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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK
at Foxwoods Theatre

SOMEONE PULL THE PLUG
By MATT WINDMAN

  Image: Jacobi Cohl

The “all press is good press” dictum has certainly proven true for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. In spite of – or rather because of – the daily reports of turmoil among the creative team, technical disasters and repeated delays of opening night, this superhero spectacular has become the must-see attraction for New Yorkers and tourists alike. That is, except theater critics, who have yet to receive a formal invitation (i.e. pair of complimentary press tickets) to attend.
 
Being the good and obedient boy that I am, I agreed to hold off reviewing the show until it officially opened. Unlike many of my colleagues, I did not write a review of it last month. But when it was announced last week that the show would open in mid-June instead of March 15, and that Julie Taymor’s staging and the original script would be revamped from top to bottom under a new creative team, I decided it was time to finally pay a visit to the Foxwoods Theatre. So on Saturday afternoon, March 12, I shelled out $80 of my own hard-earned dough for a seat in the last row of the balcony. (I didn’t actually sit there, though. I found an empty seat in the middle of the orchestra pretty easily.)
 
It was kind of surreal to be finally watching Spider-Man after having written about the show for months. I already knew more about Spider-Man than many shows I had actually seen. I wish I could say that the naysayers were wrong, that Spider-Man is, if not a triumph, at least not a disaster. But I can’t. I really can’t. Spider-Man, as it now stands, is truly awful, misguided and boring. So bad, in fact, that I wish its producers would just put the damn thing out of its misery and close it.
 
Spider-Man, in its current state, combines the Spider-Man origin story and his fight against the Green Goblin – both of which are represented in the 2002 Tobey Maguire film – and Julie Taymor’s original inventions, including a mythological villain named Arachne and a group of teenage nerds who frame the plot by trying to invent their own Spider-Man chronicles.
 
The show’s producers have attempted to describe the show as unprecedented in Broadway history. But besides the $65 million (and growing) price tag, there is nothing remotely original or special about Spider-Man. The stunt work – in which Spider-Man and the Green Goblin duke it out throughout the theater for a few minutes – is not unlike the kind of spectacle you’d find at any major circus show. And if they think their show is so special, they ought to look at Billy Rose's Jumbo. His circus had several Rodgers & Hart standards and an elephant.
 
Bono’s score is a particularly harsh disappointment. None of the songs have even the slightest theatricality built into them, nor are they designed to suit the characters. There are a few attractive electric guitar strains at the beginning that get you excited, but they lead nowhere.
 
Once Taymor’s original material is swept under the rug, the show will be considerably more coherent – but probably not much better or more interesting. The final version of Spider-Man will just be a vapid stunt show with bad Bono songs and cardboard comic book characters.
 
The only way to successfully rework the show would be to make it a musical about making Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Why not highlight the behind-the-scenes drama? That's all people seem to care about anymore.
 
I’d like to end this review by warning – if not pleading – with readers to not see Spider-Man merely because of all the media hype. If you do, you might find the experience to be similar to your high-school prom. You probably had a lot of expectations and thought i

 


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