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Saturday, 18 June 2011 20:57

Broadway Review: SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK

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Reeve Carney as Spider-Man Reeve Carney as Spider-Man Photo: Jacob Cohl

It’s important to me when I write my reviews to be fair and keep the snarkyness to a minimum.  Unfortunately, the second half of that, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do that with Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark.  After all the hype, the accidents, the late-night jokes, the bad publicity, the show is a bland mess.  The music by Bono and The Edge, is uninspired and does little, if anything to progress the plot.  

I did not see the original v1.0 and so can't compare the two.  While you were able to follow the plot-line, it wasn't a very interesting one.  Science geek gets tormented at school, has no friends, has a crush on girl, gets bitten by a spider on a field-trip to a lab where experiments are being done on spiders to give them super-spider strength.  He turns into Spider-Man and Norman Osmond, played by Patrick Page, gets all pissy about it because it’s his science which has catapulted the mysterious Spider-Man to front page news.  So Norman decides he’s going to experiment on himself.  This turns him into the Green Goblin.  He then creates “The Sinister Six,”  a gang of “freaks” that set out to destroy everything in their site.  The only thing that can stop them (insert spooky organ music here), is Spider-Man.  

{module AD Amazon Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark}

The big payoff in Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark is, of course the aerial sequences.  They are phenomenal.  But don’t go expecting to see Foy’s thin, barely visible wires, these flying sequences are made possible by very sturdy cables (thankfully) and other apparatuses that are hard to hide.  Thankfully the flying sequences weren't the only thing there to distract me from the horrible songs.  This show is a visual treat with a magical pop-up comic book style set by George Tsypin, brought to vibrant life under Donald Holder's brilliant lighting.  Julie Taymor’s mask design and the projection design by Kyle Cooper, are both impressive.  Even the props and Eiko Ishioka's costumes are colored and shaded in comic book style.  

There is one real problem with continuity in the production design.  It appears to be set in the 1940s with zoot suite gangsters and old style typewriters and telephones at the offices of the Daily Bugle.  But then actors on stage have cell phones and there are jokes about the Internet. It's ridiculous.

Reeve Carney is Peter Parker; he sings with a wispy melancholy voice you'd likely find on “American Idol.”  Jennifer Damiano, last seen as Natalie in Next to Normal  is Mary Jane Watson, Parker's love interest.  Both of these kids are talented but they have no chemistry together.  This may be the script, it may be the actors.  

The real scene stealer in the show is Patrick Page as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin.  Mr. Page seems to have a thing for green characters.  You’ll recall he played the Grinch in the Broadway musical Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! several seasons back.  If only Bono and The Edge had given Mr. Page something to really work with here.  The number they’ve given him at the top of the second act, “A Freak Like Me Needs Company” is repetitive and irritating.  But Page certainly has the villainous laugh down pat.  He has a funny bit where he is trying to call the Daily Bugle and gets bungled by a phone tree (something else they didn’t have in the 1940s).  

The choreography by Daniel Ezralow and Chase Brock is reminiscent of back-up dancers at a Madonna concert.  There is one number in the second act where Peter Parker is down center singing and the male chorus is up stage in Spider-Man costumes.  The down-stage section of the stage descends with Parker on it while the chorus of Spider-Men perform a mini-ballet that looks like speed skaters in slow motion.  They then bring the down-stage section that has descended, back up.  Now I figured they would have done some form of transformation with Parker, but no, nothing.  From my vantage point it looked like they just wanted Parker out of the line of site for the speed-skating number.

If you are looking for a well-written Broadway musical, don’t expect to find it at Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, but you certainly can expect to see spectacle.  This show looks like a million bucks, actually make that seventy-one million bucks to be more precise.  

I’d suggest if you are going to see Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, get your seats in the mezzanine.  I actually got a stiff neck from looking up.  The folks in the mezzanine had the best seats in the house.

Read full production credits at IBDB.com.

Last modified on Saturday, 13 August 2011 22:33

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