Spidey Shoots His Web/Wad In First Act
I have been eagerly anticipating this show since it was first announced last year, and have followed its progress or lack of since last summer. I finally got the thrill of actually seeing it on 12/08, which I believe was the first night the aerial stunts went off without any glitches. As a superfan of U2, Broadway, and Marvels iconic heros, there was just so much here for me to like! The music was rockin, the sets and costumes artistically expressed the essence of the Pop Art "comic book" roots and the aerial stunts were breathtaking and exciting. It was unique on so many levels. The opening scene, which sets up a mythological basis for Spidermans roots, features the female chorus members swinging out to the audience on long loops of golden fabric, in which a basket-weave effect is created that is very beautiful. The writers have made a clear connection from the ethos of classic myth to the modern superhero "gods". As the first act unfolds, we are taken in and out of the story of Peter Parkers strange transformation, as obsessed over by four teenaged comic book fans, the "Geek Chorus". Actor Reeve Carney excels at playing the nerd but unfortunately has a hard time filling out the character much beyond that. We are introduced to Mary Jane played by Jennifer Damiano, who was in fine voice and hit all the notes with no problems, the popular girl-next-door whom intellectual Peter longs for, and villian-to-be Dr. Norman Osborn, whose sub-plot brings up the potential of human genetic maniputation for the benefit of the military-industrial complex. His transformation into the Green Goblin allows actor Patrick Page to ham it up to the max and he is VERY over the top. There is so much thrown at the audience in the first act, with very imaginative puppetry, one dimensional props and set pieces that seemed to have been pulled right off the pages of a comic book and the eight huge video panels which I am sure alone cost millions that flank the stage from floor to ceiling, pivot and slide. When the fully-formed Spiderman played by 10 young gymnasts/dancers made his first flight up to the mezzanine, the audience was agog. By the time he and the Green Goblin were grappling with each other as they swooped and turned over the heads of the audience, people were whooping and cheering, and there was a definate feeling of excited elation running throughout the theatre. The first act ends with the forced perspective of peering down the Chrysler building as Spiderman must save MJ from the GG, and it is one of the cheesiest moments of the whole play when they have a teeny toy Spiderman inching up a string to the "top" spire. This effect needs to be cut, as it is so rinky-dink and unnecessary, after the high of the thrilling flights over the audience, that it is laughable. Unfortunately, it seems as though they spent about 59 million dollars in the first act, but the second act comes off as though they finally remembered the budget and said "no more". There are serious problems. After all the glam and glitz of the first act, they seem to rely inordinately on the video screens; at one point, Reeve Carney is alone onstage with just the screens for what seemed like 10 minutes. There is a very confusing scene with female villian Arachne and her Spiderbabe chorus--something to do with a lot of stolen shoes--which I could not understand at all. She wreaks havoc on Manhattan with the help of six super-freaky super-villians because the "great responsibility" of "great powers" becomes too much for poor PP to bear. These villians are definately representative of the true spirit of iconic comic book bad guys, but the "Deus Ex Machina" employed to explain them away and resolve the second act is, well, lame. After the thrills of the first act, the second act was truly anticlimactic. The audience seemed unsure if more was coming--I know I was--and the lack of a "finale" is a major omission. Despite the very real flaws of the resolution of the second act, Im rating this at four stars because I still loved it. I cant wait for the cast album, and hope that Ms. Taymor and company will revamp Act II to bring it up to the level of brilliance expressed in Act I. I would have loved to see Spidey and MJ swing together a la Superman and Lois Lane, and that would be a perfect way to create an exhilerating and typically romantic Broadway moment to cap what is a very ambitious and unique work of art.
Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark on Saturday, Dec 11th, 2010