Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark made its official debut last night after overcoming months of delays, media ridicule, and the departure of original director Julie Taymor. But now the $70 million musical, which got a creative overhaul during a three week hiatus last month, faces its biggest challenge yet: Winning over the critics who widely panned it back in February. So how did it go over?
Generally, critics are responding positively to the show’s major changes, which include a streamlined plot, more aerial action, and reworked songs. A few reviews even sound like mild recommendations, giving the musical credit for its blend of aerial acrobatics and comic book-style storytelling. But detractors — and there are plenty — still give the show failing marks, targeting its incoherent plot and jumbled themes, not to mention a still-snoozy soundtrack. Here’s a sampling:
EW’s Thom Geier gives the show a so-so C+, praising the new stunts and cleared-up plot while noting that the show as a whole doesn’t quite gel. “[Spider-Man] gets full marks for spectacle — Daniel Ezralow’s aerial choreography and George Tsypin’s sets deserve a curtain call all their own — but only partial credit as musical theater… It may be an admirable work of revision, but it’s an unsatisfying meal, like one of mom’s end-of-the-week casseroles made of leftovers she couldn’t bear to toss.”
An underwhelmed Ben Brantley at the New York Times says Spider-Man is “no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It’s just a bore.” He adds: [I]f I knew a less-than-precocious child of 10 or so, and had several hundred dollars to throw away, I would consider taking him or her to the new and improved Spider-Man.” (Well, at least he called it “improved”!)
New York Magazine‘s Scott Brown echoes those sentiments. “I’m sorry to report that the eight-legged, nine-lived megalomusical — which finally opened tonight, in its newly tamed, scared-straight and heavily Zolofted post-Taymor state — has deteriorated from mindblowingly misbegotten carnival-of-the-damned to merely embarrassing dud.”
Meanwhile, USA Today‘s Elysa Gardner had kinder words for the show, calling the revamped musical “more of an overt crowd-pleaser,” and characterizing it as “cuter and more cautious than its predecessor, more in line with the winking musical adaptations of famous films and brands that have lined the theater district in recent years.”
Over at Rolling Stone, Evie Nagy calls Spider-Man‘s makeover “too cautious,” while praising its acrobatics. “[The show’s stunts are] thrilling, and fun, and despite everyone’s palpable fear of wire-snapping catastrophe, there aren’t nearly enough.”
And then there’s Bubba. Yes, President Bill Clinton attended the show’s opening last night, and he voiced his support for the show in the form of a press release this morning: “What an amazing and historic night on Broadway. New York has never seen anything like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. And I am very proud of them for not giving up, it was fabulous.”
What do you think, PopWatchers? Do the new reviews make you want to see the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, or steer clear of it? Let us know in the comments!
Stage Review: ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’