Turn Off the Dark
Opens February 7, 2011
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
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
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
here to purchase tickets - 67.50 - 140.00
Foxwoods Theatre | 213
West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036