Spiderman Finally Opens; No Longer The Worst Musical Ever

Ken AshfordTheatreLeave a Comment

But what it is, is this:

This singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It’s just a bore.

–  Ben Brantley, New York Times

The show actually sounds better than when I saw it in previews.  They took out the overbearing and pompous Arachne plot, as well as the insufferable "Geek Chorus".  It looks like they basically took Act I and stretched it into two acts.

Which, admittedly, would be an improvement.

But even if more stage time is given to Page (as the Green Goblin) — who was good when I saw it — it doesn't make up for one of the musicals biggest flaws, and one that critics ignored the first time around: the music.  Howeve, the leaner Spiderman 2.0 offers up the flaw, as noted by critic Scott Brown of New York magazine:

No amount of mulch or manure can cover up the music, which is, by far, the show's greatest weakness. (Which is saying something.) With Taymor in charge, Spider-Man essentially ignored its score, and invited us to ignore it, too. We happily obliged. Now, the inert echoplay of the Edge's music and the dippy teen-poet vacuousness of Bono's lyrics cannot and will not be denied…. "Bullying by Numbers," "DIY World," "A Freak Like Me Needs Company," and the narcotizing ballad "If the World Should End" (the undisputed nadir of last weekend's Tony awards ceremony) demonstrate, beyond a doubt, that the boys from Dublin never had a damned clue what a musical was or how to dramatize action and emotion in song. Spider-Man was a bad Julie Taymor musical; it is now, wholeheartedly, a terrible U2 musical…


But yes, I predicted that:  Taymor was only part of the problem.  U2 was the other part.

Anyway, on to the reviews:

USA Today: “Luckily, Patrick Page, the veteran actor who plays Osborn and the Goblin, is an exuberantly entertaining villain; Reeve Carney, the less experienced leading man, conveys a youthful earnestness and burgeoning confidence that make him a compelling foil. The new ‘Spider-Man’ is more of an overt crowd-pleaser, but its most affecting features reflect the serious, arty aspirations of the original.”

Associated Press: “This production is lighter and clearer, if thematically less challenging. It may not be the best thing in theater, but it is far from the worst show in Broadway history.”

The New York Post: “‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,’ the busy musical spectacle that opened last night, tries very hard to be fun and accessible. After many upheavals and accidents, firings and rewrites, the show is closer than ever to the bull’s eye, but that’s not saying much: The target has been both broadened and lowered. The point of reference is Joel Schumacher’s family-ready ‘Batman,’ not Christopher Nolan’s dark, arty one.”

The Daily News: “Emerging from all that tangled drama, Spidey 2.0 is more cohesive, streamlined and funnier than before, and its thrills are still intact – though it is still weighed down by so-so songs. “Spider-Man” isn’t a great, gourmet meal, but it’s a tasty diversion.

Newsday (subscription required): “So, is it better? Yes, the story makes sense now and, so far, no one has fallen down. But is it better than junk-food theater in a jumbo package? No.”

New York magazine: “I’m sorry to report that the eight-legged, nine-lived megalomusical — which finally opened tonight, in its newly tamed, scared-straight and heavily Zolofted post-Taymor state — has deteriorated from mindblowingly misbegotten carnival-of-the-damned to merely embarrassing dud.”

Time Out New York
: “What can we say about this marvelously morphing musical? It’s a hell of a lot better. ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ is now a coherent and mostly enjoyable entertainment for children and adults, albeit one still saddled with Taymor’s vestigial nuttiness and freshly dug plot holes all its own.”

The Wall Street Journal: “George Tsypin’s sets, Kyle Cooper’s digital projections and Eiko Ishioka’s costumes have been melded into an exquisitely exact stage equivalent of the sharp-angled, high-contrast drawing style of the Marvel comic books in which Peter Parker and his web-spinning alter ego first came to fictional life. The show’s sheer visual dynamism is staggering — but except for one great performance, it has little else to offer. It’s the best-looking mediocre musical ever to open on Broadway.”

Chicago Tribune: “Given the limited amount of fix-’er-up time, and the depths of incoherence from which this show had to rise, 2.0 is a remarkable achievement for those who have toiled for coherence and a measure of absolution in this dangerously tangled web. For all the abiding limitations, clashing sensibilities and thudding holes, it should, for the record, be noted as such. And if you were the one writing those big checks and hoping against hope that something Vegas-popular, London-duplicable, family-friendly and appealing to Gotham tourists who don’t speak a lick of English would emerge from the biggest heap of theatrical mishegoss since the Astor Place Riot in 1849, you would be breathing a sigh of relief as that opening-night curtain rang down Tuesday.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: “The new ‘Spider-Man’ is all for fun, a live-on-stage comic book, pure and simple – precisely what the last version wasn’t, and what its team, on hiatus for several weeks of rewrites and rehearsals, reimagined. It will by no means assume a spot in the pantheon of great Broadway musicals, but it’s now far more than a tortured curiosity.”

Financial Times: “If you have been craving confirmation that ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ is a disaster, you may be disappointed: this version 2.0 is pretty entertaining.”

The Washington Post: “This effects-driven musical is still situated a wide canyon’s distance from good.”

The Globe and Mail: “While the musical has moments of beautiful imagery and genuinely exciting aerial sequences, as well as the basic storytelling competence it lacked for most of its history, only rarely does it soar.”