I dunno why I've hit such a run of Broadway shows that I haven't liked, but this one was the capper. When they first announced a Spider-Man musical, I was pretty skeptical. Then people were saying, hey, it's Julie Taymor, look what she did for The Lion King, it can't be that bad. Plus, it's Bono and The Edge. It definitely couldn't be bad.
When cheap preview tickets became available back in November, I still wasn't sold. But when the preview troubles started, like everyone else, I decided to join the crowds to watch the train wreck last month.
So that's what you need to keep in mind, reading the below. Skeptic. Train-wreck watcher. Predisposed to not like it from the beginning.
And I didn't.
The good: So much praise and wonder for the set design. The sets are bigger than life, and they border on being the actual characters of the show, instead of the humans themselves. That said, the set design is gorgeous, truly fantastic, and well worthy of a comic book universe. In fact, they alone might have been worth sitting through the whole show.
The Cirque: I hate Cirque du anything. I know. Everyone loves it. It's a cultural phenom. But, I don't like when people are flying on stage, or curling themselves up in those ribbony fabrics or floating on and off stage, up and down and twisting around or whatever. I hated it in American Idiot, and I hated it here.
Only here, I cowered in my seat whenever anyone flew close to me, worried that they'd fall on me. Granted, I probably would have done that anyway, even without all the prior stunt incidents, so that's definitely on me.
But between you, me and the labor peeps? At one point, one character was flying and another was supposed to land atop his back for them to fly in sync. Dudes. I watched with bated breath as the one guy tried to land, and could not gain his footing to save his life. Ridiculous. And unsafe. And I swear, it added nothing to the story.
The story: I don't read the comics, so I dunno how much of the story comes from canon. I saw all the movies (and loved at least one of them), so some of it comes from there for sure. But this retelling was just disjointed, uneven and just plain boring.
The overall framework of three geeks and their stereotypical geeky Asian galpal didn't quite work for me, but I liked them oh so much better than the character of dreaded Arachne. She's totally a cross between Kiss of the Spider Woman from years ago, and Doctor Who's Racnoss. Actually Sarah Parrish would have kicked ass in that costume.
Also, even after they changed the ending, I still sat in my seat and said aloud to no one in particular, "Wait. That was the end?"
The music: I feel like I'm supposed to like it because it's Bono. And The Edge. And despite the fact that I don't really remember a single song from the show, I think that the music might be ok. If Bono were singing it. Because that's how the actors were singing it. Hard and gravelly and balls to the wall. And as if they were Bono.
But. Either the actors are trying to match Bono's voice, or, Peter Parker's and Mary Jane's voices are already supertired from the strain. (Which could damage both their voices for the rest of their careers! Or at least that's what I've learned from watching Andrew Lloyd Webber's UK West End casting reality shows.)
The cast sang their hearts out, you could almost feel how much they want this show to finally climb out of previews and become the success they signed on for. Meanwhile, the long wait to March 15th continues.
Do I think there's a weird conspiracy that they're using the "technical issues" as a ruse to shut down a $65-million show instead of admitting it's just bad? No.
Do I think it's the end of Julie Taymor? Oh, hell no.
Do I think less of Bono or The Edge? Please. Hello. It's Bono. And The Edge.
Do I think they opened to the public about six months too early? Yes.
Was it worth going? Well, I'm definitely glad I didn't pay full price for preview tickets. Though I probably made up the difference when I bought this $10 acrylic die-cut magnet.
Oh. I heard earlier today that they were doing more focus groups. Why? Why throw away another few thousand dollars?
And lest ye think that I'm a total creep for posting how I feel about a show not out of previews yet, I actually waited to magnetblog on this until after bigger and better and more critic-y people posted their thoughts. To wit:
New York Times
Or, here: The 9 most scathing reviews of Spider-Man
And of course, last night's SNL.