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Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark Begins Previews

This weekend audiences were given a taste of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, a Broadway musical that everybody keeps calling the most “daring,” “ambitious,” and “expensive” thing to ever go up on stage. While a small number of theatergoers actually got to watch a preview of the show that was reportedly riddled with wire-work gaffes and production pauses that stretched the show’s length to three hours, everyone else had the opportunity to catch a 60 Minutes segment that detailed the show’s rocky path to even this preliminary opening.

What does the segment make the show look like?

Basically, the show looks like it’s trying to be an visually shocking, technically amazing Broadway showpiece.  Probably at the expense of Spider-Man.  Fans, beware.  This is the inherent problem with packaging geek media for the mainstream: there just aren’t enough of us to turn a profit on an expensive project, and there certainly aren’t enough of us in the Tri-State area to support a Broadway show.  So the show isn’t about Spider-Man, it’s about making a spectacular Broadway event.

This isn’t a statement about whether the show is going to be good or not.  Just because a Broadway show is highly technical or visually dazzling doesn’t mean it’s going to lack in other areas.  So, lay it on me, New York Post.  How was it?

It opened with Taymor’s personal creation, the eight-legged female character Arachne, taking the stage.

The spider is the radioactive arachnid that bites Peter Parker, giving the photographer his superhuman Spider-Man powers…

…wait.

…As the character, played by actress Natalie Mendoza, finished her big number “Rise Above” while suspended over the crowd, an apparent wire malfunction left her stopped in midair…

Wat.

As the [Green] Goblin — played by Patrick Page of “Grinch” fame — sat down at the piano for a scheduled number, he was left to continue playing on . . . and on . . . as stage workers openly rushed around to fix faulty equipment.

Okay, well maybe the New York Times has a not totally mind-breaking take on it.

Sherry Lawrence, a writer for a U2 fan Web site, said that even though she liked some of the songs, she planned to tell readers to wait for the creators to do more work during previews.

But Marc Tumminelli, 30, who runs a Manhattan acting school for children, said he was concerned that the musical’s problems were too fundamental to be corrected quickly. “The story-telling is really unclear and I found it hard to understand exactly what was going on and why certain things were happening,” Mr. Tumminelli said.

More delighted was the 6-year-old boy sitting a row ahead. “Parts of it were really exciting,” said the boy, Jack Soldano, whose parents brought him. “I’ve never seen people flying before.”

Typically, a Broadway show is not formally reviewed before opening night, so the production has six weeks to work out the kinks.  By all reports, what the audience saw last night was essentially the first full dress rehearsal.  But there you have it: a U2 fan liked some of the songs.  A six-year-old thought it was cool.  The story may be dense and unclear. With no less than 10 original and classic villains cast for the thing, that doesn’t surprise us.

Sounds like a “spectacular,” “daring,” visually “amazing” show piece to me. As to what else it might be, my expectations are low.

Oh, and if you can think of a super villain for whom it is in character to sit at a piano and sing a song about how you’re going to take over a city (other than the Joker, natch) let us know in the comments.

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