The Playbill Vault Celebrates Tony Award Winner Julie Taymor
By Megan Dekic
Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor celebrates her birthday Dec. 15. To mark the occasion, the Playbill Vault looks back on her Broadway stage career.
Taymor made her Broadway directorial debut with 1996's Juan Darien, about a jaguar cub who transforms into a boy in the South American jungle. She co-wrote the mythic musical fable with Elliot Goldenthal, who created the show's Tony-nominated score.
Taymor collaborated with G. W. Mercier to design the production's elaborate sets and costumes, and she also served as puppet and mask designer. Theatre critic Ben Brantley commended the show's visual feats and accomplishments. Taymor "knows how to catch her audience off guard with inspired shifts of scale and perspective," he wrote in his New York Times review, "and there are times when you may feel exhilaratingly like Alice falling down Wonderland's rabbit hole."
Juan Darien was first seen in New York in a brief engagement presented by the Music-Theatre Group in 1988, and later ran Off-Broadway at St. Clement's Church in 1989. Its Broadway mounting opened Nov. 24, 1996, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, where it ran for 49 performances. The production received five Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical.
Taymor is perhaps most widely known for directing the award-winning and wildly successful musical The Lion King. Once again, she used innovative puppetry and lavish sets and costumes to bring the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name to life on stage.
The production opened Nov. 13, 1997, at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The opening-night cast featured Samuel E. Wright as Mufasa, John Vickery as Scar, Jason Raize as Simba and Heather Headley as Nala. The show was crowned Best Musical at the 1998 Tony Awards, and Taymor won Tonys for Costume Design and Direction of a Musical. She holds the distinction of being the first woman to win a Tony for directing a musical.
The Lion King, which transferred to the Minskoff Theatre in 2006, recently became the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history, surpassing Les Misérables. It is currently the highest-grossing Broadway show of all time.
In 2000, Taymor brought her otherwordly vision and creative puppetry to Broadway again with The Green Bird, Carlo Gozzi's adaptation of an 18th-century Italian fable about a prince trapped inside a bird. Featuring music by Elliot Goldenthal, the production opened at the Cort Theatre April 18, 2000.
The New York Times' Ben Brantley praised featured actor Derek Smith's performance and found Taymor's work visually stunning, but noted that the production was "tedious" at times, comparing it to an "an oversize art gallery where the pictures are ravishing but there's a lot of bare wall between them."
In 2007 it was reported that Taymor was selected to direct a musical adaptation of Marvel's Spider-Man comics. She collaborated with Glen Berger to write the book for Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, and music was provided by U2's Bono and The Edge. The musical began previews at Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre on Nov. 28, 2010.
Taymor stepped down as director of Spider-Man in March 2011, citing creative differences with the show's producers. Creative consultant Philip William McKinley and book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa were brought in to rework the show.
Following a now-famous lengthy and troubled preview period, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark officially opened June 14, 2011. With 182 previews, it holds the record for the longest preview period of all time.
Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark currently stars Justin Matthew Sargent as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Rebecca Faulkenberry as Mary Jane Watson and Robert Cuccioli as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. It is scheduled to close on Broadway Jan. 4, 2014.
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