So we just saw Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Paid $79 a ticket, mezzanine seats. It was, how to say this? Breathtakingly bad.
That said, you didn’t force us to see it. You haven’t even opened the thing yet. You’re in beta still, busily untangling the crossed wires and retooling the show for a new March 15 opening (the “Ides”? really?). Which means it’s not too late to turn it around. We’re on your side. In fact, we’ve put together notes to help you along. No charge.
So in hopes that a generation of children do not see this glittering, incoherent. nearly three-hour mess and think it is a Broadway musical, please accept our ruthless guide to how to improve it before it “officially” opens.
Now, we realize you may be a little too close to the material to see what needs to go. The answer: lots. We advise pouring yourself a stiff drink and slashing away. America thanks you.
- Cut everything between the opening scene at the Brooklyn Bridge and the bit when Peter Parker’s crushing on Mary Jane in the radioactivity lab. Yes, all of it. That means the awkward high school rumble, the slow walk around Queens, the Goddess Athena (!), the first Norman Osborn rant, Mary Jane’s abusive dad. (The only thing you’ll need to shoehorn back in is the beloved Uncle Ben and Aunt May.) Those scenes are mostly snores set in front of good scenery, and what we really care about is Peter becoming Spider-Man. We know cutting those numbers may make it a bit confusing. But, face it, the show doesn’t make any sense now.
- Cut every scene with Arachne except the spinning “Think Again,” which is cool. Arachne, a daft villain who’s pinned immobile, a stuck bug, for much of the show, sucks. Sure, you’d lose the title song, but you can’t make out the words on most of the songs, anyway. We get that Arachne is your baby, your beloved contribution to the Spider-Man mythos. But let’s go to the scoreboard. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko invented a pop-culture icon who has endured nearly half a century. You: puppet giraffes.
- Cut the comic-book writers. This laptop-toting Geek Chorus that narrates much of the action stop the proceedings cold whenever they show up. Perhaps you put them in thinking the teen audience would relate to them. Newsflash: They want to relate to the superhero. Or maybe they’re just there to stall during scenery and set changes. Try something a bit more entertaining. Polka?
- In the second act, Peter Parker loses his powers, but you never tell us how he magically recovers them. Yet you spend a lot of time explaining how the super-villains came back to life. Super-villains always come back to life. Don’t you read comic books?
- Since Bono flatly refuses to write any more songs, make the Green Goblin’s “I’ll Take Manhattan” number on the top of the Chrysler Building more than just a few bars of the song. The Rodgers & Hart classic, as voiced by a green-skinned megalomaniac, sounds so…melodically evil.
- With Arachne gone, you need a big finish. But, maybe just this once, nothing shiny has to explode? How about Peter proposing marriage? Mary Jane finding out Peter is Spider-Man? At least one of these is already in the show, just buried under the bombast.
- By the way, when the dancers line up behind Spider-Man playing his mirror images, perhaps their movements should actually be synchronized. Just think about it. Talk to the Rockettes.
That said, best of luck. The remaining 110 minutes or so is actually pretty good, in some places, terrific.
And, about that $79? The thrilling moment when Spider-Man leaped from the stage and landed in the mezzanine, well, that was worth every cent.
Break a leg,
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