Jack Quinn

Victor Gluck

Chip Deffaa

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark – (The Musical)
By: Stewart Schulman
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The cast of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Well... it opened. Finally. After endless delays, previews, and a month of re-writes and reconfiguring, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark soared into theaters on June 14th, and made a very safe landing. It works. It’s entertaining. It’s even spectacular at times. It essentially re-tells the same story the 2002 Sam Rami/Tobey Maguire movie did, the same story told in the original 1962 Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

The audiences seem thrilled, cheering on the proceedings from the get-go, and enthusiastically offering a standing ovation at the show’s final curtain, (er, scrim). Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark 2.0 sings, dances, and even flies (literally) at times. And, oh so much of that is actually awe-inspiring. Exhilirating even. It’s the sort of ‘not to be missed’ theatrical event theatergoers live for. Only, even with all of that technical visual genius on the stage, and a reasonably moving and straightforward story now being told, it’s simply not clear, (to this reviewer, at least), that the Spider-Man saga needed to be a Broadway musical in the first place. At least not in its current version, anyway.

The heart of the story works well enough, from the revised book by Julie Taymor, Glen Berger & Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. High school science whiz Peter Parker, (a very winning Reeve Carney) an orphan living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (versatile actors Ken Marks and Isabel Keating in multiple roles), is bitten by a genetically engineered spider at a science exhibit created by world famous scientist Norman Osborn (the perfectly ‘good and bad’ Patrick Page) and develops superpowers commensurate with “the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid.” The question becomes: What to do with that power? Initially Peter, tired of being bullied by his peers, especially Flash (a bad-ass Matt Caplan) hopes to use his newfound powers to capture the object of his long-held affection, Mary Jane Watson (a well-cast and fetching Jennifer Damiano). But, after tragically losing a loved one due to the selfish abuse of his arachnibilities, he realizes that: “With great power there must also come—great responsibility.” And so the die is cast. The world and its needs become greater than the individual. And the hero’s journey begins.

And a fun ride it is at times. When Peter finally realizes he can use his new abilities to adhere to walls and ceilings and... well... fly, the visual effects do not disappoint. Not in the aerial design by Scott Rogers, (rigging by Jaque Paquin), or the scenic design by George Tsypin. Mr. Tsypin, along with projection designer Kyle Cooper, lighting designer Donald Holder, and Costume Designer Eiko Ishioka, under the skillful imagination of the original director and mask designer Julie Taymor, create a theatrical comic book universe evoking both the worlds of cinematic gangster noir and 1960’s pop-art. Both Acts I and II are packed full of stirring images, culminating near the show’s end in what has to be one of the most stunning theatrical moments ever created on a Broadway stage.

All of this makes for a great piece of musical theater. Only, unfortunately, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark seems to have not yet justified its existence. For one thing, the music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge, as evocative of moody film scoring as they are... never truly soar. They certainly move the story along, even sounding at times like early ‘The Who’’, or often-times like... well... Bono and The Edge. (Gratefully they offer up the hauntingly pretty love ballad “If The World Should End”.) But as a whole, the score doesn’t deliver a musical sound as exciting as the visuals often are. And the Green Goblin’s entertaining campiness (marvelously delivered by Patrick Page) seems to undermine the super-villain’s ability to seem very menacing. Which tends to let a bit of the air out of the tension requisite for these types of myths. However in Act II, when the Green Goblin unleashes his rogues-gallery of classic villains to face Spider-Man, the ultimate theatrical effect is mostly spectacular.

Patrick Page
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

A good hero can only be as potent as the evil menaces he faces. And creative and colorful as the costumes for these malevolent foes are, a few of these evil-doers, like the Lizard for example, (in a blow-up alligator costume), don’t feel very menacing. And during the big fight scenes between Spider-Man and these ghoulish gremlins of the Green Goblin, the proceedings feel incredibly earth-bound. The only times these evil creatures tend to become at all threatening... or at least threatening enough to justify their theatrical existence is when they are projected Imax-sized in pre-filmed video clips that splash across the entire back wall of the huge Foxwoods Theater stage. And at that point, what you’re essentially watching is film. And that works. Which begs one to ask the question: With all due respect to the amazing visual effects, (and they are at times spectacular), did Spider-Man really want to be a stage-bound musical in the first place? Or... if it was to have an incarnation in some ‘other medium’ from its original comic book form, wasn’t its best bet actually as a film? I suppose only time and audiences’ willingness to shell out a million and half dollars a week to keep this particular incarnation of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark running for... like forever... to recoup the show’s seventy million dollar price tag, will tell.

Again, there are moments in this show that (like Cirque Du Soleil) so completely defy gravity, that one is willing to justify any cost to experience them. And so we hop on a Cyclone-like rollercoaster and just enjoy the ride.

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark
Foxwoods Theatre – 213 West 42nd Street (Bet. 7th & 8th Ave.)
Preview Nov. 28, 2010, Opening June 14, 2011, Open ended
Tues. 7:30PM, Wed. 1:30PM & 7:30PM, Thurs. 7:30PM, Fri. 8PM, Sat. 2PM & 8PM, Sun. 3PM
Running time: 2 hrs. 45 mins. (1 intermission)
Tickets $69.50 to $142, Premium seats $302
http://www.Telecharge.com , or call: 212-239-6200

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