I LOVE a good musical. Heck, I love a bad musical – sitting in a darkened theater and entering another world is magic, and pretty much the only way to get me to be quiet for longer than 5 minutes straight.
Prior to having children, when we had the expendable time and income, one of my very favorite things to do was to go stand on the TKTS line and see what was up on the boards; I have a theater wish list at least half a dozen shows long at any given time, and go see many local high school performances – *especially* those that former students are involved in. One of my biggest thrills in life was being able to see my students perform a section of a production of a show I directed on stage at the Imperial Theatre as part of a NYC Board of Ed. Arts initiative.
I’m a Broadway baby, is what I’m saying.
All of that aside, Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark was not really on my radar; the pre-opening controversies that plagued it from artistic conflicts to severe safety concerns made me hesitant. I do enjoy the music of U2, however, and can’t deny I was curious about what all the hype was about, so when NY Metro Parents contacted me about doing a review, I was in. When they offered me two extra tickets, I was over the moon at the chance to bring some former students along.
Francis and Victor were in my very first production as a teacher, and were part of the cast that took the stage at the Imperial. Additionally, Victor has long had a passion for graphic design, and comic book art in particular, so I knew they were the perfect people to invite.
I will be honest and say that I did not truly enjoy the first act; the over-the-top stunts felt like the production was using gimmicks and doing things just because they COULD, rather than using some artistic judgment about whether they SHOULD. I was a bit disappointed in the music – none of the songs were really catchy, and they didn’t seem as strong as I know U2 can be.
My kids, however, were enthralled. I switched seats at intermission to sit between them, and their enthusiasm was contagious. Maybe because they have not been exposed to as many traditional musicals, maybe because they grew up with comic books in general and Spider-Man in particular, they were able to get swept away with the production. They each repeatedly remarked on how cool certain stunts were, loved the costuming, and literally gasped when spider “webs” were released from the ceiling over the house. The sound quality issues that bothered me did not affect their enjoyment at all, and their excitement made me see the over-the-top spectacle with new eyes.
There are rumors of the show being adapted to be a Vegas performance, and if you think of it more that way than as a traditional Broadway musical, I think it is strongly successful. The flying and web-slinging, along with the comic book aspects (caricature-like costuming and staging) will definitely appeal to Spidey fans, and even those who don’t love the super hero can’t help but be drawn in.
*While stocks last.
I received 4 tickets to the Wednesday, August 21st performance in order to facilitate this review. My opinions are my own.