Patrick Page ‘Having a Ball’ as Spider-Man Goblin
Patrick Page says he’s ‘having a ball’ as the Green Goblin in ‘Spider-Man’ musical on Broadway
by Mark Kennedy
January 27, 2011
The day Patrick Page got the offer to play an evil goblin on Broadway in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, he quite literally was going in a different direction.
He was about to get on a plane to spend months sinking his teeth into classical parts: The title role in The Madness of King George III and the Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear at San Diego’s Old Globe. On tap was the lead in Pirandello’s Enrico IV and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice for the Shakespeare Theatre Company.
Now a cartoon villain beckoned.
Page had to make a decision quickly: Should he do serious dramas or another big-budget Broadway musical while slathered in makeup like his previous roles as Scar in The Lion King and the title role in The Grinch?
Was it to be The Goblin or The Bard?
In the end, the Goblin’s lure — and that of director and co-book writer Julie Taymor, songs by U2’s Bono and The Edge, and the sheer spectacle of it all — proved too big a temptation.
Months later, he has no regrets, despite finding himself at the center of a $65 million show plagued by delays, injuries and the defection of a lead actress even before its official opening.
“Everybody who comes from the outside thinks it must be this rigorous, difficult experience,” he says. “I guess it is, but I’m just having fun. I’m having the time of my life. I can’t wait to do the show at night.”
Page, 48, insists the negative press swirling around the show and the late-night jokes haven’t become a distraction to the cast, but he understands why there’s so much interest.
After all, he was performing Dec. 20 when actor Christopher Tierney fell 35 feet into the orchestra pit after a safety harness failed. Page ran down to offer help and to try to clear the way so paramedics could get through.
“All of us, our hearts went into our throats and our stomachs clenched up. It was one of the worst nights I can remember. Of course, it’s a happy ending now. Chris is up and walking,” he says. “But it was a terrible thing to be a part of.”
Tierney’s accident — and stunts that have left two other actors with broken wrists or toes, and a concussion that chased lead actress Natalie Mendoza away — have only made the show safer, says Page.
“Not only is our show safe, it’s probably the safest show on Broadway. Just like the plane that gets hijacked is going to be the safest plane in the air the next time out,” he says. “We have safety protocols in there that are checking something three, four, five and six times.”
The injuries and shake ups delayed the show’s official opening again (it now opens March 15) and the preview period is likely to stretch to over 100 performances. That’s fine with Page: With only 12 rehearsal hours permitted in a week, and with the show’s finale still needing work, he knew something had to give and there wasn’t enough time to polish the touches Taymor and Bono wanted to add.
All this may have been a bit more than Page expected when he was debating last year whether to hit the road for Shakespeare or play Norman Osborn, the obsessed scientist who becomes the Green Goblin after an experiment goes awry.
“I was a little concerned about putting on green makeup again,” he admits. “But the fact that Julie was doing it and the fact that three-quarters of the character is Norman Osborn, who is a man with pink skin, that encouraged me.”
The choice between Shakespeare and Spidey was as stark as the two seemingly contradictory sides of his career, which has veered from playing Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast to portraying Henry VII in A Man for All Seasons.
Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., considers Page a special talent — even if he did leave the company jilted by picking Spider-Man over its The Merchant of Venice.
“I don’t think there are many people who can go back and forth from musical comedy to Shakespeare or to Pirandello,” says Kahn. “The energy that he has used in his life to do Shakespeare and the care that he has about words and character make him a great musical performer.”
Page, who fell in love with acting while watching his father perform at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, first came to New York in 1993, wanting to be a serious stage star. After all, by his mid-20s, he’d already mastered Iago and Richard II at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
He was auditioning for the national tour of Angels in America when he was asked to be a reader — someone who reads lines opposite the person auditioning — for Beauty and the Beast. The casting director noticed his height and powerful, deep voice.
“As we were doing it, he asked us to flip characters, which was odd. And then he sent the other actor out of the room and said, ‘I think you should do this,'” Page recalls. “Oh, I fought it like crazy. I just thought, ‘This is not who I am!’ I was very snobby about it. ‘I’m not going to do this!'”
He was eventually convinced, paving the way for a parallel career in musical theater. That’s how he met Taymor, when he stepped into the role of Scar in The Lion King. It’s also how he met his wife, actress and home-improvement host Paige Davis.
He says his grounding in Shakespeare — the heightened language, the characters’ naked determination — actually helps create his musical villains. Page has modeled the Green Goblin on Ted Turner and J. Robert Oppenheimer, with a dash of MacBeth.
It takes him about three minutes to transform into the Goblin. Two makeup artists, one hairdresser, two dressers and one sound technician descend on him, painting his face, putting on prosthetics and a mic, pulling on his boots, slapping on a wig.
He says he loves it — just as much as he loves Shakespeare. “It is a different career than other people have. But for me it’s so much fun as long as they’ll let me keep doing it,” he says. It looks like they will — look no further than opening night of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Scheduled to sit beside his wife as Page’s guest will be Kahn, the head of the Shakespeare Theatre Company.