Home Theater “Spider Man” 1st Performance: High Flying, with Speed Bumps

Everyone may relax. The naysayers were quelled tonight. “Spider Man: Turn off the Dark,” a 60 million musical, had its first performance tonight after many delays. No one was harmed, many were charmed. There was a lot of inspired flying and other spectacular aerial acts.  Director Julie Taymor has pulled off a coup.

Not to say “Spider Man,” which played its show with stars like Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, Sony Pictures chief Michael Lynton, and CBS’s Lesley Stahl in the audience is perfect. Rather, in preview it’s more like a set of beautiful, ornate tiles that still lack grouting. Over the next few weeks, Taymor–who by sheer chance I wound up sitting next to last night–will fill in the spaces, smooth everything out, and add a much needed power packed ending to replace the show’s current soft landing.

But saying all that, “Spider Man” is still already quite an amazing achievement. It combines the best of Broadway musicals with a touch of Cirque du Soleil, the Big Apple Circus, and Taymor’s own identifiable genius with puppets and imagery. Add to that the music of U2, and several potential hit songs. They have not gone wrong, but gone very right.

Even if the show cost $60 million, no one will  complain that they don’t see it on the stage. The sets, costumes and lighting are overwhelmingly cool and original. The scenes are one show stopper after another, culminating in Spider Man–Peter Parker, rather–racing through New York singing “The Boy Falls From the Sky.” It’s the keynote song of the show, but there others that popped on this first night: “Rise Above,” “Picture This,” and “If the World Should End” in particular. Frankly, in U2’s repertoire of anthems, “Rise Above” has the potential to equal “One.”

The book of the is what still needs tightening and clarifying, but that will come in the next couple of weeks. The “Spider Man” story isn’t “Merchant of Venice,” after all, and it shouldn’t be hard. Right now, Peter Parker’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben could use a little fleshing out. And some of the segues last night weren’t in place. A few times–all minor–the show had to be stopped to do fixes. This is to be expected at a preview, especially the first. Some woman yelled out in the darkness, “I feel like a guinea pig” when the second act fix went on for five minutes. She was roundly booed.

As for the flying: it’s terrific. It’s acrobatic, athletic, and ballet like. Incorporated into sets that feel like giant pop up books come alive, and you have the once in a lifetime kind of experience that Taymor always promised.

Expect lines around the block today at the Foxwoods Theater. No one who comes to New York will want to admit to missing “Spider Man.”

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21 replies to this post
  1. I was at the preview and it was an embarrassment of epic proportions. Let me briefly outline all the reasons people should stay away:

    1) Technical issues. They have been practicing for months all the “flying” segments and they still can’t get them right. In my opinion, Spider-Man looked like a marionette, the ropes were so clearly visible and during one scene, “Arachne” had to be helped by three or four stage hands to reach her perch in the balcony among the audience before she took flight. In another, Spider-Man tried to leap from the stage yet got stuck about ten feet above and again three or four stage hands came out jumping trying to pull him down. Everybody was laughing hysterically.

    2) Cheap Props – I never thought I would say that with a $65 Million dollar production but it’s true. In a scene similar to the movie, Peter Parker enters a wrestling contest in order to earn money. In the movie, the wrestler is played by an actual person. In the show it’s played by a blow-up doll, yes that’s right….a BLOW-UP DOLL. The doll was the type you could buy at a cheap store in the mall. They had a guy behind it moving it and the match ended when Peter Parker just jumps on this stupid doll laying down in the ring.

    In another scene, Mary Jane gets thrown off the Chrysler Building clutching on to a piano. To illustrate that they have a cut out of a piano and a girl pasted to a rope that just drops. I was thinking, “Is this for real?”.

    3) Idiotic Script. They have a villain catwalk similar to a fashion show. It made no sense at all and the people next to me were laughing at how bad it was. Then you have the villains themselves….the Green Goblin looks like a plant and not the Green Goblin, then you have another one called “Swiss Miss” who actually has chopping blades (look like propellors) on her breast. Then you have five other villains that are equally foolish in appearance.

    Another point with the villains was that they served no purpose at all. In the last ten minutes of the show, Spider-Man gets rid of all them by punching them once as they appear on a LED screen. So battle, no drama…just one puch and “poof” they are gone.

    The ending was all wrapped up in ten minutes as if they just wanted to get it over. As a result, there was absolutely no emotion or drama leaving you feeling as if you could care less about the characters. “Baddies” were gone with one punch, “Arachne” goes away with no fight when Spider-Man tells her he does not love her, and the big romance scene at the end was just Mary Jane telling Spider-Man to “Go get em’ Tiger” …no kiss, no song, no professing their love, nothing.

    Also the story was hard to follow….in the begining of the show there are some kids who start talking about Spider-Man as they are looking at a comic and through the show they are re-introduced and they are just rambling. Another issue is the character of “Arachne”. She is a mythical character in the the “real world” and then there are seven other villains and so there are just to many characters with no storyline.

    People were walking out this show and one lady even shouted aloud about being a “guinea pig”. Many people were rolling their eyes and laughing at how bad this show was. One columnist mentions that the later who shouted was soundly booed by the audience but keep in mind, the audience consisted of many people who friends and family of the cast, plus people who had a direct relationship to the show.

    Julie Traymor did a great job with “The Lion KIng” because she already had a Disney movie to base it on – plus she had the support of Disney in set design, costumes, etc. and they are among the best at doing this. In “Across the Universe” she had the Beatles songbook to work with so she already had a great start. Now with Spider-Man, she had to start from scratch and she failed miserably, it’s a total joke.

  2. Somebody is lying. Is this a paid advertisement? The reviews from others talked about the horrid technical glitches and set screw ups. You should not mislead people.

  3. It’s like the plot from The Producers: create a total bomb Broadway show and rip off all the investors after it stinks to a close on opening night…this show is more like a terrorist attack…what a stinkaroo!!!

  4. With all the buffoonery on stage, simply re-categorize it as a comedy and claim victory. I wish I was there to sense the gross awkwardness of an amateur night in Erie for the sniveling New York elitists in attendance. It was hysterical of reading more truthful reviews elsewhere which chronicled the humiliation for all involved. And all this for a mere $65 million? Heck, save me the aisle seat!

  5. What a coincidence that you just happened to be sitting next to the director. I’m sure you’re not biased at all. Either you were asleep during each of the countless mistakes or you just refuse to write about them.
    The show was a horrible disaster.
    This is not to say it cannot be improved upon. In fact, there is plenty of room for improvement.

  6. This show is not for the old time Broadway snobs. This is for part of a new generation of Broadway shows where the set and the acrobatics are as much of a star and if not more than the music, actors and story.

    Zigfield would be amazed to see that what he wanted to do with his original follies can be done now. Just wait for an adult themed, acrobatic show to hit Broadway following the tradition of Oh, Calcutta!

  7. You could not be more wrong. This show is awful and the music is terrible. The actors had no chemistry or talent to speak of. I have been going to opera for 10 years and I can tell you this show is inferior in every way and a complete waste of time.

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