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Spider-Man headed to Vegas after difficult birth, run in N.Y.

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NEW YORK -- One of the lead producers of Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark says moving the show to Las Vegas makes sense because Sin City has always been a better fit for the splashy musical than the Great White Way.

"We can have a more exciting and better show in Las Vegas. To me, Las Vegas is the town of show business," Michael Cohl said this week after announcing the Broadway version would close in January. "If you look at our show, it's much, much more a spectacle and a Vegas show than a Broadway show. So I think we're going to have a great time there."

Cohl said he and producer Jeremiah J. Harris decided to pull the plug on the New York version after the show -- among Broadway's biggest earners for years -- sprung a leak over the summer and never recovered. It last broke the $1 million mark in mid-August and has limped through a dismal fall. Producers had said it needed to make $1.2 million a week just to break even.

"It's no secret that September and October were not a lot of fun. It was screaming at us: 'The time has come.' And so there it is. It's come," Cohl said. "We expect to have a good run through the rest of the year, and the last couple of weeks of December we expect to be fantastic because they have been the last years."

Last week, the show took in just $742,595, less than half its $1,543,508 potential despite a Foxwoods Theatre that was three-quarters full. The musical, with songs by U2's Bono and The Edge, is now routinely discounting tickets.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark -- Broadway's most expensive show, with a price tag of $75 million -- had a rocky start, with six delays in its opening night, injuries to several actors, a shakeup that led to the firing of original director Julie Taymor and critical drubbing.

The show began previews in late 2010 but didn't officially open until mid-June 2011, long after many critics had already tired of the delays and written crushing reviews. Some two million people have seen it and it will have played 1,268 performances when it closes on Jan. 4.

Of the difficult decision to abandon New York, Cohl was philosophical: "It's not heart-wrenching. Heart-wrenching is when your kid is sick in the hospital." The numbers were simply no longer there: It attracted 9,000 ticket buyers a week but needed 10,000 or 11,000.

He added that there were economic advantages to closing and having the Vegas show use some elements of the Broadway production. And looking ahead offered no respite: January and February are often cold and lonely months on the Great White Way.

Word of a new home for the show has swirled for months as its earnings dipped. A touring version initially had been discussed but a permanent home always seemed a better fit for a show that has loads of aerial acrobatics, high-tech sets and digital projections.

One thing that has stood in the way of a move from Broadway was the legal uncertainty that clouded its future. Taymor, the original Spider-Man director and co-book writer, was fired in 2011. She slapped the producers and others with a federal copyright infringement lawsuit, alleging they violated her creative rights and hadn't compensated her for the work she put into the show. The producers filed a counterclaim asserting the copyright claims were baseless. A settlement was announced in April.

The show may not have made a profit but it left behind one box office milestone: In January 2012, the comic book musical took in a whopping $2,941,790 over nine performances, which was the highest single-week gross of any show in Broadway history until it was bested by Wicked last year. It also grossed more than $200 million, making it the 16th-highest grossing show in Broadway history.

Of the Vegas edition, Cohl said all elements are on the table -- script rewrites, new music, new stunts. "We'll work on improving everything," he said. "It could be anything. It's a blank piece of paper. We know it's Spider-Man. We know it's Vegas. We know it's essentially what's playing here. But it could change in any number of ways. We'll have to wait and see."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 G12

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