Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark

When this show was in production and it was mentioned to me by my friend Michael Dolce I immediately thought “Why? Oh why?”  I also did not think I would have any interest in seeing it and I didn’t for awhile.  Of course with all my circus fun and hearing about the wires, rigs, and aerial work I gained interest and begged our recreational director to plan a trip to Spider-Man.


He sometimes stops by our office and asks for show ideas and every time I said Spider-Man and he would say no Spider-Man.  The man was trying to deny me bungee cords!  And he was toying with me… grr…

So when the post went up that they did get tickets I was like an obnoxious puppy waiting for them to be “on sale.”  If you mention aerials I jump.

Yay!  Tickets!
Tuesday night my friend and I went to the show.  We went to the fabulous Dallas BBQ’s before the show and both drank texas sized frozen apple martini’s.  I was pretty flush and tipsy when we got to the show.  Funny thing about those drinks is they never make them the same “strength” and that night they were very strong with out the added shot.  I had a similar experience going to Mary Poppins and it made the first act a bit more magical with Spider-Man not so much.

Upon going into the theater my girl and I stopped and picked up our souvenir programs and (for me) a pin and Sprite in a Spider-Man cup.  She picked up a few other things at the souvenir booth one of them being a poster.  I looked at the posters and said that looks like Greg Horn’s work.  Sure enough it is Greg Horn.  I always get a little shocked at myself when I do this.  It’s happened before with other artists.  I know my art.

While at the souvenir booth a couple in front of us bought the soundtrack and gushed about how amazing the music is and that it’s all Bono.  They almost sold me on buying the soundtrack.  I decided to wait until intermission that way I could decide during the first act if the music was worth wild.

Outside the Foxwoods Theater
We were then greeted by a little photo area.  For $40 you to can have a picture with Spidy.  No thank you.  Of course you don’t need to actually buy the photo the idea is to get people taking the photo to draw people who will buy them.  We were not those people.  They had also picked the wrong person to portray Spider-Man for the photo as this person was fairly short and too skinny.

As I said, I was pretty excited to see this show.  I was ready for some interesting aerials.  However, the show is completely BORING.  Everything about it was boring, even the aerials (but that’s probably because I am a bit used to seeing great wire work).

The first thing I noticed was the absence of a pit orchestra.  I could see from my seat (up in the fly zone) that the pit area was covered.  Some shows have the pit under the stage, but then it was obvious they were not under there when the area was opened from time to time for set changes.  I have never been to a show where the music was not live and this show does not have live music.  It’s very loud recorded music.  It’s very obviously recorded.  The actors do sing (at times), but often I wondered if they were lip syncing and only singing the hooks or lead vocals.  I am pretty sure none of the chorus was being sung.  I doubted the recorded music up until a familiar Bono tune came on and then it was set in stone that this was not live.  At the end to give credit to the production and non existent orchestra they show photos of them on the screen.  What on earth is a Broadway show without live music?????  Why??????????????  Oh why??????????

The music itself was okay.  I would say awful except that if the poorly written vocals were removed the songs would be quite enjoyable.  I am so happy I did not buy the soundtrack and I think that couple must have been big Bono fans which is perfectly fine for them.

The set was minimal, boring, and at times unneeded.  For the most part it consisted of what I believe were white panels that had the back drop projected on.  Quite a few times it felt more like we were watching a movie or a video game then a play.  A very poorly made movie that cost much more then a typical movie ticket to see.

The set was extremely cartoony.  It’s described as a three dimensional graphic novel.  They have a huge Spider-Man panel that folds out once and then a Green Goblin that also folds out once and both were pointless and unneeded.  They had two panels of the top of the Cystler Building.  One would have been sufficient.  The first one comes up from the floor (where the pit band/orchestra would be) and the second one folds down from the ceiling very very slow and awkwardly.  It comes down from the ceiling upside down and then turns right side up and is on stage very briefly.  The amount of time it was used on the stage was less then it took to bring it down on to the stage and then back up off stage.  Wasteful I say.  The more cartoony sets were in the homes of Peter and MJ.

The only part of the set design that I did like was when Peter and MJ are hanging from a fire escape while below the Green Goblin is causing chaos.  The fire escape was interesting.  I also like the set design for the lab and the bridge.  The beginning had a beautiful scene with Arachne and what appeared to be aerialists hanging from silks.  I think they could have done more with this scene as the women could have been doing more then just standing with their feet in the silks and then transitioning to their bodies being below with their arms holding them before swaying front to back.  During the swaying pieces of fabric pull up from the floor and create a “web” idea when it really looks more like a woven fabric under a microscope or a gingham print.  It’s not very web-like but still a pretty opening scene that set the stage for something interesting.  I wish it had been more interesting.

I thought the story was awful.  It has no consistency and it had no depth.  I could write the entire story down here on this blog right now.  That is how simple it was.  It relied heavily on the first film.  Because I have seen the films I can’t say for sure but I do question whether anyone that has not seen the films could follow what was going on because I don’t think certain elements were tied together very well at all.  Peter gets bit in the laboratory, wins a wrestling match to buy a car, goes home and finds Uncle Ben shot and the very next scene Spider-Man appears (or Spider-Men I should say) bouncing from different parts of the stage and beating up bad guys in wild comic head pieces.  So how did Peter become Spider-Man?  I know this but a show should not assume that I do.  According to the synopsis Arachne told him in a dream about the costume and what he would be doing, but this did not come across to me in the show.

They also made sure to awkwardly throw in a few catch phrases now and then.  Not for nothing but the first film is short then this show and it packs a whole lot more story in and a better one at that.

The costumes were ridiculous.  Spider-Man was perfectly fine other then the awful webs he threw they looked like yarn, as though he bounced over and threw a ball of white yarn at the villains.  Mary Jane was pretty on point.  The villains I am assuming were designed to be accurate to the novels and not necessarily functional as each of the Sinister Six are not on the stage for very long.  Kraven the Hunter just looked ridiculous.  Swiss Miss looked highly uncomfortable.  Swarm looked completely SILLY.  Carnage and Electro were pretty good.  At first I thought Lizard was awful until he was in “combat” and then his costume worked well enough to make me giggle.  The Green Goblin was okay but I have seen that costume done much better by average cosplayers.

Oh and the aerials, I was excited about aerials.  Aerials will save this show won’t they?  Everyone keeps talking about the amazing aerials.  Had I not just watched the Cirque performance at the Oscars I might have thought they had something decent at Spider-Man, but I did see the Cirque performance and I know that some interesting things can be done with wires and bungee’s over crowds because of it.  The amazing aerials at Spider-Man consist of Spider-Man bouncing off a stage wide ramp on the stage and doing somersaults to and from the “fly zone.”  There is also a scene where Spider-Man and the Green Goblin engage in a “fight” over the orchestra audience.  I have to admit coordinating the wires pulling these two actors around has to have been a feat of it’s own but I found watching the cords above me move around more interesting then that actors.

Another thing I found interesting was that the Green Goblin was the comedian of the show.  I get it, villains can be quite funny and often are the comedic relief in their failures.  However, this seems uncharacteristic for the Green Goblin.  I could be completely off with this but I always took Norman Osborn as being a complete jerk not the lovable villain.  However, the Patrick Page (Norman Osborn/Green Goblin) pulled it off very well.

My favorite part of the show is when Reeve Carney (Peter Parker/Green Goblin) got stuck on the wires and they had to pause the final scene of the show to bring him down.  The Green Goblin had been defeated already but walked back on stage and said something funny along the lines of “you thought you had me” and Reeve laughed in while stuck in the wires.  Afterwards they went right into the cast bows where you see nine Spider-Men appear which makes sense considering the first Spider-Man scene where he keeps popping out of different spots on the stage.  It also makes sense because it would be difficult to have Reeve change constantly due to the amount of stage time the two characters have and the head piece.  I could see that being a hair and make up nightmare.  It is actually Reeve at the end and he got stuck in the wires most likely because he doesn’t spend much time in them and of course these things happen.  It’s just part of being at a live show and it makes the individual experience of that show a little more special.

I didn’t like the show obviously.  It had a few good moments, but I do wish they had used an ACTUAL comic story and not just adapted pieces of the film.  Spider-Man certainly has some great stories that could have benefited this show and benefited from the show.  When I saw Mary Poppin’s I purchased all six books afterward AND they were selling the books at the kiosks.  This was a missed opportunity at Spider-Man.  They could have potentially had a better stronger show with a better story and book sales on top of ticket sales and other merchandize.

I also do NOT like that they are referring to this show as a “circus rock opera“… I heard NO OPERA and the aerials in this are definitely not worthy of being called circus.  Sorry.  Fail.

The stage before the show.
As much as I wanted to run home Tuesday night and ramble about this show it was very late.  Yesterday I also wanted to ramble about this show, but I have been sick again and I slept an awful lot yesterday (as I am about to do shortly).  Went I went into work yesterday I was immediately asked how the show was and of course I said I didn’t like it.  Turns out most of the people that went didn’t like it either.  So it’s nice that I waited because I got to discuss it with other peers of mine that came to the same show.  My friend that was with me did enjoy it and there are people that did like it.  As much as I would like to say don’t waste your time with this show don’t not go because of my issues with it.  Maybe I disliked it so much I am setting you up for something great?  Who knows.  Do your research and see what others have to say about it.

I am hoping my next two shows restore my faith in good Broadway productions.  We will be seeing "Ghost" next month and "Nice Work" in June.  I have NEVER seen Ghost so lets hope the whole thing is a magical surprise of goodness.  Matthew Broderick is in "Nice Work" so that should certainly help.  If these two don't work out then I am just going to have to start going to rock concerts and Lady Gaga for a decent show.

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