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Spider-Man, Turn Off The Dark

By Bruce Wildstein

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The Foxwoods Theatre, New York

By now the perilous and arduous journey that brought Spider-Man, Turn Off The Dark to Broadway is well known. Injuries, some musical changes, and the replacement of veteran director Julie Taymor made headlines for months, but fortunately the show has emerged as a unique and entertaining spectacle with some great stunt work, creative set designs, and colorful comic book costumes. The story basically follows that of the first Spider-Man movie, so if you saw the film you should able to follow the show with little problem. Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano are the lead characters Peter Parker and his love interest Mary-Jane Watson with Patrick Page as Spider-Man’s nemesis, the Green Goblin/Norman Osborne. In order for Spider-Man and the Green Goblin to have “flying” capabilities, a complex system of cables (which, by the way, are replaced daily for safety reasons) have been designed that hang from a rotating mechanism on the theatre’s ceiling. This allows the actor’s full movement in any direction while in the air, with the cables controlled by off stage technicians. Several platforms in the balcony and at the sides of the stage are used as landing areas for Spider-Man when he flies during the production. There are also a number of trapdoors in the stage floor that allow different characters to “disappear” as they are lowered out of view.

If it sounds like a complex production, you’re right, and it's easy to see how expensive it was getting every thing to work perfectly. The sets themselves are sometimes spectacular with huge digital walls lighting up behind the actors during certain songs. And the costumes for the Green Goblin and his Sinister Six are pure comic book fun with brilliant colors and intricate designs. Bono and The Edge from the Irish super group U2, composed the music, and if some of the songs are not very memorable, there are a few standouts.

As the lights are dimmed and the show begins, we see the female character Arachne(T.V. Carpio) lowered from the ceiling singing her tale of woe. Her story recounts of how in Ancient Greece she became the world’s first spider, and was told by her archenemy Athena to go forth and create fear in mankind while weaving her web forever in darkness. Eventually 6 long spider legs extend out of her back and move in a spider-like fashion, her own arms making a total of eight. A number of female actors suspended by cables then appear from the back of the stage swinging back and forth out into the audience in dramatic fashion. The show has now begun.

Peter Parker is the class nerd, a weakling if you will, and his fellow students regularly bully him in class. Eventually he attends a school field trip to a science museum where he is bitten by a rogue, radioactive spider, thus injecting him with its venom that will ultimately give him his super powers. Later, at home with his elderly Aunt May(Isabel Keating) and Uncle Ben(Ken Marks), he discovers he can climb walls and ceilings. This is achieved with actor Carney suspended by multiple cables that allow him to bounce around a room with walls made of a soft, rubber like material. Spider-Man now has his powers. Other scenes in this first half of the show deal with Peter’s neighbor friend Mary-Jane. She comes from an unhappy home, and Peter is in love with her. There are a number of scenes with Peter and Mary-Jane singing together, which gives the show a rest from the more intense fight and dance sequences.

Uncle Ben is later gunned down by a petty criminal, and Spiderman vows to capture the perpetrator. The first act, because there is much narrative in telling the story, doesn’t really take off until near the end, with Spider-Man’s first flying out into the audience and landing in the upper balcony area. 

After Spider-Man has become known as New York’s premiere crime fighter,  J. Jonah Jameson(Michael Mulheren), editor of the Daily Bugle newspaper, wants to know more about him. Peter Parker, in need of a job, sells photos of Spider-Man in action to Jameson, who is perplexed as to how Parker obtains the pictures. In the action sequences, Spider-Man flies in the air and “shoots” his tangling web(which are streams of paper) at criminals who disappear through the stage floor.

Meanwhile, wealthy industrialist Norman Osborne aspires to transform himself into someone with great powers with a special serum. He believes this will allow him to become the crime boss of New York City. After taking the serum, he adopts the identity of The Green Goblin, who can fly and create havoc wherever he goes. Eventually, however, he knows he will have to confront Spider-Man.

The second act features The Green Goblin and his Sinister Six finally arriving in full force to wreak havoc and create panic throughout the city. Dramatic dance sequences with all the characters are impressive. 

Arachne also reappears in the second act to sing to a worried Peter while he sleeps in bed. This dramatic scene has Peter floating up off the bed high in the air with Arachne above him. Her words tell Peter that his destiny is to use his powers well and be strong. There are more romantic scenes between Peter and Mary-Jane, as she has her own issues being a struggling actor. Near the end of the second act,  Spider-Man and The Green Goblin  have their fateful, final encounter. Both Spider-Man and The Green Goblin fly out high above the audience, clashing while going in circles tangled together in a highly dramatic finale.

When the show ends, the actors come out to take their bows, including eight stunt actors who perform as Spider-Man. Patrick Page, still in costume as The Green Goblin, appears from behind the lowered curtain by himself, and announces to the audience that special souvenirs can be purchased in the lobby with the proceeds going to a special charity. The souvenirs include used flying cables that are cut into small lengths and made into bracelets, as well as show posters signed by the cast. In all, I think most anyone would enjoy this Broadway show, and ticket sales have increased to the point where this once maligned production should eventually become a profitable, long-term winner.


Learn more or buy tickets at the Spider-man Turn Off The Dark Website

Published on Mar 24, 2012

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