Reviews review: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

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201106151305 Reviews review: Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark
The Spider-Man the Musical Saga closed another chapter of its saga last night with a star-studded opening — President Bill Clinton attended, as did Matt Damon, Cindy Crawford, and of course, composers Bono and the Edge. Even more notably, director Julie Taymor, who got fired three months ago, showed up and took a curtain call. On the red carpet she was repeatedly asked if she missed being a part of this, to which she fired back, “I AM part of this.” At the end of the curtain call, Taymor and Bono even shared a cold, celebratory smooch.

In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You were acting like it was the end of the world

Bono was philosophical about all the brickbats the show has received, including the pasting by the MUPPETS shown below, “We would have been hurt if they ignored us,” he told reporters. “It’s a bit of a sport around here. It’s with great affection. If Spider-Man were just to disappear, certainly the late-night comics would be very sad.”

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Reviews of the Phillip McKinley/Aguirre-Sacasa saved version were…mixed.

Time’s Richard Zoglin:

But there are compensations for the eye and ear. The set design — a mix of comic-book pop-ups and dark, Tim Burton-ish cityscapes — is as striking as ever. The Bono-Edge score, moreover, is no disappointment. It really rocks, and the repeated five- and six-note figures that anchor the anthemic “Rise Above” and the sweetly melancholy duet “No More” have stayed with me. There’s more humor now (when the Goblin tries to leave a phone warning with the newspaper, he can’t get past the automated voice prompts), and one bright new number, “A Freak Like Me Needs Company,” which provides a lift at the start of Act II.

The Post’s Elizabeth Vincentelli (a former DC employee of long ago!):

The numbers that work best are those performed by Carney and Damiano. These evocative performers project the awkward sweetness of teenage yearning in duets such as “Picture This” and “If the World Should End.” (Matthew James Thomas, who plays Peter at matinees, is a less impressive singer, but a sensitive actor.)


Rolling Stone’s Evie Nagy (herself a podcaster):

The thing with a show like Spider-Man is that some of the eye-rollingest moments have magical potential, thanks to an audience full of kids. As Peter explains to Mary Jane that his Spider-Man responsibilities will often take him away, he reassures her, “Every time you look up, I’m gonna be there.” My gag gesture was at the ready, until the nine-ish year-old boy behind me breathlessly uttered, “Yup, he is.” Faithful wonder 1, cynicism 0.

The Times’ Ben Brantley had the sharpest words for the original shoe-shopping version, and found this one only a bit better:

Partly because the performers are masked, you experience little of the vicarious wonder and exhilaration that comes from watching Peter Pan or even Mary Poppins ride the air in other musicals. The effect is rather like looking at anonymous daredevils who have been strapped into a breakneck ride at an amusement park. Come to think of it, Coney Island might be a more satisfying choice.

Although this would seem to be a happy — or at least happy-ish — ending for the injury- and drama-plagued show, insiders suggest that the $80 million cost of mounting the show will still be its undoing. Mike Fleming writes at Deadline:

So why can’t Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark live with godawful reviews we all expected and thrive with the tourist crowd? My sources tell me that the reason is the operating costs are just too stratospheric. The budget, I’m told, is already in the $80 million range, and the economics just won’t add up. It’ll last a year, maybe, but it will be hard-pressed to escape what many feel will be its inevitable place in history: Broadway’s biggest-ever debacle.


Well, there’s no people like show people. And this has proved it.

Comments

  1. Chris Hero says:

    I saw Spider-man a few weeks ago. It’s a solid B. The story is *awful*. It’s just the Sam Raimi movie re-told on stage, so it’s really boring. The flying stunts are *amazing*!!! They really should be seen. All the best parts of the show are Spider-man flying around. The songs are great on their own, but a chore to sit through. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack today and it’s *much* better on its own.

  2. Allen Rubinstein says:

    I guess after months of reading about this, it just sounds slapdash. Even the reviewers talk about it piecemeal – this part works, another part makes up for the deficiencies in this part over there on the sofa. It’s all head, and nobody seems to be carried anywhere by it. Sounds very unsatisfying.

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