Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark

Look, so much is going to be written about this show for a number of reasons, but probably none that matter.

Yes it cost a boat load of dough to produce, yes the original producer died while The Edge was getting a pen to sign the contract, yes people broke some bones rehearsing it. But big money and broken bones are to be expected with something this bold…death, on the other hand, can never be a good sign.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know:

1. It’s good, not great.
2. Visually it is as stunning as almost anything you are likely to see on stage. Much media is used and used quite brilliantly.
3. The songs, all by Bono and The Edge, despite the pedigree (I am lifelong U2 fan), are pretty awful. A good pop songwriter(s) does not make a good Broadway lyricist. They don’t do much to move the story forward. I would like to hear U2 do them, they’re probably great that way.
4. Yes. The flying scenes are pretty fucking cool.
5. Set design has a comic book, storyboard vibe to it. It works. Really well.
6. The performances are all good. Not great. The story is weak. The “chorus” of comic book fans is ridiculous and serves no purpose.
7. At moments you see where the money went, and at others you scratch your head thinking “Really? 70+ million?”
8. You genuinely WANT to like it and there are moments of brilliance, but they are few and far between.
9. It’s an amazing accomplishment to see something like this being undertaken and actually realized at this level. Hats off to Julie Taymor and all involved.

Now we saw a preview so they are still working kinks out and judging by the size of one of Miss Taymor’s minions legal pad of notes (she sat behind us), I suspect there will be many many more tweaks. And while it may get better technically, that wasn’t the biggest problem for me. The story and the songs just aren’t there. And if they’re not there now, I feel safe saying it’s extremely unlikely they will be by opening nite.

Nonetheless, this is the work of a true visionary, Julie Taymor, and the fact that it has made it this far despite the many setbacks is a testament to her tenacity and creativity. She will be vilified, applauded, ridiculed, awarded and crucified for “Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark” which are all signs that there is way more right with this production than there is wrong. It’s the sign of someone with a vision and God knows we need more of those


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