So this Saturday I saw the current Typhoid Mary of Broadway, otherwise known as Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. How does one turn off the dark you ask? I can assure you I have no idea, and the show makes no effort to tell you. We all know that the critics have almost unanimously declared the show a total disaster, which led me to have a slight hope of lowered expectations leading to a more enjoyable evening.
Before I continue, let me state for the record that I am the target audience for this musical. I love comic books. I need no deeper meaning in my musicals, I'm perfectly happy to enjoy it for pure entertainment value. I like the songs of U2. I generally am happy spending time with things that cost $65 million dollars to create. I went in wanting to be able to scoff at the critic's derision.
This musical is an unmitigated disaster. What follows, to be clear, is not an attempt at criticism. What follows is a rant from an outraged fan-boy.
At what point does one become so wrapped up in and blinded by one's own arrogance that one believes that the best way to present a beloved, almost 50-year-old pop culture figure is to rewrite his history to the point where it's barely recognizable? There are countless characters available for your use, whether the focus is on the romantic or heroic story-lines. Why invent new ones? And if you are using classic characters, why completely disregard the established history? And if you aren't draining them of their history, why do you then make them so bland and washed out that they display no personality whatsoever? Sure, the Green Goblin can talk with a Southern accent! Who cares if he lives in New York? Let's make up a super-villainess and then have her be played by a drag queen! It'll be funny! Never mind that Mary Jane is supposed to be a hot-tempered model with a body that stops traffic! Let's dress her in bland clothing and make her so boring that the biggest unsolved mystery of the show is why in hell Peter would ever be attracted to her in the first place!
And really, these are just scratching the surface of how offensively terrible this show is. At least three different decades are presented by the various costumes. The lead actor is so utterly devoid of charisma that he manages to make you mostly root for the Green Goblin, because at least the Goblin's having fun. There is not, in the entire two and half hour fiasco, a single hummable tune. Whenever even the creative team can't pretend that whatever is going on onstage isn't a gigantic steaming pile of nonsensical poo, they bring out the video screens and play videos of the super-villains doing super-villainous acts, all scored by music that can most generously be characterized as loud. The big eleven o'clock number, as performed on Saturday, was unintelligible from start to finish, and ended with a shriek so off-key that I actually recoiled in my seat and tried to plug my ears. The entire second act is a Julie Taymor fever-dream that inspired me to say "What the fuck is going on?" in complete bewilderment. I still couldn't tell you what happened in that second act. I think it may all have been an illusion. Except for the parts that weren't. Those were real. But everything else was an illusion. I think.
I could go on. I could talk about the number where Arachne (you know the one from Greek mythology?) decides the reason that Peter loves Mary Jane and not her is because Mary Jane has shoes on her legs. So she goes out to get shoes, and a corps of poor chorines are saddled with four fake legs strapped to their waists while they dance. You know, because they're like spiders. Only spiders have eight legs, so I guess we're counting arms as a pair of legs now. Something like that. Or other needless re-writes to the story, or other wretchedly bad performances or other ridiculously poor directorial choices. But instead, I'll move on and talk of the good things I saw.