Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark
If you are a guy who is into comics or if you are a teenage girl - this is the show for you.
I am neither.
Spiderman is a comic book come to life. It is every bit as two-dimensional as the media from which it sprung. It has a smattering of story that serves as decoration while the audience waits to see Spiderman do his thing. The main problem is that the Peter Parker, an engaging Reeve Carney, never delivers the goods in that department, because he never fully transforms into Spiderman.
When the change from ordinary young man into Super Hero needs to occur, Carney runs off stage right or left, tugging at his clothing to reveal a bit of the Spiderman costume. Immediately following his exit, the team of SpiderMEN take over the stage. These acrobats would appear to have sprung directly from the loins of Cirque du Soleil. They are agile, inventive and enthusiastic. They twirl, they spiral and they soar. Occasionally they glide out into the house held up by wire contraptions that make dental braces look simple. And they always look like they are having a ball, whether earthbound or soaring.
When the SpiderMEN disappear, we are back to normal Peter Parker whose humdrum life as a High School Senior is spiced up only by the love of his gal Mary Jane Watson (Jennifer Damiano). I say humdrum because it is never clear exactly when Parker's home town becomes unsafe. Presumably it happened just about the same time that Parker was bitten by the spider and got turned into a Super Hero. The spider Arachne (T.V.Carpio) escaped from the laboratory of the inventive and soon to be demonic Dr. Osborn (Peter Page). With the birth of Spiderman the immediate world seems to come undone, and when Peter takes a night off to be with Mary Jane - things get very, very messy.
And soon they get messier. The Doctor, certain we are all destined for environmental disaster (the only bit of reality in this story) and in an effort to adapt his body for the future, enters a machine he invented to test its ability to help the body transform for the future environmental mess. The machine (I want one) goes a little haywire and the good Doctor becomes the evil Green Goblin. His mind and personality transform as well, and instead of saving the planet, he now wants to rule it.
As Parker's nemesis, it is the Green Goblin who steals the show. He is the only character who wants something. Parker wants to stop the Green Goblin but after that he might just retire to the farm and raise a passel of young 'uns. It's hard to say.
Not only is the Green Goblin motivated, he is funny and flamboyant. The audience cheers for him upon his first entrance. Why? Because he expects them to. He is the Liberace of the Lizard world and loves it. He prances and dances, he struts and shimmies. He is all showbiz.
But evil must be stopped because this is a comic book world. Spiderman vanquishes the Green Goblin and more importantly he removes his mask (causing a hormonal flash among the young women in the audience that could power up a small third world country) and confesses his true identity to his beloved. After this, Carney actually takes a Spiderman turn around the theatre airways that reveals how much he loves flying: not one little bit. He looks like he is having about as much fun as I would be having. (Just watching the aerial bits made my palms sweat.)
It is this final touch that puts the kibosh on caring about this hero. Sincerity and songs are one thing, but when a real Spiderman is needed, no half pint imitation will do. Carney is a fine performer, but Spiderman needs someone with some bigger boots. It could also use a script with some punch, but that ain't gonna happen. The entire production is, as my new chum Chris (in from Utah with his high school group to see some theatre) said, like an explosion that, once the smoke clears, reveals that nothing was there to begin with. Spiderman does not live up to all the hype that has washed down 42nd Street for the past 6 months: surprise, surprise!
However, don't try telling this to any of the comic book fans or the teenagers. You will be accused of being too picky by the guys or immolated by feminine indignation: which is fine, because they are the target audience for Spiderman. There are a lot more of them out there than you might think, and I hear there are more in the pipeline.
PS: Great Sets.
What the popular press said...
"This singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It's just a bore."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"Makes for a enjoyable evening that goes down easy."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"The overall effect is more competent than awe-inspiring, more Six Flags than magic. How weird that this is an extravaganza without a single genuine showstopper."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"A loud, garish musical-with-flying."
Jeremy Gerard for Bloomberg
"While it probably won't become one of the street's greatest smashes, it's now a fun family show that will entertain fans of both superheroes and showstoppers. Was it worth the wait? For this combination fanboy and show queen, definitely."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"The show has essentially been turned into a toothless, live-action comic book."
Robert Feldberg for the Record
"Still no great shakes as theater. But as commercial spectacle, I can honestly say now it flies."
Roma Torre for NY1
"This patchily-written, over-produced endeavor is kid's stuff ."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"Significantly overhauled but still terminally clunky."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Reasonably improved but somewhat less spectacular."
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...
New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Bloomberg - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety
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