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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Theatre Thursday 2: Spinning Webs

I'll admit it. I have been against the Spider-Man musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, from the very moment the idea was suggested a few years ago. I'm not sure why.
I know that I have been frustrated with Broadway's latest trend of turning every single piece of pop culture into a musical production - with mixed results. However, hasn't Broadway always kind of done that?

Peter Pan, Annie, Camelot - I wonder if there weren't people at the time saying "Oh, no. Why would they make that into a musical? It's just going to be silly."
I suppose that I feel some level of comic book geek superiority in wanting to "preserve" the integrity of one of my superhero icons, but let's take a real quick look at three of my favorite shows from when I was a kid.

". . . and then I woke up, and Suzanne Pleshette was there."
Okay, I don't know how that last one got in there, but I think you get the idea anyway.
Even the comic book itself has taken some peculiar liberties with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
From the late 80s forward, Peter Parker (Spider-Man. Come on, you knew that) has been married, found out he has a clone, for a while thought he was a clone, been an expectant father, mourned the loss of same baby, split up with his wife, found out he's part of some totemic spider cult, revealed his secret identity, ran around in a suit of spider armor (yes, I said spider armor), reconciled with his wife, and then made a pact with a demon to have pretty much his entire life from 1987 rewound and erased. Well, who could blame him?
This is to say nothing of the the merchandising of said icon.
Well, it sold better than the
Wolverine fanny pack.
Now, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies did a lot for bringing some respectability back to the wall-crawler, but, let's face it, a Broadway musical is probably not the worst thing that Spidey has had to endure.
Don't Worry. PETA's
already been called.
Then this morning I was reading an interview with director and co-auteur of  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Julie Taymor, about her upcoming film version of The Tempest in which she was inevitably asked about the musical that has been best by delays, injuries, technical problems, and a whole lot of negative press. At first she tried to dodge the question, but eventually noted how The Lion King (the mega-musical that really put her on the map) had itself been beset my a multitude of problems. This was, however, before the internet had exploded into every household in America. Most of The Lion King's problems were allowed to be quietly fixed in out-of-town tryouts and previews before anyone ever knew about them.
This led me to remember the stories that I'd heard about the many difficulties in staging the musical Barnum in the early 80s. I imagined Peter Pan probably had its share of technical snafus as well, but there was no one there to blog about them, and no Facebook or Twitter for everyone to share them anyway.
Although I might buy a tote.
I recalled seeing the effects-laden stage show EFX at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with Michael Crawford shortly before Crawford wound up having to leave the show when he sustained an injury during one of the high-flying stunts.
So, I decided that I'm going to get off the Spider-Man-Musical-Hating bandwagon. I'm not planning to leap to the front of the fan club, either, but I think I should give it a fair chance.
Is the exorbitant $65 million budget of the production a little irresponsible in these tight economic times? Sure, maybe, but - as far as I'm aware - they aren't using any of my money (and it's not like those wealthy investors are asking for any special tax cuts or anything.)
"Oh, no no no. You're awesome."
Does the score - by two middle-aged men who still call themselves "Bono" and "The Edge" - sound suspiciously similar to a song they wrote for the Batman Returns soundtrack ("Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me")? Well, yeah, maybe a little, but, hey, Phantom of the Opera is basically 3 songs over and over. (Maybe two-and-a-half.)
Is the fact that there are so many performers sustaining serious injuries during rehearsals and previews an indication that the producers, director, designers, and the Actors' Equity Association have temporarily lost their grip on reality? Okay, yes, that probably is the case.
But check out these awesome villain costumes.

I'm sure you recognize the dastardly Green Goblin on the left (Whoville is in big trouble, let me tell ya), and on the right is a brand new villain created just for the production called (wait, this can't be right) Swiss. Miss.
Uh-oh. My Spidey sense is tingling.

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