Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stage Review: Spiderman - Turn off the dark

I'll be brief, since so much has already been said about the weaknesses and outright failures of the elaborate, pie-in-the-sky, eyes-bigger-than-their-stomachs production of Spider-man on Broadway.

In a nutshell: the music, terrible; the dialogue, stiff; the sets, distracting; the wire-work, all sizzle no steak; the characters, thin; the stakes, low; the action, poorly-executed; the emotion, dead on arrival; the dancing, awkward; and the story, anticlimactic.

In their haste to make something "never before seen" on Broadway the end result is something that still isn't. After some showing flying around the theater the key action sequences occur off stage with mic'd-in voice overs. "Save me Peter!" we hear from somewhere off stage followed by the sounds, un-seen, of the Green Goblin and Sipder-man in the throes of battle and the triumphant appearance of Peter Parker, with MJ Watson in tow, arriving safely at center stage to share one last kiss -- and YES, they perform the upside-down kiss. I have expected it to rain on stage.

On the most basic level, this "re-telling" of the iconic superhero is all but a clone of the Sam Raimi film starring Tobey McGuire. The stage version throws in a smattering of secondary villain characters -- which, by the way, look rediculous -- for good show, but disposes of the whole in about the time it takes to sing 8 bars. The entire first act is the same origin story we've heard before and hope we never have to sit through again, and peppered throughout the play is an ambiguous, ill-conceived character named Arachne, who seems to drop in only for ethereal wafting of Bono and The Edge's all-too-literal lyrics and to satisfy the affirmative action quota of the Foxwoods theater.

What IS that?

The sets, while boasting of impressive gimmickry, serve little storytelling purpose, much like Wicked's dragon, only for the entire show. Not to mention, their forced-2d perspective, while true to the Comic book aesthetic, makes for a jarring visual as live humans interact with skewed, cartoonist objects. The flat look is no doubt meant to evoke the glossy pages where the character origniated, but instead mirrors the caricature he has become. In ever way, the show has placed every egg it has in the set and effects basket and while the basket it interesting, it's not something I want to carry around.

Bono and the Edge clearly wanted to buck the trend of traditional musical theater but maybe shouldn't have strayed so far from the fold. The songs are all focused on a single vocalist, never taking advantage of the combined power of its chorus and for the all the techy gimmickery the entire production comes to a halt during the best musical moments, squandering the potential of the stage format as we're treated to what amounts to a karaoke performance of U2 b-sides. Imagine Les Mis if every song was treated slike "Stars" and remember that by the time Javert makes that soul-wrenching, emotionally racking solo he has earned his time in the spotlight. The cast of Spider-man does not, and the songs themselves are hardly worth the attention.

So, after all that has been said allow me to add my voice. Spider-man Turn of the Dark is a loud, obnoxious, flash-in-the-pan and pointless abortion of the stage. Congratulations Broadway, you may have found your Troll 2. D

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