Posted Online: May 17, 2012, 9:28 am

'Spider-Man' director returning to Augie

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

Photo: Todd Mizener
Augustana alum Phil McKinley -- an acclaimed Broadway director -- returns to honor his alma mater on Sunday, giving Augie's commencement address.
The Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" is the most expensive in history, but it won't cost you a dime to see its director, Augustana alumnus Phil McKinley, when he returns to give the Rock Island college's commencement speech Sunday.

Mr. McKinley, a member of the Augie Class of 1973, will be the featured speaker for the college's 152nd commencement at 3 p.m. Sunday at the i wireless Center, Moline, which is open to the public. Mr. McKinley -- who owns a home in Davenport and directed Curtainbox Theatre's "Wit" here in summer 2010 -- has said his path to success started at Augustana.

He had five majors -- education, speech and drama, music, English, and art — and still managed to graduate in three years.

"I had an amazing group of teachers/mentors --— Dennis Hitchcock, Dorothy Parkander, Dean (Betsey) Brodahl, Ann Boaden, Ruth Holmen, Don Morrison, Gary Hobbs and Rev. Richard 'Swanie' Swanson are just a few among the many who were incredibly supportive and allowed me to incorporate all these different disciplines into required courses," Mr. McKinley said in a college release. "Augustana provided me with a true liberal-arts education and background, and there is no value you can put on it. It is priceless."

Mr. McKinley has directed Hugh Jackman in the Tony-award winning "The Boy From Oz," and he helmed more editions of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus than any other living person. In March 2011, he was asked to replace Julie Taymor as director of the now $75-million "Spider-Man" musical, which began previews in November 2010 and didn't open until June 14, 2011.

The spectacle -- with a score by Bono and The Edge -- had the highest single-week gross of any show in Broadway history this past winter, but failed to earn any major Tony nominations. It was nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Scenic Design.

The show's producers are offering free tickets to the June 10 performance, which is the same day as the Tony Awards ceremony, to anyone with the first name Anthony, Tony, Antoinette, Toni or Antonio. So that when Tony Sunday rolls around, "Spider-Man" will technically have "more Tonys than any other show on Broadway on Sunday, June 10," the producers said.