Spider-Man is bashed by his greatest foe - the critics

Wed, Feb 9, 2011, 00:00

SMALL PRINT:THE REVIEWS for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Darkare in, and if you were behind the show you would possibly feel like reverting to anonymity and a mask.

Unless you’ve been living in an underground lair, you’ll be aware that the Broadway musical, which features music from Bono and The Edge, has been a troubled production – even before a stuntman plunged from a height mid-show in December (not its first accident).

While bloggers and journalists have been queuing up to give their verdict on the $65 million show, the theatre critics have had to wait while the opening was put back and back until the latest date of March 15th. The patience of the critics finally snapped, and they’ve decided to review it now regardless.

The most influential voice is Ben Brantley in the New York Times,and his piece is deadlier than the Green Goblin. “The sheer ineptitude of this show . . . loses its shock value early,” he wrote. “After 15 or 20 minutes, the central question you keep asking yourself is likely to change from ‘How can $65 million look so cheap?’ to ‘How long before I’m out of here?’ Spider-Man is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst.”

The performance Brantley reviewed included a technical problem that held up the show. However, it seemingly delighted the audience who loved one actor’s joke to the actor playing Spider-Man: “You gotta be careful. You’re gonna fly over the heads of the audience, you know. I hear they dropped a few of them.”

“All subsequent performances of “Spider-Man” should include at least one such moment,” wrote Brantley. “Actively letting theatregoers in on the national joke that this problem-plagued show has become helps make them believe that they have a reason to be there.”

However, the Star-Ledger’s critic, who bought his own ticket, believed that “even in its current state (without the improvements that may follow), Spider-Manis worth seeing.” The LA Times’snegative review (“an artistic form of megalomania”) conceded that “the show is most alive when the sound that Bono and The Edge made famous connects to the emotional predicament of Peter Parker”.

Gawker’s reviewer disagreed: “The music is lazy and awful – its like listening to the scraps left on the floor after U2 recorded Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”

It is in “equal parts exciting and atrocious,” said the New York Post. “It is constantly seesawing between the galvanizing and the lame.”

And there’s more. “A shrill, insipid mess,” said the Washington Post; “unmistakably monomaniacal,” according to New York Magazine.

Pow.

Blaaam.

Crash.

The fuss has triggered some debate about when a show should be reviewed, especially when so much has been written in advance. Variety reviewed the preview and said it would run a full review later on.

Spider-Man’sproducers have complained that their show should not be reviewed until it’s ready. “This pile-on by the critics is a huge disappointment,” said a spokesperson. “Changes are still being made and any review that runs before the show is frozen is totally invalid.”

And the box office impact? With 130,000 tickets sold, there have been suggestions the endless previews may be a brilliant ploy to outwit critics. Either way, it is as if it’s a supershow made only stronger by radioactive press.

– Shane Hegarty