Thursday, June 23, 2011

Anomaly of Spidey on Broadway, Take 2

Hi, I'm Sue. I have very strong opinions about the differences between "Muppets" and "puppets". And I am an Anomaly.

Back on February 17, I posted my thoughts on the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark." Right around that time, rumors started flying that the producers had approached playwright and Marvel comicbook writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to join the creative team. On February 21, it was announced that Paul Bogaev (2004 Tony Award for Best Orchestrations) would be joining the creative team to "help improve the performance, vocal and orchestration arrangements, and sound quality of the songs and numbers." On March 4, the production was issued 3 safety violations with $12,600 in fines. On March 7, speculation began that Director and Co-Author Julie Taymor would be released (read: fired) from the production. On March 9, producers released that Aguirre-Sacasa had officially joined the creative team, as well as Director Philip William McKinley, Sound Designer Peter Hylenski, and Choreographer Chase Brock. Oh, and that there would be another delay in and "due to the new schedule, director and co-book writer Julie Taymor will no longer continue in her day-to-day duties with the production." And, finally, on March 10, more than three weeks of performances were canceled and the opening night was postponed again. WOW. Performances resumed on May 12... and after another $15 million, 183 preview performances (the most in Broadway history), and 15 months of delays, "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" finally opened on June 14.

On June 22, I saw it again. It's still pretty bad.

This time around, the story makes a lot more sense. The show opens with Peter Parker giving a presentation about Arachne in mythology class. [I assume they could not cut this character completely because of contractual agreements with the actress, T.V. Caprio.] Peter's won a science award, so his whole class gets to tour Dr. Osborn's laboratory, where he is bitten by a genetically-engineered super-spider. Uncle Ben gets killed by a carjacker, Peter and Mary Jane start dating, and Peter become Spider-Man and starts working for the Daily Bugle. When Dr. Osborne realizes that Spider-Man is a product of his research, and desperate for funding and staff, he injects himself with a genetic mutation cocktail. But, of course, something goes wrong, and he becomes the Green Goblin. He abducts his former staff members (who all quit due to lack of funding), and also injects them, turning them into the Sinister Six. They begin to terrorize New York, and although Spider-Man destroys the supervillains, the Bugle is still making him about to be just another villain. Peter decides he's done with Spider-Man, but Arachne comes to Peter in a dream to tell him that "with great power comes great responsibility." When Peter wakes up, he goes after the Green Goblin, who has Mary Jane dangling from the Chrysler Building. Spider-Man kills Green Goblin, but during their fight, Spidey's mask comes off, so his identity is revealed to Mary Jane. As they're about to share a romantic moment, sirens start blaring. MJ says, "Get 'em, Tiger", and Peter flies off into the night to save the world! ...Forgive me, I got carried away.

So, yeah, the story is much better. But still not great. They also made a big deal about the "new songs." But not only did they all sound the same as the first time I saw the show, they all sounded the same as each other. The problems with the score are still there - all of the music sounds the same, the lyrics are repetitive, the music is not memorable, there are no interesting melodies or rhythms, and every non-solo song has counterpoints. But my favorite song was called "Spider-Man!" - different members of the cast were walking around the stage pantomiming crimes, and every now and then they would turn to the audience and sing/scream, "SPI-DER-MAN!" That lasted a good 8-10 minutes.

The "geek chorus" is gone. Arachne's song about shoes is gone. The supervillain fashion show is gone. Peter still wrestles with a giant blow up doll. Members of the mercenary organization that wants to fund the genetic engineering research are still portrayed as Nazis, and still goosestep around the stage while the main characters sing about creating a race of "perfect humans." There's still the second act movie that's played on the LCD set. At least now, the band isn't standing on stage - it's the "reporters" calling in stories of the destruction caused by the Sinister Six. But, still, the reporters are standing in the corners and the villains walk downstage to the beat as the movie plays. The sets are all the same - I guess you can't ditch something you've spent that much money on - and the aerial choreography all seemed the same to me, and still not that impressive. And I think the acting and singing actually got worse, if that's even possible.

It was like I was inside "The Producers" and in the audience of "Springtime for Hilter." Except that I was watching an actual Broadway show. This is a terrible show that sells out every performance. I'm not so sure anymore that the novelty will wear off. People "in the know" are going to see this show because of the terrible press (car wreck syndrome), others are going because Spider-Man is such a recognizable commodity, and families are going because you're not going to take a 10-year-old boy to see "A Little Night Music" if "Spider-Man" is an option. Oh, and did I mention that they raised their ticket prices so that 75% of the theatre is considered "premium seating" with a $300 per ticket price tag? Yeah, so there's that. (No, I didn't sit there.)

From now on, the only Spider-Man I want to see anywhere near Times Square is the one on the signage for Midtown Comics.

Anomaly Staff Writer

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