Spiderman Musical Review (Turn Off the Dark)

OK, I saw the Spiderman musical (still in pre-production) on Broadway last week.  I thought I would share some thoughts about the show.  Note that I like musicals and have been to a bunch but I am by no means an expert.

The show began with an unforced error, which seemed really dumb given the bad press the show has been getting (mixed reviews combined with some very high-profile accidents).  I showed up 20 minutes early and found a line for the Will Call (not ticket purchase, but simply ticket pickup) that went down the entire long block.  It took me 40 minutes just to pick up my tickets.  The show started late, but I still missed the first number, and a LOT of people were behind me.

The show was sold out on a Wednesday night.  I don't know if this is a measure of its popularity or the new Nascar, waiting for an accident aspect of the show.  A friend of mine said he went the week before and the show had three long halts  (there is a lot of technical stuff going on in the flying -- the stops feel exactly like when the ride stops at DisneyWorld).  We had only two very short ones.

The staging is amazing.  Actors fly all around the stage, and more impressively, soar and fight above the audience, frequently landing on the railings of the balconies.  The stage itself is well done - they do a nice job creating the illusion of great height when scenes take place on the top of buildings.

The dancing is fun, in a high energy way.  Often it is more tumbling and gymnastics than dancing, but entertaining.

The plot in the first half is solid - the classic spiderman origin myth -- if you have seen the recent movie you have got it.

For me, the wheels really came off the bus in the second half.  The villain is Arachne -- not some super villain with an appropriate name, but the actual Arachne from greek mythology that Athena turned into a spider.  Arachne is a combination scorned lover, unkillable super-villain, and source of redemption and has these sort of spider minions around her.  This whole plot angle did not work at all for me.

Why the problem?  Well, they killed off the first villain in the first act.  So, without even being a sequel, they created the sequel problem in the second Act -- how do you top the first villain?  And like many sequels, it became over the top and incoherent.

OK, and now for the final problem:  The music was entirely forgettable.  There were no musical themes that helped unify the show (as someone like Andrew Lloyd Weber does).  There were just a bunch of unrelated songs  (I suppose there could have been a reprise, but the music being reprised was so forgettable that I forgot it).  The music established the right moods -- dark or heroic or romantic, but it was just wallpaper behind the actors.

I would not have had trouble with it if Bono and Edge had, being new to musical theater, tried to do something really different and failed.  But they simply cranked out a bunch of utterly bland show tunes.  A couple were OK at the time, but I sure wasn't whistling them on the way out.  In contrast, I saw Chorus Line 30 years ago and still can sing bits of several songs.

Weird Fact: Dr. Normon Osborn (who in the show is not only Green Goblin but also the creator of the mutant spider that gives Spiderman his powers) looks exactly like Madam Hooch in the Harry Potter movies.  As Green Goblin he looks more like a green Gene Simmons.

  • DrTorch

    Parker's a wuss. They shoulda done the Fantastic Four. Johnny Storm is where it's at.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    > green Gene Simmons.

    Maybe they can get David Bowie involved and have him turn into the Green Gene Genie...

    That or Captain Kangaroo can be the villain.

  • epobirs

    Looks like they're following the Ultimate Universe storyline, where it was Osborn's company that introduced Peter Parker to the mutated spider. Not accidentally, either.

    Where it's at is dead. As of this week the Fantastic is short a member, last scene on the verge of being eviscerated by Annihilus' army of Negative Zone bugs.