'Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark' Gets Mixed Reviews

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Previews started this week for the most expensive musical in Broadway history, “Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark.” It took nine years and some $65 million for producers to bring the webbed superhero to the stage at the Foxwood Theater in Times Square.

The production has had a few difficulties. Safety concerns forced producers to delay the opening for months, and early performances were hampered by problems with the special effects flying apparatus that suspends actors and dancers over the heads of audience members.

Theatergoer Frank Toughill attended Wednesday night’s show. He said that “Spiderman “is a lot of fun, but the producers still have work to do. “It's different. It's not very Broadway, it's more cirque du soleil” said Toughill. “The flying is spectacular and it’s a fun show. I think if they get a couple more weeks of performances under their belt, they’ll be really be getting something good.”

Bob Smith said he felt “lucky” to have seen it. “It’s historic,” Smith said. “But it will be so interesting to see what happens in the next three months--how people in the theater and the critics react to it, and how they try and categorize it. It's going to be challenging.”

The score for "Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark" was written by Bono. The production is directed by Julie Taymor, who won a Tony Award for “The Lion King.”


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Comments [24]

elw from NY

Yes, the creators of this production demonstrated ambition in this endeavor. This theatre-lover went and took it in for what it was--an opportunity to enjoy an outing with an excited 9-year old Spidey fan (my godson). (Note: neither of us were expecting to view a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical). The child's reaction would have been sufficient entertainment; happily, I report that was only icing on the (Spidey) cake:

+The music was excellent--the live rock band was fantastic and played each song with the spirit that Bono and The Edge intended.

+The story was compelling with all the familiar Spider-Man lore as well as the introduction of new themes and characters from the Spidey stories familiar to fans of the original Marvel Comics.

+The stage sets were remarkably creative. Set designs, scene changes, costumes and choreography (both aerial and terrestrial) demonstrated innovative mix of technology, artistry and athleticism from cast, crew, producers, etc.

+The part of the Arachne was a delightful addition to the line-up of primary characters. Her voice, lyrics, costumes and emotional poignancy was one of the most polished performances of the show and each of her scenes moved the story-line to a "relatable", human level while also punctuating the absurdity of this fantastical superhero tale.

-Regrettably, the only major negatives were the Peter Parker and MJ duets which were a useful theatrical device (gave the audience a break from the exhilarating emotional and acrobatic highs), however the melodies were tedious and MJ sounded shrill (off-pitch and unpleasantly loud) in all but one of her solo parts.

Additional comments:
+By far, we had the best seats in the theatre (Flying Circle, row C, seats 101 and 102);

+/-During the legendary confrontation between Spidey and Green Goblin, the latter's harness swung out of the safe zone and the show stopped in order for offstage technicians to remedy the issue. While this unexpected 15 minute interlude occurred, we had the pleasure of lighthearted, ad-libbed "banter" between these two arch enemies, including a dueling macarena (yes, macarena) and Spidey (still in character) requesting a coffee from my godson. This entire interlude had the audience laughing goodnaturedly further endearing the actors to us.

+Lastly, in the final scene, as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, leaps forward into his future, costumed but maskless, and having freed Arachne of her hubris-generated curse, Spiderman stopped directly in front of our seats and looked right into my godson’s eyes before transferring a bit of the sweat from his forehead. Yippee!! Nothing like Spidey sweat to ice our cake!

+This show was Fun, FUn, FUN!


Apr. 08 2011 10:46 PM
tom from washington, dc

Saw a preview last week. The aerial scenes are stunning. It may be technical genuis, but it lacks a heart. It's had to feel anything for any of the characters. The story and the music seem disconnected. There is a fascinating book somewhere in this musical but it's still crying to get out. The sets don't look cardboard, but the characters are -- they just don't fly off the stage despite all the aerials. Still, a beautiful opening scene but the rest of the show does not deliver on the promise. Still glad I saw it and hope the creative team can get it together soon.

Feb. 19 2011 12:15 PM
Marian from Astoria

I'm glad there's finally coverage that this show's problems go much deeper than technical malfunctions. The acrobatics aren't even incredibly great, especially for audiences who are familiar with Cirque de Soleil. The dialogue was atrociously vapid, the music irritating, and the sets looked cheap. The New York Times critic got it right - how can a show this expensive look so cheap? I loved the Spiderman movies and the concept, and Taymor's previous work, but none of this show made any sense, and I hope people will stop giving it their money.

Feb. 09 2011 08:19 AM
Joe from Virginia

I have tickets for March 9, 2011. I can't wait. It's not the only show I'll be seeing but it's the one I'm looking forward to the most. I've read every comment and I understand the disapointment thread and I'm lowering my expectations. I will be watching to see if I agree. I hope the ending isn't a mess. Because a bad ending really spoils the whole show.

Feb. 08 2011 06:46 PM
Peter from New York, NY

I've loved Spider-Man and U2 most of my life. This musical was awful. The story was insipid, humorless and hack; there were far too many plot similarities to the Sam Raimi films. And the music, except for the one hero song, was altogether forgettable. It's hard for me to imagine any real Spider-Man fan being happy with the story and dialogue of this show.

Feb. 06 2011 10:36 PM
Mike from NYC

I saw spiderman last night. When I purchased tix three months ago, I didn't want to see it in preview. Since the show was pushed back so many times, I ended up paying top dollar for a preview!
1st act was great. Amazing set, engery, story...real fun and full of excitment. Music was basicly U2..if you like u2, you'll love the music!
2nd fell apart. Still dont know the story nor do I understand the ending. I fell asleep three times.
Somethings seriously wrong!!!!!!
I really want the show to do well..but Im afraid it won't. Wait till it is on TKTS to go see it. it won't be long!

Feb. 02 2011 05:16 PM
flash gordon

I can't believe some of the negative comments about this theater extravaganza. The show is about "spiderman". It's not intended to be a reflective commentary for the betterment of society or deep social change. It's a magnificent stage production brought to Broadway. It's a classic plot with a hero, a girl and scores of villians. It's modeled after a comic book superhero. Keep your expectations in check, please! I don't think the wow factor is about the plot, it's about the stage, the sets, the music (most very good) and the ambitious aerial stunts. It's a magical performance on Broadway. Just keep that in mind, this performance is being delivered to you in a Broadway theater, not Las Vegas and not cirque de soleil. I saw this performance 1st row, center mezzanine yesterday afternoon and just sat back and enjoyed the wow factor that the producers delivered visually. If I want to be emotionally moved, I'll wait for "Our Town" to come back to Broadway but in the meantime, Spiderman is a unique and entertaining performance for everyone.

Jan. 30 2011 11:54 AM

Wow... you people are harsh! Remember it's a COMIC STRIP story... coming to life on stage. Really amazing. The set, and costumes... you have to see. Yes the story is about Spiderman ??? This is NOT your typical GLEE type musical/ No tissues needed...just sit back and be amazed....

Jan. 24 2011 09:58 AM

Over 50 years of seeing Broadway shows and this is the worst I have ever been to. The music is loud, not memorable and not up to what one would expect in a major theatrical production. Only regret...didn't leave at the inrrmission.

Jan. 14 2011 04:28 PM
Ilana from NYC

As a longtime goer of theater, I was heartily disappointed. This is supposedly a musical, but the music was terrible! The set and the choreography were wonderful, but you can't have a musical without good music. The story line was confusing and absolutely unclear, and I'm usually good at following plots. I just don't understand what the producers were going for in this one. I've never seen a musical I didn't like at least a little bit, but I'm sorry to say this was absolutely the worst production I have ever seen on Broadway.

Jan. 06 2011 07:03 AM

Saw it last night. Not sure why they bothered putting this whole thing together. There is no real story or characters or music - The first half is a rehash of the first movie. The second half at least is original as far as I know. The best thing about it is the visuals--sets and costumes--and the flying is different at least for this genre--you can see better tricks at cirque de soleil anytime. Nothing in this show really moved me for one moment. I think they are going to get their heads blown off when it is reviewed.

Jan. 03 2011 05:00 PM
JKM from Tx

Spiderman was the worst broadway show that I have ever seen. I realize that it is still in previews but it's hard to see how it can be fixed in time for opening. Deleting two things could help immensely; the geek kids and spiderwoman. They add nothing but boredom to an aready slow show. Also, what a horrible ending , "Go gettum Tiger." I absolutely adore Broadway, so please fix this or move it to Vegas where less is expected.

Dec. 30 2010 12:03 AM

Saw the show Mon, Dec. 27th. I exclaimed to my partner at the end of the show, "That's it?"

That was my general reaction. Three songs showed potential. The rest of the music was junk filler and certainly not inspired.

The geek chorus tells the story and then we have a staging of some sort, usually based on what was talked about by the chorus. What a mess!

The show seems plodding, slow and tedious. I remarked that I wouldn't know how or where to begin to fix a show like this. It just seems rudderless. And I wish that were not the case.

Dec. 29 2010 01:32 AM
Trish from NYC

Saw it the night of ChrisTierny's accident. We are still upset, especially as the news about him is unclear. As for the show: The set is magnificent, the music is underwhelming...the "Geek Chorus" needs to go. But the spark in this piece is Reeve Carney. I felt as if I were discovering a legend. Strong words...but true.

Dec. 26 2010 11:39 AM
G from NYC

I saw it on Wednesday. The sets, effects, acrobatics and even most of the music was excellent but the plot and some of the lyrics were just plain horrible.

I tried not to have any expectations going in but as a Spider-man fan and a theater patron I was very disappointed in the storyline. It was as if there were 3 separate plot lines they were hoping to weave together but instead pulled together some unintelligible piecemeal that didn't follow any plot coherently to an end (one of which disappeared completely half-way through the second act).

Reeve Carney was excellent, his voice filled and blended with the various U2 guitar riffs perfectly. Mary Jane could have used a few more songs as well. There is plenty of potential here, the sets and acrobatics are truly a spectacle to behold, but they need major rewrites in order for this to truly live up to what it could be.

Suggestions (as spoiler-free as possible):
Get rid of Arachne, she has no ties to the comic and her storyline (though central in the current iteration of the show) is boggling. It also might have been an off night for her, but Arachne was off key to the point that the group sitting in front of me left the theater half-way through her song in the second act.

Also, the story telling children scattered mid-scenes also seemed extremely out of place especially since there's no sense of closure or meaning in their roles.

Stick to your guns and what's selling your tickets, Spider-Man and U2. Tell the Spider-man story, let spider-main and his enemies fly through the theater and let the music spike adrenaline as the action intensifies. All of the extra filler in the Spider-man story is extending and diluting the show. The sets and effects are absolutely perfect as is and wouldn't need to change for the most part. Replace Arachne and the random kids with a couple of new songs for your leads and you'll be all set for a long run on Broadway.

Dec. 13 2010 05:20 PM

I have two extra front row tickets to the show on 1/1/11 if anyone wants i put it up on ebay-

Dec. 08 2010 04:10 PM
old time theater goer from new york

saw it i was horrified. absolute mess. too long music trite. corny confusing plot. dont know who it is aimed at kids, adults teenagers. storyline has nothing to do with the comic. too expensive you want to see flying go to the circus.

Dec. 06 2010 10:08 AM
Louise from Vermont

Saw Spiderman last Tues. and I'm quite surprised, in fact, that the whole experience has been staying with me, rattling around in my head. And equally surprising to me is that it is not the sets, costumes or the flying that has stayed in my head...but the story and some of the music. The Traymor connection to the Arachne myth, the "kids" constructing the story, Peter's internal battle etc. really have promise. It could be shorter...less newsroom, fewer additional villians, more clarity of the words in the music to carry the story is not as clear as it should be. Some of the flying might have felt too circus-y, but the Arachne/Peter "dance," the Spiderman/Goblin fight and Arachne's solo were wonderful. I hope they are working on making the story sharper vs. just working on mechanics. It could be wonderful.

Dec. 05 2010 02:15 PM
dbmetzger from manhattan

from the CBC...
"Spider-Man" Most Expensive Stage Show in NYC History
The mix of circus, theatre and rock show that is "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark" opened for previews on the Broadway stage this week, with a less-than-perfect performance that had critics cringing.

Dec. 03 2010 04:20 PM
Paul from New York

Saw it last night. Has great potential -- lots of compelling elements (some good songs, exciting flying, energizing dance numbers) -- but several superfluous pieces (the 4 kid commentators are on stage too much), a slow start, unclear transitions. With paring down and simplification (some of the plot and songs are U2 enigmatic, but works less well when trying to figure out what is going on!), it may be a blockbuster. (It also seemed that almost all of the songs were truncated ... some would benefit from another verse!)

Finally, I was on balcony and felt like too much was out of view.

I am glad they are keeping with it, as could be big!

Dec. 02 2010 04:50 PM

It did not open to mixed reviews as it does not open till January, its in previews, a time for shows to repair whatever is not working BEFORE the critics are invited to review

Dec. 02 2010 12:18 PM
William from New York City

I saw Spiderman last night and left the theater angry. My hopes were so high, and the fall so great. It isn't technical aspects that need working on. This "musical" has no soul. If you're satisfied with a guy flying out over the audience, you're expectations of the theater are more limited than mine. There are a quartet of teenagers who appear and disappear regularly. They comment and expend energy on things that don't matter, and I never did get what their fuss was about. And the love affair? You've seen it on stage a thousand times, and to have a guy with special talents doesn't make up for the tried, but in this case no longer true, vagaries of their romance. I left wishing that the 60 million dollars had been spent on feeding hungry children.

Dec. 02 2010 10:48 AM
Jon from New York

I think it's kind of ridiculous to "review" something BEFORE it officially opens. The show is in previews and is working out all the complex technical aspects.

Dec. 02 2010 10:15 AM
Christian from NYC

Shame on them!!!
How many new original works, musicals or real plays that would add to the embetterment of society could have been produced with all that wasted money..send it to Las Vegas where it belongs!!!

Dec. 02 2010 09:31 AM

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