by: Frank (@FFMXero)
So, I went to see Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark back in January. It was Spider-Man on Broadway! I couldn’t miss this chance and it was also ending its run in New York and moving to Las Vegas. I made the necessary plans and took the trip out to NYC to see the show. I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan of Broadway but every show that I have seen on Broadway, was very good. That being said I was expecting absolute poop on a stick, but, there hasn’t been another comic book character that has had the musical treatment so, I said what the hell and resigned myself to watching it. I will say after seeing it and it being a few months later at the time of writing this, that, it was better than I thought it was going to be.
Before I start talking about the experience of going to the show, let it be known that this show has suffered from quite a few problems in the past. The show was notorious for accidents/injuries involving the stunts (there was a lot of wire work involved) and it was plagued with numerous script and score changes. Things were so bad that the original director left (or got fired), portions of the show had to be redirected and the injuries kept coming. The show wound up getting completely overhauled and had the longest running preview period in Broadway history. It’s also the most expensive production in Broadway history, costing about $75 million to produce.
In watching the play, the story is all its own, while borrowing heavily from the source material of comics and films. It’s cited as being a rock musical, but there are so many other different elements of music within the show that it’s a little difficult to determine what type of genre it falls into. The same can be said of the story which is a little out there, but, if you know Spider-Man then you should be able to follow it. It’s safe to say that watching this would not be a good starting point into the world of Spider-Man.
Let’s start with the music, as it’s one of the biggest parts of any Broadway show. The music was done by Bono of U2 and the musician The Edge. There were definite elements of Bono in ALL of the music as you could tell he had more creative control of the numbers. He could very well have been the more creative composer of the two as you couldn’t get away from his “sound” even when they were trying something “new”. The music as a whole was pretty good and had a very, very, very wide range. There were a few stand out numbers: “A Freak Like Me Needs Company”, “Pull The Trigger”, “Sinistereo”, “Rise Above” and of course Spider-Man! were easily the best songs in the production. All of the music was generally cheesy and corny but fit very well into the type of story that they were telling. The singing was surprisingly good all around. There was a good balance between music and vocals and one didn’t overpower the other. The guy who was playing Spider-Man had a kind of screechy voice (think Axl Rose) but it fit because most, if not all of his songs were rock songs. There really wasn’t a weak link when it came to this aspect.
Moving on to acting, there were glaring weaknesses here but overall it wasn’t terrible. The standout performance was Robert Cuccioli who played Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. He was absolutely amazing in his role and really brought the character to life. Thee were other standout roles in the production but they weren’t main characters. All of the main characters were just OK in their roles. The guy playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man was pretty good but he was the alternate and the people I went to see it with said that the original actor was much better. The woman playing Mary Jane was awful and didn’t bring any life to her performance. The acting definitely wasn’t the most well-rounded thing about the play. Performance wise as in most Broadway shows, the dancing was insane but felt reeeeallly out-of-place at times because of it being a show about Spider-Man.
I will mention that the costume design was fairly creative with some glaring exceptions and omissions. Characters like Spider-Man and the Green Goblin were well designed but when they brought out their version of the Sinister Six, I was cringing. Their version was made up of, Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, The Lizard, Carnage, and new additions made up for the show: Swiss Miss and The Swarm. Think of Swiss Miss as a woman who has a Swiss Army knife for a costume…and then take away any cool ideas you have associated with that. The Swarm is a man who controls bees…absolutely dreadful. Their Lizard was a giant balloon animal with a dude in it and their Carnage while sticking closely to the original design just looked poorly put together.
One of the biggest highlights of the show were the stunts. Excellent wire work and choreography had actors flying all around the stage and audience. It was really cool to watch this unfold and it is truly unfortunate that it took them such a long time and many injuries to kind of get it right. Some of the more notable parts were when Peter Parker became Spider-Man for the first time while everyone was singing the Spider-Man! song and the final battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. They used eight stunt doubles for Spider-Man’s acrobatics and movements.
As a whole, I liked it enough as it was a story about Spider-Man but the story itself was reaching in some aspects, the acting was average with some standouts, the music was above average but only because it fit within the confines of the story, costume design as a whole was average but had some terrible designs mixed in, and performance and stunts were the best parts about this production. The show will most likely fall into the category of “it’s so bad it’s kind of good”, for most that have seen it. It is not something I would see again, as I only wanted to see it because it’s one of a kind. If there were some kind of rating system I would rate it right down the middle. I would say see it only if you absolutely have to see how something like this would turn out. It’s why I even bothered.