Brain Candy: Spiderman: Turn off the Dark
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Brain Candy: Spiderman: Turn off the Dark

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March 15, 2011, 1:47 am
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By Keisha Allisse

 

As I write this article, the show’s producers have just confirmed that the show’s opening has been pushed back until ‘early summer’ removing it from contention for this year’s Tonys, and, even more disappointing, Julie Taymor, the visionary director whose imagination gives the show its distinctive look, has stepped down as director, but ‘remains a part of the creative team.’ BOO!

 

I have never read a review for the musical, but I’ve heard plenty about the show’s accidents, many troubles and piling expenses; two phrases you never want to hear in combination when speaking of a Broadway show: ‘troubled’ and ‘expensive’.

 

Initially, I was worried. How did they intend to set this to music? I shuddered as I imagined orchestral arrangements of the theme music I heard as a kid, watching the Saturday morning cartoon. Dancing Spidey? No way! But lo and behold, I had the chance to see the show the other night and quite simply, it’s fantastic.

 

Hospital stays aside, the show is pure spectacle: part rock, part musical, part stepping competition with heaping doses of Cirque Du Soleil and IMAX big screen flourishes. The music takes a backseat to the all encompassing wonder of the show, which is why purists probably won’t enjoy it. The songs by Bono and the Edge are merely sufficient in weaving the story together lyrically. ‘Rise Above,’ ‘Pull the Trigger,’ including other songs featuring Arachne (played by understudy, America Olivo) are personal faves, but that’s still a low ratio for a musical.

 

The show is narrated by the geek chorus, four teens who collaborate on a dream Spiderman issue. The first half moves well, from the myth of Arachne (the mother of all spiders and therefore, Spiderman), then Peter Parker’s suffering at the hands of bullies and Mary Jane’s abusive home life to Parker’s eventual transition into Spiderman in Norman Osborn’s (soon to be the Green Goblin) laboratory.

 

The aerial acrobatics are jaw dropping. From the opening weaving sequence to the gravity defying battles, it is, without a doubt, the coolest part of the show. The maneuvers to my eye (albeit untrained), looked incredible and seamless. And for this, credit must go to Daniel Ezralow who choreographed everything from what’s on the ground to what’s in the air.

 

The second half of the show is more of a mindbender and definitely has too much crammed into it; Peter, pushed by the stress of trying to balance a double life, quits being Spiderman. This incenses Arachne who doesn’t take kindly to her gift being tossed aside. What commences after is a siege of terror that ends in an anticlimactic battle between good and evil.

 

My only other issue, other than the time sucking latter part of the show, is the anachronistic setting of the Daily Bugle. Is this contemporary or period? Every other scene makes me believe we're looking at 2011, but step into the offices of the local paper and suddenly we’re thrust back into the days of dames tapping away on typewriters, irksome, but still, a part not greater than the whole.

 

Truly this is the first musical I’ve experienced where everything matters; the scenic design (George Tsypin) that creates a life sized, pop up comic book set which masterfully lifts and shifts, playing with perspective, creating depth in a 2D world; the colorful costumes (Eiko Ishioka) and the expressive masks (Julie Taymor) to the screen projections (Kyle Cooper) which brighten the stage with live and animated sequences. It all comes together in an appropriately over the top way.

 

Most musicals are about the songs, story, maybe the dancing, but this ain’t your grandma’s musical. It’s a hyperbolic musical collage, one you have to see to believe.

 

 

 

Author: Keisha Allisse
Keisha is a freelance writer currently living in New York City. She formerly worked in the nonprofit sector for a walking/biking advocacy group and then later for a small theater company. She worked in the finance department of a NYC-midtown based theater organization before leaving to pursue writing full-time.
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Brain Candy: Spiderman: Turn off the Dark
Brain Candy:  Spiderman: Turn off the Dark
Tuesday 15 March 2011