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Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History Hardcover – November 5, 2013
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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“An absorbing… account of one of show biz's more bizarre real-life adventures.” (USA Today)
“Mr. Berger knows how to write, and he can tell a good story.” (New York Times)
“Juicy and entertaining…” (Entertainment Weekly)
"Hilarious and engrossing. . .” (Miami Herald-Tribune)
“Self-deprecating, funny, wise… and more than a little wistful…” (American Theatre Magazine)
“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark turned out to be a dud, but Berger’s book is one of the best recent accounts of the making and unmaking of a big Broadway show.” (Connecticut Post)
“This book should be required reading for all theater students.” (TheaterMania.com)
“This juicy memoir offers up the requisite dirt to make a satisfying read for Broadway carrions and disaster junkies alike….” (TheaterMania.com)
“An entertaining tell-all about this infamous musical that, in the fall of 2010, made headlines almost every day…. an accurate and candid account.” (New York Post)
“[A] captivating new tell-all….a fascinating conflict between art and commerce, ideology and reality, and friends-turned-enemies….If you only know Turn Off the Dark for the countless jokes it spawned, illuminate yourself to the true story of what happened. It's more funny and strange than you could have possibly imagined.” (Topless Robot)
“[Berger] packs six years’ worth of unbearable turmoil into 384 vastly readable pages. The result should be required reading for not only theater majors, but business majors in colleges nationwide….SONG OF SPIDER-MAN is an eye-opener, even for those who followed the press closely.” (Bookgasm.com)
“An addictive tell-all… [Berger’s] a damn fine story-teller." (Word and Film)
"A truly remarkable book." (Reviews Gate)
About the Author
Glen Berger cut his teeth at Seattle’s Annex Theatre back in the ’90s. His plays since then include Underneath the Lintel, which has been staged more than two hundred times worldwide, been translated into eight languages, and won several Best Play awards; and O Lovely Glowworm, a 2005 Portland Drammy Award Winner for Best Script. He is a New Dramatists alumnus. In television, Glen has won two Emmys (out of twelve nominations), and has written more than 150 episodes for children’s television series including Arthur (PBS), Peep (Discovery/The Learning Channel), Big and Small (BBC), and Fetch (PBS), for which he was the head writer for all five years of its run. Glen spent six years cowriting the script of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
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Top customer reviews
The joy of this book is the gossipy behind the scenes aspect of it. Glen Berger is unabashed in giving the reader the truth behind the creative process that is always very carefully hidden from public view. The angles, backhandedness, and just general childishness that many of the text's key players display are mind boggling to read. You keep plowing through the book because you partially cannot believe what you are reading.
Mr. Berger is clearly very well read and his style is engaging, but one of the text's issues are the constant literary allusions strewn throughout. I don't mind them, but they feel forced some of the time. Almost like Berger wants to remind the reader that he is a smart man, and a writer. Mythological allusions abound in this book, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't
As already mentioned, "Song of Spiderman" is filled with many moments of real depth and insight. There was numerous times where I was struck by a sentiment or phrase. Just a sampling, "The deepest yearning of an artist is to communicate. And revenge is communication." When you read a line like that, you either completely understand it, or you don't. The text is (as the writer asserts over and over) merely a story, which is how we humans craft our lives, and I would also contend that like the best stories at its center are relationships. At one point Berger writes, "As soon as a relationship is built, we carry around the codes to atomize it." A sobering truth that, and the universality of human interactions are what make this text so enjoyable for most readers.
As a fun exercise I would encourage the reader to YouTube some videos of media interviews and behind the scenes footage of the musical while reading the book. It creates an interesting contrast between early interviews and those that happen after Julie Taymor left the production. It adds to the experience of reading this memoir.
Glen Berger is either a self deprecating truth teller, so honest that he is not afraid to make himself look bad or a devious sneak who knows how to manipulate his readers. After reading "Song of Spiderman" I am not sure which he is. And I'm fine with that.
I saw the original version of Spider-Man and it was, by far, the worst experience I have ever had in a theater. The plot was incoherent, the music (by Bono and The Edge of U2) was mediocre -- and the lyrics were often unintelligible because of the muddy sound system -- the attempts at humor fell flat, and the attempts at transmitting a message fell even flatter. Berger was clearly responsible for some of these problems … and yet, he has written a terrific book about his experiences.
I'm not sure what I was expecting -- probably a hatchet job laying all of the blame on Taymor -- but what I got was a funny, insightful, candid, honest, even-handed attempt to make sense of his long experience with this play. Sure Taymor comes off as a bit of an inflexible egomaniac -- and her tendency to blow up at the expense of assistant set directors and the like, is very unappealing -- but Berger bends over backward to play it straight, and, at least as far as I can see, he succeeds.
Clearly, Berger should be kept far away from writing Broadway musicals, by the use of machine gun nests backed up by drones, if necessary. But he should be encouraged to write more first-person nonfiction. I don't know what else he has done in his life that he can write about, but on the basis of this book, I would be happy to read his account of walking his dog and brushing his teeth. If you have an interest in Broadway musicals, the theater in general, or just this particular, much discussed, show, you will love this book. I would give it 10 stars if I could.
Final point: The book is remarkably free of glitches. There are a couple of minuscule things: He changes someone's age within a couple of paragraphs and he apparently doesn't know the difference between an editorial (written by the editors of a newspaper) and an op-ed (written by an invited contributor). But the book is mercifully free of the typos, omitted words, repetitions of whole paragraphs within a few pages, and other problems that plague modern publishing. Maybe he had a good editor, but given the sorry state of modern publishing, I would guess he actually took the time to proofread the book. Who would think we would have gotten to the point that doing so would merit praise?
Final, final point: His last name is Berger; his wife's last name is Almquist. Their kids have the last name of Bergquist. How neat is that?
The author is a terrific writer; at times a bit self-serving but who can blame him? And there no villain here - Judy Taymore comes across as mis-guided and unrealistic at worst. And Bono and company are presented as the rock stars (as opposed to experienced Broadway composers and lyricists) that the show required.
Just a smashing and riveting book. On my shelf of "Broadway Production" volumes, this moves right to the top.