Although I’m a first-night Manhattan critic who saw Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark for the first time only three days before its most recently scratched March 15 opening, what follows is not a review. Okay, having seen it from start to finish, I admit this is a review to the extent that I agree with the consensus on its unsatisfying qualities expressed by colleagues in responses written just after the previous postponed February 7 premiere.
On the other hand, I’m not certain I’d join one prominent naysayer who suggested that Julie Taymor’s highly publicized production (score by Bono and The Edge, libretto by Taymor and Glen Berger) may rank as one of the worst musicals ever. After all, a writer must be careful about registering such a negative superlative when there’ve been so many bottom-of-barrel-scraping tuners over the past however many decades.
Among them from only as far back as the ’60s, a conscientious critic has to keep in mind Kelly, Via Galactica, Dude, Edward Albee’s slash at Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Rockabye Hamlet, Twyla Tharp’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, all three versions of The Scarlet Pimpernel and — only this season — Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
Look, folks, the visual aspects of what Taymor has insisted on calling “a circus rock’n'roll drama” and not a “musical” are, and likely will continue to be, commendable. When Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark opens — if it ever does, June 14, supposedly — expect set designer George Tsypin and costume designer Eiko Ishioka not only to be nominated for Tonys but to win them.
The current version, however, now acknowledged as needing radical revision by its neophyte producers — and by Bono, who first approached Taymor with the idea and now seems to be the guiding hand — could be categorized as just another in a long line of deficient musicals. What distinguishes it from all predecessors is the shocking bankroll. To date, the purveyors, through spokesperson Rick Miramontez, declare that the cost of the musical is $65 million.
That’s the gasp-worthy figure quoted for getting the musical to the point where it has to be extensively rethought and revised. Surely, expenses accruing during the overhaul — which involves a three-week April 19-May 12 shut-down for insertion of changes — will add heavily to the outrageous sum.
So, yes, the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark story — not the story told in the beset show at Foxwoods Theatre but the story behind that story — is now, unfortunately, one of Broadway’s most embarrassing, not to say shameful, sagas.
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