“Spider Man: Turn off the Dark” played its last preview Sunday afternoon after more than a 100 performances. Without ever officially opening, the $65 million musical closed for three weeks to retool– without its creator and visionary, Julie Taymor. In the audience at the Foxwoods Theatre sat Daniel Ezralow, the fired choreographer, and The Edge (aka David Evans) of the band U2, co-composer with Bono (Paul Hewson), of the show’s songs. There was a rumor that Bono was also in the house, unconfirmed. But missing from the final performance was Taymor, who rightly should have taken a big bow at the end of the show.
This time, as with most “Spider Man” performances, there was a tech glitch. It left Peter Parker (Reeve Carney) and Mary Jane (Jennifer Damiano) dangling on their makeshift fire escape for a nanosecond before their scene started. No harm done. And all you could think, these kids are brave.
The theater was full, thanks in large part to tourists and foreigners. One woman, sitting on an aisle, pointed to masking tape marking the space around her chair and asked an usher, “Is theese for Speederman?” She was from Brazil, and very excited. Indeed, the whole theater was excited, and the performance was treated like an occasion, with heroes (producer Michael Cohl) and villains (Michael Riedel of the New York Post) lurking about just like it was a comic strip.
During the curtain call, someone on stage held up a sign that read “Back May 12th.” That’s the day “Spider Man” will return with a new book, or a modified one, at best. Not a lot of the existing Taymor and Glenn Berger story can be changed. Taymor’s puppets will remain, so will the acrobatics and flying, most of the songs. The Green Goblin, played so well by Patrick Page, will be pumped up. Arachne, the female “spider woman” portrayed by T. V. Carpio–who was in great form Sunday afternoon–will be rearranged and minimized. But sources tell me Arachne will not disappear altogether. Her weaving scene from Act I, for example, will remain, although moved.
What will become of “Spider Man?” It’s due to open, for real, on June 14th. But don’t set your calendar by that information. That’s like saying you parked your own car in a mall “next to the green car.” Whoops! Everything is always moving. Right now, the actors and musicians get a week off while the tech people do the massive rearranging for the new book. Presently, Bono and The Edge are here in New York. But, ironically, their tour picks up in Mexico City on May 11th–meaning they won’t be here again when the show resumes. It’s just like Deja vu since they weren’t here last November when the show first began.
As for “Spider Man” itself, I watched with some awe today especially as Reeve Carney, who plays Peter Parker, and was a rock musician before this project started, flies over the audience, climbs on netting, does somersaults in the air. The whole cast is remarkable in the sense that they put themselves through these paces for eight shows a a week and acquit themselves beautifully. Everything else now is in the hands of the people Bono and Cohl thought would be better than Taymor–including an inexperienced choreographer. Can they really make changes so profound? Or was this whole new effort just a matter of ego and personality? We’ll see in three weeks.