The long National nightmare known as Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark preview season is now over. With over 5 months of Preview shows, is Spider-Man now the most “Previewed” Broadway show in history? I can’t think of another show that has had so many problems, false starts and delays as this. Even with all of that and the negative hype surrounding the show your fearless leader braved the rain and New Jersey train to see one of the final preview performances of Spider-Man 2.0 and the verdict is mixed. I felt positively schizophrenic while watching the show.
Lets get the positives out of the way; the casting was spot on. Reeve Carney is a fantastic Peter Parker, Jennifer Damiano is a good Mary Jane Watson, and Patrick Page showcased wonderfully dry humor as the Green Goblin. Unfortunately the story and the music (in the first act) don’t give them anything to work with.
The Producers have worked out most of the kinks. The show that I saw Sat night was flawlessly executed – there was one minor moment where I thought Carney was going to slip off the platform. It had an amazing second act that had all of the spectacle and wonder that you would expect from a $70 million dollar Broadway production.
Spider-Man gets off on a wrong note with the introduction of a completely pointless character – Arachne (Across the Universe’s T.V. Carpio). Peter opens by reading about Arachne a Goddess who becomes the first Spider. I’m here to watch Spider-Man not some story about a lame goddess. I’m assuming she’s supposed to be a variation of the comic character Madam Webb. The opening number she does is LONG, depressing, boring and just bad. Immediately it put me in a sour mood for the first half hour of the show. It doesn’t help that the high-school set for Peter’s classroom looked like an amazingly cheap high school production of Grease.
The first hour of the show establishes the standard Spider-Man mythos, nothing surprising. They do a great job of letting newbs know who Peter Parker is but after awhile I wanted to pull my hair out. I know who Spider-Man is, and I suspect 90% of the people seeing this show will as well, so lets skip to the good stuff. The show really takes off when he finally gets bit. What holds the first act together is Carney and Daminano they do justice to the Peter and Mary Jane, there’s nice chemistry between the two, but the material doesn’t give them much to work with. The audience went nuts when we finally saw Spider-Man in full costume.
I do have a major quibble they screwed up Uncle Ben’s Death and I do not get why they used a giant dummy for Spidey’s first fight with Crusher. All of the ground fighting had Spider-Man several feet away throwing air punches at the bad guys. It just looked retarded and campy. Was I supposed to be watching Campy Theater or a serious Broadway production?
When I see a $70 million production I really expected to something stunning, amazing, that I’ve never seen before. Everything in the first hour of the show looked like something I could see at a small local community theater. Where was the money spent? Certainly not on the sets or mostly crummy music, maybe it was just the Insurance. I love U2 but Bono and Edge wrote one sorry, mostly forgettable score.
There are two songs I think the Producers believe will be break out hits – Rise Above and Freak Like Me, both of which I thought kind of sucked. The break out song for me was Boy Falls From The Sky. Absolutely spectacular Performance, I’ll admit it, my ADD was kicking in halfway through the 2nd act when Carney pulled this tune out of his hat. I was blown away by how amazing this number was and the power of Carney’s voice. I turned to the guy next to me and asked where was this the entire show? It single handedly saved this show for me. With all my criticism of the music, when I got home and listened to the CD a few more times, I’ll admit it’s a great soundtrack. It just doesn’t work within the context of this show.
I wondered how they would handle Spidey fighting, especially his Spider sense. For the most part it was brilliant the way they showed villains floating through the are in slow motion, but the on the ground stuff seemed wrong, like they were gun shy about people getting hurt, so they had Carney throwing punches several FEET away from the bad guy. It just looked weird.
The first time Carney appears in full costume all seemed to finally be right with the show, when he takes to the skies it made me giddy. Everyone in the audience seemed to wake up and started hooting and cheering. The only issue I had with the stunts is, again, the expectation that I would see something I’ve never seen before and this just wasn’t it. But it was still exhilarating.
Patrick Page’s Green Goblin is wonderfully sarcastic and dry without being over the top or campy. It’s a hard character to play and he does a great job with it. There’s a wonderful moment where he does an impression of Liberace and gives a comment about how he expects Spider-Man to arrive on his doorstep any minute and muses about the route (Uptown or cut across the Park and go up 7th Ave.) he would take. The humor in the entire show largely worked. Another cute moment had Peter trying to explain to Mary Jane how he gets from uptown to her downtown apartment so fast.
Spider-Man is truly a mixed bag of nuts; a terrible first act is saved by a fun last act. Mostly terrible soundtrack is saved by one stunning performance, cheap looking sets and cheesy ground fighting is saved by fun aerial stunts. Did I come away loving the show, I’m not sure, the second act succeeds in leaving me wanting more and I ultimately left the theater with a large smile on my face, but I have say it was a long hard fought battle to get there.
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark FINALLY Opens 6.14.2011
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Originally posted 6.14.2011