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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK
at Foxwoods Theatre

HANGING BY SILK THREAD
By MATT WINDMAN

  Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano/ Ph: Jacob Cohl

If there’s any reason to celebrate the opening of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which had a record-breaking $70 million production budget and performed a record-breaking 183 previews, it is merely the fact that the show’s seemingly never-ending behind-the-scenes turmoil will have finally ended. Theater journalists can finally move on with their lives and tackle a new subject.
 
Over the past six and a half months, Spider-Man has endured recurring technical problems and delays, serious medical injuries, cast and creative team changes, and major rewrites to the script and score. With direction by Julie Taymor (The Lion King) and songs by Bono and The Edge, it was originally going to open on February 18, 2010, with a cast including Reeve Carney as Peter Parker, Evan Rachel Wood as Mary Jane and Alan Cumming as the Green Goblin.
 
But previews had to be pushed back due to difficulties raising $55 million, the show’s price tag at the time. Bono had to convince concert promoter Michael Cohl to take over as producer. Meanwhile, Wood and Cumming left the show.
 
The first preview finally took place on November 28. It ran about four hours in length and was ridiculed on Internet discussion boards. During that performance, Natalie Mendoza, who was playing the villain Arachne, suffered a concussion. She eventually quit and was replaced by T.V. Carpio.
 
On December 20, aerialist Christopher Tierney fell 30 feet to the orchestra pit after his harness snapped. He suffered a skull fracture and four broken ribs. After undergoing back surgery, Tierney returned to the cast last month. These and other injuries prompted visits from the New York State Department of Labor, which cited the show with two violations, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which fined it for $12,600.
 
Word of mouth was so uniformly bad that opening night was repeatedly pushed back. Eventually, many theater critics bought their own tickets and reviewed the show anyway on February 7.
 
In response to the bad reviews, the producers replaced Julie Taymor with circus director Philip William McKinley and hired playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to clean up the book. They even shut down the show for a month after the April 17 preview.
 
Since it never officially opened, Spider-Man was not eligible for consideration at the Tony Awards on Sunday night. However, Carney and Jennifer Damiano got to sing a ballad, and host Neil Patrick Harris dedicated 30 seconds exclusively to Spider-Man jokes.
 
Anyone who sat through an early preview – before Taymor was forcibly removed – is sure to notice how substantially the show has been improved. It is no longer an embarrassing train wreck, painful bore, utter laughing stock or source of serious physical injuries. But at the same time, it now remains little more than a kid-friendly stunt spectacular with glitzy superhero costumes, bad songs and a few cheesy laughs. It’s just an oversized, overpriced, longer version of what you’d find at a theme park.
 
Many of Taymor’s signature creations have been axed. Arachne, a spider-like villainess created by Taymor that essentially took over act two, has been turned into a guardian angel figure with far less stage time. Also cut are the annoying teenage geeks that used to narrate the show. The Green Goblin is no longer killed off in the middle of the show. The epic aerial battle between him and Spider-Man works far better as the finale of act two and ends the show on a high note.
 
 


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