If everything had gone as planned, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" would have officially opened on Broadway on Monday. But after a continued string of injuries, accidents and delays, Julie Taymor and the minds behind the $65 million production extended the official opening date to March 15, which means preview performances will have been going on for three-and-a-half months.
The major theater critics decided enough was enough and proceeded to honor the February 7 opening date as the time it was fair to run their reviews. That was not good news for Taymor and company.
"It turns out there is a valid reason the producers of 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' have been keeping critics at bay," wrote Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty. "Julie Taymor's $65 million, accident-prone production, featuring an erratic score by U2's Bono and The Edge, is a teetering colossus that can't find its bearings as a circus spectacle or as a rock musical."
To make it worse, the performance — preview number 65 — that many of the critics went to see had not one but two glitches during the performance. The first occurred when Spider-man (played by Reeve Carney) couldn't fly like he was supposed to, and the second happened when the Green Goblin (played by Patrick Page) was left dangling for several minutes above the audience while the crew fixed his wires.
New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote that he was happy that things went wrong, because it was the only enjoyable part of the performance. "Keep the fear factor an active part of the show, guys, and stock the Foxwoods gift shops with souvenir crash helmets and T-shirts that say, 'I saw "Spider-Man" and lived,' " Brantley advised. "Otherwise, a more appropriate slogan would be 'I saw "Spider-Man" and slept.' "
When MTV's Splash Page blog reviewed "Spider-Man" in mid-January, the things they found likable about the show — the sets, the aerial work — were few and far between, while what they disliked about it — the story, the acting, the music — seemed to be the backbone of the show. And while most critics, like Chris Jones at The Chicago Tribune and Scott Brown at New York Magazine, were willing to give it more of a chance than others, like Charles Spencer at The Telegraph and Peter Marks at the Washington Post and Elisabeth Vincentelli at the New York Post, most seemed to agree that the basic concept behind the circus-style music is flawed.
"What I saw is a big production going in too many directions and in need of a lot of work to make it entertaining, satisfying and understandable," wrote Joe Dziemianowicz from the New York Daily News. "The show reportedly cost $65 million and that's clearly gone into mechanics, hydraulics and aerial rigging. It seems only 10 cents has gone into the confusing story and humorless dialogue."
Bono and The Edge, who wrote the music for the show, didn't get off the hook either. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "The absence of the word 'musical' from Taymor's definition of the show seems key. The songs by Bono and The Edge display minimal grasp of music's function in goosing narrative or illuminating character. And despite all the wailing-guitar attitude, they only squeak by as atmospheric enhancement."
That probably won't stop the show from topping the Broadway box office even in it's preview performances though, or at least for a little while. But Bloomberg critic Jeremy Gerard, who saw, reviewed and panned "Turn Off the Dark" before, considers the show unsalvageable.
"After all this expenditure of talent and money, 'Spider- Man' is probably unfixable because too much has gone into making humans fly, which is not what they are good at," he wrote. "It imitates poorly what the 'Spider-Man' movies do brilliantly with computer graphics — and without putting live actors in jeopardy."