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New York City - Theatre

Spiderman, Turn Off the Dark
In Previews
Opens February 7, 2011
Foxwoods Theater

Look Out, Here Comes the Spiderman

Reviewed by Adam Ritter

The age old tale of boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-irradiated, boy-becomes-arachnid has at last arrived on Broadway, though it remains to be seen if it can make it there (or make it anywhere). Yes, the MUCH ballyhooed Spiderman Turn off the Dark is now in previews at Foxwoods Theater on 42nd Street.

Director Julie Taymor (The Lion King) deserves accolades for creating a production that is both lavish and thrilling. Every set is in motion and every color screams out from the stage, inducing the sensation of a three-dimensional comic book. Clearly, concerted effort has been made to recount Spiderman’s familiar origins with a voice that eagerly embraces this medium, rather than be limited by it.

It is likely that you already know how Peter Parker (Reeve Carney) comes to acquire his great power (though some liberties have been taken), but it is fair to say that you have never witnessed it quite this way, which is welcome news to fans of both Spiderman and musical theater. The cast, as with most Broadway productions, works incredibly hard with what they are given.

So much has been made public about the production’s plague of problems, that in fact, the show begins with a brief announcement about the importance of safety and of not making any attempt to “hitch a ride” with one of the characters. The sated crowd, in a near comic-con glaze, greets the potential of an actor plummeting into their lap with gallows anticipation and technical issues with appreciative applause. Initially, the plot is a third wheel to the spectacle of exhilarating stunts and palpable tension. Later, it’s the third rail.

Like the Fox game show, Million Dollar Money Drop, Spidey starts with a million bucks and each lapse siphons away at the accrued capital. In no time at all, your spider senses are tingling with omens of catastrophe.

There is the curious absence of snappy dialogue, the indiscernible vocals drowning in guitar riffs and a catalogue of songs that couldn’t get Uncle Remus humming.
Some of the ballads are inexplicable topics around which to frame a composition (e.g. “Deeply Furious”…a song about a shoe theft, because you know, spiders have several legs) or too corny even for Peter Parker’s cartoon world (“Bullying by Numbers”).

That $65 million could be invested in a Broadway musical composed by icons of pop (Bono and the Edge of U2) but which fails to produce any memorable (in a good way) music, is the stage equivalent of not avenging Ben Parker’s murder (which, by the way, they don’t).

There is also an uninspired sub-plot involving “comic-geeks” whose cawing narrative seems necessary simply to help the audience process the details of outlandish plot twists but instead pecks away at the carrion of your decaying attention span.

While design, effects and ensemble aerialists light a glimmer of hope during act one, exactly what is happening beyond the divide of intermission is a matter of great speculation. But it is evidently where they ran out of material. Peter has by then discovered his great responsibility and wages war against the “Green Goblin” (Patrick Page), whom you know, and “Arachne,” (T.V. Carpio) an utterly uninteresting and completely unthreatening villainess conjured up for this show to battle our hero and baffle our audience.

The canon of spider-villains is more than sufficient without a mythical misanthropic half-arachnid fever dream stage seductress. Bring on Sandman or Kingpin or Venom or Rhino or even expand on the existing cameos (but please, no more of the silver thing that looks like Grace Jones in Aluminum foil).

That notwithstanding, the real villains in Turn off the Dark do not even appear onstage. No, they are the writers and producers who have attempted a Spiderman-meets-Inception finale that falls flat, fails to entertain and devolves the second act into a what-just-happened fiasco.

There are rumors of impending re-writes, which for the love of Pete, one hopes are true. There is ample material to draw upon, they have a beginning...here’s hoping they spin their web again, before the end.

Spiderman Turn off the Dark may open February 7th.

Click here to purchase tickets - 67.50 - 140.00

Foxwoods Theatre | 213 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

 


 

 


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