material that you especially miss?

GB: I miss the song "Think Again," which Arachne sang. It was a real powerful barnburner of a song. This Spider-woman was flying over your head, leaping off the balcony, and the song contained vengeful energy that would have added a whole 'nother color to the show. For reasons that were not necessarily incorrect, we had to drop it.

SS: What about the infamous "shoe" number, "Deeply Furious," which was cut midway through previews?

GB: The original idea of the shoe number was that it was going to be a kind of fun tap dance, but instead of two legs you had eight-legged tap dancers. It was a little moment in the show where we take a breather before we go into the finale — kind of a dark, fun, flip side to "Shipoopi" [from The Music Man]. It wasn't supposed to be this totally weird and confusing phantasmagoric problematic moment. One of the problems was that the original puppets — the extra legs — were too cumbersome; it limited the choreography. Another problem was that the original demo had this great tune, but it was one person — Bono — singing it. As soon as you added a number of voices to it, and instead of a male voice it was female voices, it didn't sound as good. On every level, it wasn't what we originally intended. But it seems that everybody who had the privilege of seeing it will go to their graves with it seared on their brains.

SS: When the show officially opened on June 14, 2011, did you feel that the problems had been fixed?

GB: I felt that the show in this form was going to have more of a life, whereas it wouldn't if it had remained in its original form. I think there were certain realities that showed up once we hit previews, certain technology that just wasn't going to be available to us, certain narrative necessities that we weren't going to be able to put across to the audience. Consequently, it became evident that the show had to change to meet with those realities.

SS: At what point did you realize that the show was not going to be another hit like The Lion King or Wicked?

GB: I think probably in tech, I realized it wasn't The Lion King. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I had suspicions. After a few weeks of previews, I truly began to worry about its long-term viability.

View the Entire Photo Gallery
T.V. Carpio, Reeve Carney, Jennifer Damiano, Patrick Page, Michael Mulheren and cast
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN