"Spider-Man" musical gets atrocious reviews

After months of delays, critics are weighing in on Bono's big-budget Broadway fiasco -- and they're not being kind

Published February 8, 2011 4:38PM (EST)

With a budget that makes other Broadway shows seem chintzy, and ambition on par with Cecil B. "Cast of Thousands" DeMille, Julie Taymor’s "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" was supposed to reinvent the musical. Instead, it now competes with "MacBeth" as the most-cursed show in the business. Plagued by delays and accidents, the show is finally slated to open March 15th. Critics, however, have finally gotten tired of waiting. Their reviews are hitting the web -- and they aren't pretty.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times suggests that "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" should play up its accident-prone potential. That opportunity aside, this show is not just a tangled mess, it is a hopeless one.

"This production should play up regularly and resonantly the promise that things could go wrong. Because only when things go wrong in this production does it feel remotely right — if, by right, one means entertaining. So 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." Otherwise, a more appropriate slogan would be "I saw ‘Spider-Man’ and slept."

Elisabeth Vincentelli of The New York Post admits that Taymor weaves a few enchanting strings into this rebooted yarn, but the inconsistent quality makes this production "equal parts exciting and atrocious."

"A breathtakingly beautiful scene is followed by a laughable one. The flying sequences can be thrilling, as when Spider-Man first takes off over the orchestra; other times, they look barely good enough for Six Flags, the harnesses making the movements clunky."

Joe Dziemianowicz of The New York Daily News praises George Tsypin’s stunning sets, but fears that, without improvements, the incoherent plot and forgettable musical numbers fail to warrant the show’s hefty ticket prices.

"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."

Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune argues that tepid musical numbers, insecure performers, and script writing insecure with melodrama weigh down this production before it has a chance to take off.

"Delayed openings, physical changes, fresh flying sequences, the toil of dedicated performers and even new musical numbers from U2's Bono and The Edge, no less, cannot fix what should have been solved long before any human performer left the safety of the ground."

By Claire Lambrecht

Claire Lambrecht is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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