Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark and U2
The much-maligned Spider-man production has been chugging along to fairly well-packed houses at the Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway. It will allegedly require a very long run for its investors to recoup their investment, but curiosity alone seems to be driving ongoing interest and ticket purchases.
Truth be told, it is not as horrific as the rest of the press would make it out to be. You get what you’d expect: over the top special effects, lots of bold colors, and streamlined storyline. And if you are a U2 fan, you scratch your head about how Bono and The Edge brought their arena rock songwriting efforts to the stage musical. A few of the songs work fine, meaning they are most reminiscent of the Irish band’s sound. Most of the music requires far more linear storytelling than is the band’s wont. Indeed, in the liner notes to the original cast recordings, the songwriting duo coyly references the many variations the production had.
The very first notes played as the lights go down are The Edge’s patented guitar ripples. Soon the theme veers into the bombastic, but that certainly sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Best of all for sharp-eared U2 fans are the self-referential asides throughout the stage production. Early on, some pending mayhem by the bad guys is referred to as Sunday Bloody Sunday. When the chief bad guy Green Goblin tries to phone into the Daily Bugle newspaper to discuss his next havoc, he encounters Muzak on hold to the tune of ‘Beautiful Day.’ When the heroine is seen coming out from her stage premiere, it is called ‘The Fly.’ The least oblique U2 reference is during the nightclub/proposal scene, which features the verbatim recording of ‘Vertigo.’
U2’s manager Paul McGuinness is one of the many listed producers of Spider-man.
U2 has dabbled before outside their usual oeuvre when they composed the music for the short-lived London stage version of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by the Royal Shakespeare Company, circa 1990. Some of the tracks eventually appeared as obscure B-sides, quickly gobbled up by collectors and droogs.
The clever oxymoron of the sub-title ‘Turn Off the Dark’ mirrors the Pop Art sensibility of the production. Although too long by 15-20 minutes, punters do receive full production value of the high priced tickets, with all the flying and leaping about.
Foxwoods, being one of the largest theatres on Broadway, has the benefit of allowing more flying space for Spider-man, but it comes with the downside of a requirement to fill more seats. Nonetheless, the production was the biggest selling Broadway play several weeks ago.
It will long remain uncertain how much of Julie Taymor’s original vision remains in the current production. Nonetheless, she is given an ‘Original Direction By’ credit, after the credit to director Philip Wm. McKinley. Certainly the opening sequence of ‘Behold and Wonder’ is the work of Taymor. An intricate weaving of bold ribbons is reminiscent of her breathtaking work on Lion King, and echoes the webs weaved throughout the play. But the recurring theme of Arachne as some sort of Greek mythology is the culprit behind the musical’s excessive length.
In the titular role, Reeve Carney balances well the geeky Science Club nerd, who was essentially a role model of all the Marvel fanboys who made Spider-man successful upon its 1962 comic book introduction. Carney shifts effectively into the buff Spider-man, and his singing is evocative.
Patrick Page plays the meek, good-hearted scientist Norman Osborne in the first two-thirds of the play, and then becomes a very impressive Green Goblin after undergoing his self-induced genetic mutation.
As the love interest, Rebecca Faulkenberry plays Mary Jane Watson as sufficiently multi-layered to be intriguing.
One of the sexiest images from the original Tobey Maguire Spider-man film is recreated when our hero descends upside down after saving the day, to be is caressed and kissed by his damsel formerly in distress.