Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark

ImageI was in NYC recently, and noticed that, amazingly, this show is still running. I had heard all the bad things about the previews (muddled narrative, boring music, actors getting injured), and then they retooled, and it opened… and I didn’t hear anything else about it. I assumed it tanked and went away. Nope. Spidey is still swinging.

So I ponied up for a cheap ticket (which was actually a great box seat) and settled in for a night of entertainment.

First, the good: Robert Cuccioli as Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn. He was awesome. In fact, I liked him better than Willem Dafoe from the first Raimi film. He was funny and had a better character arc. No one else in the cast was notable. So, there’s that.

The set design was a lot of fun. Everything was done in hand-drawn-style panels, with bright colors and forced perspectives, as if this were a comic book come to life. This was augmented with occasional crazy video sequences projected on ever-shifting scrims. Neat.

The costumes were fantastic. I mean, Spider-Man’s outfit is basically like the Raimi films. Nothing new there. But Osborn comes out pre-Goblin in this wild silver coat that I liked. Then, once he’s Goblinfied, he’s a walking, talking cartoon. Loved him. He creates this menagerie of villainous creatures (the Sinister Six), and they’re all fun as well.

Now the okay: The story was an amalgam of the first two Raimi films. Spidey’s webs are organic, not mechanically generated. Peter and Mary Jane get together by the end, with the requisite “Go get ’em, Tiger!” Osborn is a nice scientist who shifts into villain territory after his wife dies. (Also, no Harry. Interesting choice.) I kind of feel like the producers didn’t want to leave anything unused, since musicals don’t generally generate sequels. It was a little over-stuffed, but not annoyingly so. The inclusion of the Greek mythological character Arachne seemed pointless, but at least she had some cool costumes, too.

The problem was, I didn’t know why I was supposed to care about any of this. The story plays as a sillier, broader version of the film stories we know so well. The only thing it does that’s really new is the Arachne bit, and, as I said, not worth it.

Now, the bad: The music sucked. I was hoping that the U2 guys would bring the awesome. They brought the snores instead. There were only a couple of songs that I enjoyed in the moment, and none that I really remember at all.

As for the wire-work, I wasn’t sure whether to put this in the bad or the okay category, but I’m leaning toward bad, if only because my hopes were so high. After hearing about all the problems the production had in the preview phase, I expected to be really wowed by Spidey flying around the theater. I wasn’t. It was okay, I guess. Maybe I just don’t understand the level of difficulty this kind of thing has, but the only time I really felt like I was watching something exciting and new was when both Goblin and Spidey were flying around at the same time. That was the best part… but it still didn’t really excite me. And at no point was my belief suspended.

This is officially my least favorite Broadway experience. Disappointed.

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