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Actor turns down the Bard to play the bad guy in ‘Spider-Man’

Patrick Page put aside several classical theater parts to take the role of the Green Goblin in the Broadway spectacle “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.’’ Patrick Page put aside several classical theater parts to take the role of the Green Goblin in the Broadway spectacle “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.’’ (Jeff Christensen/AP/File)
By Mark Kennedy
Associated Press / January 28, 2011

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NEW YORK — 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: 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.

“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’s now slated for March 15) and the preview period is likely to stretch to more than 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 scientist who becomes the Green Goblin after an experiment goes awry.

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 says his grounding in Shakespeare — the language, the characters’ naked determination — helps create his musical villains. (He previously played Scar in Taymor’s “Lion King.’’)

“It is a different career than other people have,’’ he says.