There hasn't been a more publicized play production in several decades than Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, the struggling creation of Julie Taymor with music from Bono and The Edge. Taymor was recently let go from the production and large chunks of the musical were re-written and tinkered with. The play has received mixed reactions from critics and some criticize the massive 60 million dollar budget. Despite all the hype and negative feedback, I felt like this was a one-time chance to see this thing as I went to New York City over the weekend with my girlfriend.
After paying $15 for a special Spider Man mixed drink (by the way, you CAN bring food and drink into plays these days - I so did not know that), I took my seat and right off the bat I could tell this was a Bono/Edge production. The Edge's signature guitar tones are omnipresent throughout the muscial and really help set the atmosphere. The story is one we all know from the first Spider-Man film. Peter Parker is a photography nerd that digs Mary Jane. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider, gets confronted by his nemesis The Green Goblin and eventually saves the day and gets the girl. If these pieces of information are spoilers for you then you probably wouldn't be interested in this musical in the first place.
At a brisk 2.5 hours, Spider-Man flows well. Sure some of the musical numbers are forgettable and some of the supporting acting is so-so. Reeve Carney is great (as Peter/Spidey) as is the Goblin (Patrick Page) but Mary Jane is just OK as Mary Jane. Most everyone can sing well though so the quality of Bono's music comes through without a filter. The main power ballad Rise Above is the highlight of the soundtrack here. It has that signature ripcord chorus highlighted by a killer Edge riff that U2 is famous for. (Bonus U2 "audio easter eggs" are featured throughout the show as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" plays in a car radio and "Vertigo" blares at a club. A nice touch for fans of the Irish band.)
The real draw and spectacle of this show is the production value. Sets are very intricate and the transitions from scene to scene are seemless. The aerial action is incredible and there are even times when Spidey/other characters touch down in the middle of the audience in the orchestra section. A particularly genius set confines Peter Parker to a small comic book styled room in which he realizes he has super powers. Parker is seen crawling and bouncing off all four walls as stage hands position the walls to propel him around the set. The rigs and harnesses really do give the effect of flight and the wire work is the best I've ever seen in a stage performance. The art direction gives a sense that the play was pulled directly from a comic book especially in the final scene that shows a NYC building in perspective as if the audience is looking at the tip of the building down to the street. As evidenced by the escalating budget, the production team really did spare no expense in building the Spider-Man world of New York.