Spider Man on Broadway, A Week Later: Show Takes Flying Leap Forward
“Spider Man: Turn off the Dark” played its 6th preview yesterday afternoon at the Foxwoods Theater. It’s been a whole week since the first preview. Yesterday’s celebrity in the audience was Michael Moore with his two sisters. They told me they really loved it.
Here’s where things stand: yesterday there were a couple of stops, all due to minor technical issues. A swing got stuck in the first act, and some flying was interrupted by crossed wires.
The audience, which was sold out, was prepared before the curtain went up by producer Jerry Harris. No one seemed to mind. I minded more that no one has proof read the sign outside the theater in which the word ‘performance’ is missing the ‘n’.
Back to the show: the flying sequences do seem more sure now, and no one is harmed. When Spider Man and the Green Goblin fight mid-air over the audience, it’s absolutely thrilling. In Peter Parker’s pas de deux with Arachne (played by understudy America Olivo), the levitation scene is incredible. I also love the opening of the second act with the parade of potential villains for Spider Man. I just wish that they’d treat it as a fun “beauty pageant,” as someone on stage describes it. The heavy metal music is maybe a bit too much. Julie Taymor and company should remember that it’s a comic book. Comic. Also, I rather doubt anyone gets references to Ovid. Maybe the Metamorphosis here should be Kafka. (It was bugging me.)
The show still lacks a power packed awe inspiring ending. I’m told that a new ending is being readied for installation. Let’s hope it includes lots of Spider men flying, and a big number–either a reprise of “Rise Above” or maybe an existing U2 song like “Stay (Faraway And So Close).” (Note: the “American Idiot” encore is a Green Day song, “Time of Your Life.” It’s very cool.)
Indeed, it wouldn’t be wrong to think about adding a couple of U2 songs to the mix. “Mysterious Ways” would be great right after Peter and Mary Jane connect. And “With You or Without You” would be terrific in the second act.
Mostly, what “Spider Man” needs is all fixable long before January 11th. It’s little things. The show is called “Turn off the Dark.” So lighten up. Peter Parker and Mary Jane need some campy romantic stuff. And Peter needs to address Mary Jane by her name when we first meet her. For some reason, he almost never calls her by her name. The Mary Jane character makes an awkward and unheralded entrance that needs to underlined and boldfaced.
But I love, love, love everything with Patrick Page as Norman Osborne aka The Green Goblin, and Michael Mulheren as JJ Jameson. The audience does, too. And I tell you, the audience loves the show. (It is not for kids under 5, however. Please do not bring crying babies to Broadway shows, folks.) They could easily live without all my nitpicking.
All together: big improvements in a short time. That’s just what previews are for.
Full price previews are NOT for shows still having to stop “a couple of times” after a full WEEK of performances! That is simply not professional and WOULD NOT have BEEN acceptable even in an out-of-town try-out city in saner days. It isn’t fair to the customers, the actors OR the creators; the customers don’t get the show they paid for and the creators aren’t able to do what previews are REALLY for. If you have to worry about getting the mechanics to work (that’s what TECHNICAL REHEARSALS are for) you can’t focus on getting the ultimately most important things that keep a show running – the music, script & performances – working. Even a theme park wouldn’t open a ride for paying customers until it physically WORKED, and a Broadway musical aspires to far more than a theme park – or should. I’ve been patiently expecting these artists to get their big show right as they have demonstrated they could in the past, but Mr. Friedman, in trying to “blow sunshine up our skirts” in a way no one who has SEEN a variety of big professional shows actually previewing could with any credibility, makes me angry. Even a paid publicist would be embarrassed to make such excuses, but then they wouldn’t denigrate their audiences’ intelligence assuming that a serious comic book reader wouldn’t know Ovid’s Metamorphosis just because Mr. Friedman doesn’t. The still unprepared situation he describes (and even calls for – implying the authors may not be capable of writing required numbers and calling for insertion of jukebox numbers instead!) is shameful.
Very clever, Mr. Friedman and always insightful.