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Friday October 19, 2018

Teachout Tells Taymor to Stop Blaming Social Media for Spider-Man Musical

In a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, theater critic (and avid Twitter user) Terry Teachout takes aim at the recent comments made by director Julie Taymor, who said that her recent firing from the troubled Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” was a result of negative publicity stemming from Twitter and Facebook comments given by audience members who saw the show in previews.

Teachout calls her complaint “self-serving and ill-informed,” as  social media word of mouth about a show in development is no different than it has been on Broadway since musicals started doing previews.  He cites the example of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” which conducted a tryout in Boston before it opened on Broadway in 1971. As a result of the Boston critics reviews of the show, it was extensively revised and as Teachout explains, “many of those revisions reflected the responses of the people who saw it there. Mr. Sondheim, for instance, wrote two new songs in Boston, one of which, “I’m Still Here,” is now the show’s best-known number.”

The only difference from the days of “Follies” is the medium itself, that Twitter, Facebook and online message boards have accelerated word of mouth, but much like the Boston critics, a good portion of the early social media feedback on “Spider-Man” came from well-known critics and commentators, not just from “furious fanboys.”

Ultimately, Teachout wishes that Taymor would stop blaming Twitter for the mediocrity of “Spider-Man” and instead take some of the blame herself, or as he puts it, “for her to blame the failure of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Twitter is as wrong-headed as blaming a Dear John letter on the envelope in which it was sent.”

The Wall Street Journal