Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark or Spider-Man on Broadway as its known on FaceBook is a fancy and fun musical. The story is familiar unless you have somehow missed the dozen movies in the last 10 years or have read the comic ever. I saw the afternoon matinée on Sunday, October 14th. The show is playing at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York City. The show's current director is Philip William McKinley. The originating director was Julie Taymor and McKinley was her codirector. Taymor left after critical reviews and audience feedback.
The entire set and costumes are done in a comic-book-like perspective. The rooms and props tend to be cardboard, painted black and white to very neat effect. For instance, Peter's camera and a group of gangsters with their guns are shown in two dimensions, like in a comic book.
The story begins with Peter Parker, played by Matthew James Thomas on this date, in high school being a nerd and getting beaten up. The first few scenes are mainly ground based. A notable aerial scene is Arachne's story of being turned into a spider, Arachne dangles over the stage and grows mechanical spider legs while singing. It is quite dramatic. Norman Osbourne is refreshingly played by Robert Cuccioli who makes him larger than life to great comic effect. After Peter gets bitten by one of Osbourne's spider creations, he runs home and passes out in bed. Another great musical number ensues with Peter jumping on the ceiling and walls of his small room on stage, this is the audiences first taste of the aerial acrobatics to come. The walls of Peter's bedroom are fabric covered frames held by stage hands, and the movement of the entire room illustrates his strange situation. The creativity of this scene is a lot of fun. Peter also has mid-air duet with Arachne in a dream sequence.
Norman Osbourne, under pressure from investors, experiments on himself. His wife Emily dies when his transformation goes wrong. Osbourne goes insane because of Emily's death and becomes the Green Goblin. The Goblin kidnaps his former colleagues and turns them into The Sinister Six. Introducing them in a rousing song called A Freak Like Me Needs Company.
Meanwhile, Peter and Mary Jane's relationship is deepening as both have graduated from high school and moved into the city. Peter has gotten a job using pictures of Spider Man at the Daily Bugle from Jonah Jameson. Jameson is another larger than life character played by Michael Mulheren. His costume incorporates large shoulder pads to give him a commanding presence that he plays to a tee. Mary Jane has gotten a part in a theatre production and both have moved to New York.
As Peter Parker takes one night off as Spider Man, the Green Goblin unleashes his new monster mutants on New York. When Peter shows up at the Bugle and finds out what is happening he gets a super guilt trip for Spider Man's night off. He then proceeds to fight and defeat the Sinister Six in a high flying musical number. The confrontations with each villain is a bit underwhelming, though, as he shoots webbing at them and they sink into the floor.
For the next scene, the Chrysler Building's distinctive top cleverly rises out of the floor. The Green Goblin plays a piano and serenades the audience about destroying New York before Spider Man arrives. The Goblin reveals that he knows Spider Man's identity and he has kidnapped Mary Jane. She's hanging from the building. Spider Man removes his mask for their fight which happens all over the theatre and mostly above the audience. I can't help but think of the aerial cameras that fall on football fields while watching it from below.
The battle ends with the Green Goblin plummeting off the Chrysler Building. Apparently he was tied to the piano that he pushed off, which was a little confusing. The audience is treated to a change of perspective as if a camera angle changed placing the audience at the top of the building as the Goblin falls away from us. Spider Man rescues Mary Jane and they all sing about it.
It is an intense, ambitious play. I would really liken it to a movie that puts 3D movies to shame. The visual effects make up for a rather worn out story, just like most action movies.
If you go, try to pick up your tickets through tkts which is a service of the theatre development fund. You will have to buy them in person and stand in a line to get them but they are up to 50% off of the face value! The lines move quickly there are several booths in Manhattan to buy them.