Well, well. “Spider Man: Turn off the Dark” has actually improved. I saw it on Friday night, and there were no glitches or stops of any kind. The flying and all the special effects were absolutely thrilling. After about 100 performances, the aerialists actually seem comfortable and are having fun with the show.
Of course, past mistakes led to yesterday’s three fines from OSHA amounting to $12,500 apiece. But those fines were for old business. “Spider Man” now looks like it never had a problem. And now it has an actual ending–a pretty cool one, in fact, that brings the audience to their feet. The ending is going to be a big deal because it’s what people remember about a show.
Let’s face it: “Spider Man” has a weak book. That is never going to change drastically, although there have been lots of tweaks, cuts, and small additions. They make a big difference. The second act is still very slight when it comes to the story. But the set pieces are great, especially those involving the Sinister Six. And Patrick Page and Michael Mulheren are superb comic actors. The main problem: the story of Arachne is still a time sponge. Although beautifully staged, I would move that first act Arachne number with the loom to the second act–keeping the Green Goblin in Act I and Spider woman in Act II. But no one asked me.
Another improvement: it did feel like U2’s producer, Steve Lillywhite, has had an effect on the music. It rocks now. In the past, the music had a dead feeling to it. It’s much more supple, and defined. Maybe I’m wrong, but it also seemed like the song “Picture This,” which used to sound like an outtake from “Who’s Next,” now feels like a proper U2 production.
Will “Spider Man” open on March 15th? There’s a sign on the box office window that says it will. Anything could change, as we well know. But after Friday night’s show, I say they should go for it. The critics will never like it. “Spider Man” is a spectacle. It’s not “Kiss Me Kate.” But the mostly sold out audience loved it. There laughs in the right places last night.
And there was awe at the flying. I am in awe of Reeve Carney, TV Carpio, and Jennifer Damiano–as actors they are required to do really tricky acrobatics. It takes courage and they’ve got tons of it. “Spider Man” may have been a costly public experiment, but these actors have soldiered through it brilliantly.