5 Good Things and 5 Exceedingly Bad Things about the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Musical

Monday, December 13, 2010 at 8:00 am
I saw it. I saw it. Dear God, I saw it.

On its 10th preview performance, I saw Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway. And let me tell you, it's a goddam shitshow. There's talk of even more rewrites, but after what I witnessed last night, it's basically rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic at this point. I need to share this with the TR readers, because the odds are this thing is going to close way before you take the trip to New York and get tickets. The fact that half the row in front of me didn't come back for the second act makes me think that your window for seeing this is shrinking.

And to be fair, I've been able to pick out five things that were actually good about Turn Off the Dark (for the record, the title itself means absolutely nothing!). There were some enjoyable parts, and I'm not talking about the special needs kid in the orchestra section who would occasionally scream gibberish at the stage. Get ready, poor readers.


5) The Green Goblin
Yes, you saw all the pre-production photos and said, "He looks silly," but during the show you don't mind at all. He looks sufficiently badass and his delivery is a mix of Oogie-Boogie from A Nightmare Before Christmas and Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog. At times though, you expected him to warn you to hide your wife, hide your kids, and hide your husbands. The voice was weird. But it was sufficiently over-the-top and evil, and you just go along with it.

4) The Special Effects
Well, a few of them, at least. Spidey falling off the Chrysler Building is done with a little doll and the entire audience broke up laughing. Same with the way-too-big spider that bites him. And the audience laughed at every time they tried to do something in slow motion. C'mon guys, I've seen better fights at the Batman Stunt Spectacular at Six Flags. Also, the web effects came down to either swinging on one of the two cables holding Spidey up, putting your arms up to look like you're holding something but aren't, or throwing something that looked like a really white wig at people. But at other times, things looked neat. The stage expanded with hydraulics that looked pretty cool, and it was great to see showers of sparks leap from Electro's hands. The costumes has numerous moving parts, which made them a little less laughable (still, most were laughable).

3) J. Jonah Jameson
Michael Mulharen does the best job of anyone in the cast, and this might have to do with the fact that he doesn't sing. A bad Jameson can ruin a Spider-Man production (see the live-action TV series for proof of that), but Mulharen holds the thing up. The Daily Bugle set is full of surreal, Lovecraftian angles, a fleet of perky secretaries, and reporters who constantly run in with scoops. The scenes aren't exactly funny, but they're full of personality, something which everyone in the cast lacks. Mulharen's JJJ takes a cue from the movie version, and it's just enjoyable to see on the stage.

2) The Sets
This will, hands down, win every award for set design ever invented, and even some that will have to be created specifically for it. While a lot of the sets are stark stages with projections, even the projections of webs and fires and action keep you glued to the stage. Everything moves, there's nothing static at all (in fact, in many scenes there may only be one small set piece like a garbage can or a desk). Angles everywhere, amazing colors, projections, and video screens. It's something that can't be described well enough in words, since the set changes once every minute or so.

1) The Aerial Work
When Spider-Man comes on stage (not just Peter Parker) you know that stunts are going to follow, and that's worth it all. The stunts are mind-blowing and they happen above the audience with no net. Spidey and the Green Goblin wrestle as they're swinging from balcony to balcony, and you know that if something goes wrong, everyone will die. It's a lot like the circus, if the circus had 15 minute-long pauses where people sang forgettable songs to each other and talked about feelings. I'll admit, I was all giddy when I saw Spider-Man land on the balcony in front of me.

Now that we've said something nice, we are morally and legally allowed to explain what sucked horrible, horrible ass.
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