Thursday, December 2, 2010

Comic-Kozzy: Cirque Du Spidey

  (But hopefully not too many.)

First the good news.

Technically and visually, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is an amazing, spectacular, sensational tour de force.

I just got back from New York where I attended the second preview performance EVER of the Broadway Spider-Man musical.  As we entered the theater (see the video below, taken with my Iphone, shaky and unedited), there was excitement and a sense of  anticipation that I have rarely felt at a theater..  Clearly, this was an audience that was rooting for this show to succeed.

We were seated in the mezzanine, second row.  The usher politely told the people in the row in front of us to keep their hands, feet and any other objects off of the balcony edge.  Kind of like a Disney ride:  "keep your hands and legs inside the car at all times."  And we knew it would be a ride.

Long time Spidey fans and purists will be pleased to note that one of the sets contains HUMONGOUS blow-ups of Steve Ditko artwork from the first few issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN from way back in 1962.  

Those of us who loved the work of Ditko, Stan Lee, John Romita, et al. will be dismayed that throughout the program... there is not ONE SINGLE MENTION of Spider-Man's creators.  Not Lee, not Ditko, not Romita.   Oh, there is a brief mention of the names at one point in the play, including Quesada, Strazynski and a few others.  But that tip of the hat does NOT excuse the unforgivable oversight of neglecting Lee and Ditko by name.  I mean, for Pete's sake, even the frikkin' accountants get a shout out in the program.

At about 8:05, the producer of the show came out to hearty applause and cheering.  He mentioned the press the show has received recently, and noted that MOST shows do their previews out of town while they get it in shape for Broadway.  In THIS case, however, extensive renovations had to be done to the theater to make it ready.  There was simply no way to mount Spider-Man out of town.  So, glitches and all, the show was being previewed extensively in New York, and he asked our forbearance of any potential delays or glitches.

Now, it's considered bad form to review a show which is still in previews, so I don't want to get TOO much into detail.  It would not be fair to the VERY hard work being done by the cast and crew.

But I will say this:

When Spider-Man showed up on stage for the first time, the audience cheered.

As it happened, there was only one glitch for which they stopped the show, and a minor one at that, which occurred at around 8:56.  Spidey (there were nine of them, by my count) was about to make what looked to be a spectacular swing, but had to back track for a moment.  He actually wall-crawled his way back to the wings.  Once he made it back, he offered a jaunty salute to the crowd - which, to me, was the closest thing I saw to the personality of our familiar friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  After a few minutes, the "god voice' of the stage manager announced they were ready to try again.

And when he swung from the stage, across the auditorium, landing just a few feet away from me, big as life, on the MEZZANINE, and then leapt into the air back towards the stage and a mid-air battle royale with the Green Goblin (who owed a bit more to the Vulture, I'd say, based on his costume and the way Spidey rode his back) I was ten years old all over again.

I loved Act 1.  Nuff Said.

They took many liberties with the story... most of which I thought were completely unnecessary (I won't go into them here, yet, but there was one that I thought particularly wrong for the character).  Some may think me a purist, but I think the areas of story where they went wrong were the areas in which they deviated from Stan Lee's original vision.

No one can fault Julie Taymor for being timid, though, and it takes guts to mess with a legend.  And the music by Bono and The Edge, well - if you're a U2 fan, you'll love it.  If you're not... well, it's not exactly your typical Broadway score.

I'm going spend a day or so digesting the rest of what I saw... and given that I don't want to actually do an extensive review of the show till it officially opens, I'm planning another blog shortly in which I'll give Julie my unsolicited advice on how to make the show better... especially act two which really needs to be.. um, you know, better.


  1. I like your review. Very detailed but not really a spoiler.

  2. Definitely not a spoiler, you tease... As I've said on other blogs... it's a criminal shame not to give credit to Lee, et. al., however, after reading your review, could it be that Lee did not want his name on the show? When you first mentioned you were going to this show (of which, living in the hinterland of the country, I knew nothing about until that point), I feared many of what I think your complaints will be... While not a huge Spidey fan (my indoctrination to the character was the old tv cartoon, not the comics, that came later), my fear of it hitting Broadway was that they would water the concept down... hopefully, they will listen and make the changes necessary...

  3. This was a great overview of the play. I would love to see it, sadly cannot. So thanks again!

  4. I like you post about Spiderman Turn Off the dark. There is an interview with Stan Lee on the musicals webpage where he talks about the show and loves it.

    The first act is basically complete. It needs a bit of a clean up but still good. The second act, well yesterday is the only the 2nd time they ran through it and I know they really didn't have an ending as late as last week.

    From what I've saw I think this show is pretty amazing despite so many people wanting it to fail.

  5. Oohh, I can't wait to see it! I'm right outside NYC most of the year, but I'm a poor college kid so I'll have to save my pennies.

    But I do agree with Mark, that many people want it to fail. Theater people generally dislike this kind of crossover show (whether it's from a TV show, movie, or comic, they prefer original shows and classics), and comic readers are often very discerning about how our favorite characters are handled. Even if the story isn't awesome, though, I cannot wait to see Spidey in action.