spiderman the musical reviews
February 9, 2011 7:43 AM   Subscribe

We've spoken about it before and now the reviews are in for Spiderman: Turn off the dark. If you haven't got time to leaf through them all, there's a handy animated collection of quotes. To say the reviews weren't all that great would be an understatement, some even calling it "one of the worst things, if not the worst, I've ever seen on Broadway". Julie Taymor, the director, has had hits and misses in her career, but this appears to trump them all. Could we be witnessing another Sgt Pepper?
posted by ciderwoman (150 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
You're missing the most important part of the reviews: they appeared in print more than a month before the show is set to open. Not that it's unprecedented, but it's rare, and hasn't happened in decades.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:51 AM on February 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I like the response from the show's spokesperson: The PILE-ON by the critics was ridiculous and uncalled for. Their actions are unprecedented and UNCOOL. He wasn't even on Twitter, he released that statement to EW.com. That being the best he could do really says something.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:52 AM on February 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think the rot started to set-in when they decided to make "Spiderman" the musical and not "Spiderpig".
posted by ob at 7:52 AM on February 9, 2011 [17 favorites]


Not that it's unprecedented, but it's rare, and hasn't happened in decades.

It should be pointed out that it's also rare for a show to not open for months and months. If/when it opens March 15th, Spiderman will break the record for most previews before opening previously set by Jackie Mason in 1969.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Who wrote the music? Not Jim Steinman? Well there's your trouble right there.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:54 AM on February 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


My friend saw this recently. Here, excerpted, is the email he sent out describing his experiences:
You know what watching Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was like? It was like watching some smart-ass, pushy know-it-all lecture for three hours about American History without getting a single fact correct, all the while having access at their fingertips to Google, an encyclopedia and a whole shelf of history textbooks. It's like watching someone trying to bake a cake by following simple, easy to understand directions from a cookbook, but every step of the way saying "Sugar? I'm fairly certain I shouldn't use sugar. I'll use sand instead, sand is like sugar and I like it more." It's an act of sheer, willful, arrogant ignorance and hubris. There should be a license granted in order to be able to charge money in order to have people listen to your stories, and Julie Taymor should have that license revoked. She should be disbarred from storytelling.
...
I have looked into the abyss, and I saw a stupid, ancient, suicidal spider goddess obsessed with shoes staring back at me. And Julie Taymor laughing, laughing, laughing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2011 [71 favorites]


You're missing the most important part of the reviews: they appeared in print more than a month before the show is set to open.

To be fair, they appeared in print on the day the show was supposed to open, before they added another month of previews. I think the critics have a legitimate point - if they're selling near-full priced tickets, then ticket-buyers deserve to know what they're paying for.
posted by muddgirl at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


My review: Not enough hyphens in the name. Eleven thumbs down.
posted by DU at 7:56 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The agreed-upon narrative is one of hubris on the part of Taymor and the U2 guys, recklessness, and grandiosity. I have to admit to drinking deeply of the Schadenfreude here, but having not seen it, I have no way of judging accurately.

I liked Across the Universe, though.

(Metafilter: Drinking deeply of the Schadenfreude. There. Saved someone the effort.)
posted by Danf at 7:56 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've got a friend who works theatre who pointed out that The Lion King was something like $20 million in startup and took two years--two years--to recoup the initial investment. And The Lion King was the most successful show on Broadway for its opening year.

They have spent over $65 million on the Spider Man musical. At this point I can only imagine two thoughts are in play here:

1. They are hoping it can survive an initial disaster, and then pack the entire thing up and ship it to Las Vegas where the stunts will draw for the Cirque crowd, and

2. Someone has invested in a huge insurance policy on the theatre and several, several gallons of gasoline.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:57 AM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sgt. Pepper, being a horrifically bad movie, isn't an appropriate comparison. If we're lucky, we're witnessing another Carrie the Musical.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:57 AM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


The rumor I've heard is that Taymor's ego is not very different from when she was younger and hungrier, but back in the days of Titus and The Lion King, she had more people telling her "no." Her carte was more blanche for Spider-Man, and this is what we get out of it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:57 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the interest part of the Riedel link was the quote about Bono: As for Bono, he’s washed his hands of this fiasco. When he finally got around to seeing it, he knew it was a mess, sources say. Which is why he didn’t bother to write any new songs. Instead he headed to Davos, Switzerland
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the Variety, which is the most-positive of all the reviews I've seen:
It's a work in progress, and creator Julie Taymor has been making changes through the preview period, and is reportedly planning to continue to rework the musical numbers (within the framework of the existing music and lyrics). Weaknesses lie with the book, music and lyrics...
posted by muddgirl at 8:00 AM on February 9, 2011


I chose Sgt Pepper, curious artificer, because it's become something of a legend, a production so misguided and awful it falls into a whole new category. Though this may just be in my household.
posted by ciderwoman at 8:00 AM on February 9, 2011


If I were in NYC, I would go see this thing based only on my morbid sense of curiosity and the chance to see another catastrophic injury.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:01 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're missing the most important part of the reviews: they appeared in print more than a month before the show is set to open

Yea but preview tickets are $90 - $320 each, audiences should get something slightly more than 1/2 baked for that much money.
posted by octothorpe at 8:03 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, let's be honest-- Spiderman: The Musical?

Really?

Why bother with a review? It's a shit idea from which nothing good can come.
posted by empath at 8:03 AM on February 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I liked the review the said "prognosis negative" as well as all the ones that could be used as MetaFilter taglines (which is to say "all the ones, period").
posted by DU at 8:04 AM on February 9, 2011


I couldn't care less about the show, but I think it's safe to say the critical feeding frenzy is at least a bit unwarranted. Once any project gets perceived as a bloated money pit during development ("Heaven's Gate", "Chinese Democracy", "Avatar" etc), gleeful assumptions of stink start growing like fungus.
posted by davebush at 8:05 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I gotta admit, I've had a lot riding, Schadenfreude-wise, on this show. From the first instant I heard the words Bono, Spiderman and Musical in one sentence. It's a relief to hear it remains solidly on track to tank in a dismal and egregious manner.
posted by nanojath at 8:07 AM on February 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


I couldn't care less about the show, but I think it's safe to say the critical feeding frenzy is at least a bit unwarranted. Once any project gets perceived as a bloated money pit during development ("Heaven's Gate", "Chinese Democracy", "Avatar" etc), gleeful assumptions of stink start growing like fungus.

Yeah, I'm sure James Cameron is real broke up over the critical and box office reception to Avatar.

Chinese Democracy also got the critical reception it deserved, for better and for worse.

I think Heaven's Gate is a genuinely bad movie, although it has its defenders.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:08 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I were in NYC, I would go see this thing based only on my morbid sense of curiosity and the chance to see another catastrophic injury.

And that's the thing--people will go see this, either because they want to see the spectacle and hope to laugh at it, or see a catastrophe. Plus the rubes who will come in from out of town and have already seen the Lion King. Plus just die-hard comics people. The reviews are not going to matter when the producers have already sunk $65 million in it--they'll hold out until the audience has bad review fatigue and just fills the seats.

I mean, let's be honest-- Spiderman: The Musical?

Quoted for truth. Of course it's bad. Now, let's count the money.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:08 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm sure James Cameron is real broke up over the critical and box office reception to Avatar

Maybe he meant the other Avatar - you know, the terrible one.

Critics have had like 3 months from the first set of previews to craft their prose. Is that the critics' fault?
posted by muddgirl at 8:09 AM on February 9, 2011


I didn't know Bono wrote the music for this show, but it all fits together now that I heard it was "monotonous generic rock".
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on February 9, 2011


Does it even matter? It's Broadway for tourists. If they can't get into The Lion King, they'll do this. Isn't the target audience kids? Do they give a shit? It's probably gonna break even regardless.
posted by spicynuts at 8:10 AM on February 9, 2011


And that's the thing--people will go see this, either because they want to see the spectacle and hope to laugh at it, or see a catastrophe.

Conan O'Brien, back when Titanic came out, said something like "He should have just set a billion dollars on fire and filmed that -- I'd have paid to see it"
posted by empath at 8:11 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a shit idea from which nothing good can come.

In William Goldman's The Season, he quotes an old Broadway hand as saying, "The trouble with washing garbage is that when you're done, it's still garbage."
posted by Joe Beese at 8:13 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, let's be honest-- Spiderman: The Musical?
...
Of course it's bad.


There's absolutely nothing about Spiderman that wouldn't play in a musical, though. Over the top melodrama, larger-than-life fantasy figures, colorful costumes... I'm honestly surprised that there haven't already been a bunch of musicals based on comics.

At any rate, I've heard, from friends of friends, that the whole thing is just front-to-back bad. There are few things I love more than:

- spectacle
- comic books
- terrible grotesque injuries

But even so, word on the street is that it's hella boring. Which is really the only thing that could've damned it, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:14 AM on February 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm honestly surprised that there haven't already been a bunch of musicals based on comics.

Oh Superman! You've saved my life again!
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 AM on February 9, 2011


I hated Titanic. Still do. Exploitive and anachronistic piece of crap--not to mention the disservice it does the victims of the actual sinking.

That said, look for the buck. Screw artistic merit, tell me the bottom line. Because nothing else counts. Nothing.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:17 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I liked Across the Universe too. Except for Eddie Izzard.
posted by Billiken at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2011


A little more on the co-writer Glen Berger
posted by IndigoJones at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2011


Sticherbeast - my point was that assumptions are formed prior to release, based on the money spent on a project. I know it's kind of fun to watch things crash, and part of that fun is the anticipation, but it's not really fair.
posted by davebush at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2011


But davebush, the assumptions of stink growing like fungus is my favourite bit.

(and I genuinely love heavens gate)
posted by ciderwoman at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2011


I liked Across the Universe too. Except for Eddie Izzard.

I hated Across the Universe, except for Eddie Izzard.

my point was that assumptions are formed prior to release, based on the money spent on a project

I just don't think this is true. Assumptions may have been formed about Spiderman based on the fact that it's been in previews for 3 months, and the start date keeps getting pushed back, and key players refuse to participate in the revision process. How can any of these things be good signs? Still, all the reviews I've read have seemed very fair to me.
posted by muddgirl at 8:26 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The weird thing is that it is such a stupid idea. Done really dead ass seriously. It takes two really strange cultural conceits, musicals and superheroes, and mixes them together oblivious to the inherent absurdity of endeavor. In a world where people get super powers and some use them for good and others for evil and have terrifying battles and a lack of continuity and soap opera love affairs, that is also a world where songs and synchronized dancing are integrated as if by telepathy to emotional peaks and exposition.

Oh and music by U2 because what the fuck. Who cares at this point. Jesus.
posted by I Foody at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


At intermission, I declared it critic-proof and boldly predicted that the production would recoup its money.

I recanted after the second act.

(That said, it was a glorious mess. I totally respect Taymor's swinging for the fences.)
posted by whuppy at 8:29 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


So is this the Broadway equivalent of an Uwe Boll movie?
posted by marchismo at 8:37 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Msr Thenardier.

Welcome, consumer, sit yourself down
And meet the best Spiderman in town
As for the rest, all of ‘em schnooks:
Basing their plots on existing books
Seldom do you see
Spidermen like me
A gent of great intent
Who’s content to be

Turning off the dark, putting it to song
Ready with a tumble when a stung goes wrong
Tell a messy tale, make a little stir
Customers appreciate the crash and burn
Chalk it up to Julie Taymor
Ignoring everyone’s advice
Cuz genius gets you genius
So let’s ignore this disaster’s awful price!

Turning off the dark, we’ve got Bono too
Plus we brought along the Edge from U2
Fuzzing up the songs, stretching out the length
Tossing in a solo when we’ve got the strength
Everybody loves a rock show
At least when they all saw Rent
We’ll sing whatever pleases
Jesus! Won’t we bore you in the end!

posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:37 AM on February 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


When I first heard of "Taymor + U2 + Spiderman + musical" I thought it sounded like a completely wrong idea. But I remained open to being proved wrong.

Then I started hearing of all the cost overruns, delays, and cast injuries, and thought "wow, this sounds awful." But still I remained open to the idea that it might turn out at least ok.

Then I read all the reviews yesterday, which included summaries of the "plot" (at least to the degree any of the critics was able to decipher it) - about the the whole bizarre inclusion of Arachne from Greek mythology... I think it seems pretty well confirmed now that it's just a huge misguided unsalvageable mess.
posted by dnash at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spider-Man is the Minecraft of Broadway shows. Pay to see what looks like a finished project with some rough edges, for months and months. Any criticism is invalid because Hey! It's Beta! It worked for Gmail, why not a musical?

Glenn Beck loved it. "The show takes the core of the Spider-Man story and makes it accessible to everyone." (because apparently Spider-Man is too complicated.) Oprah loved it too. So did most of the other celebrities they tried to use to get ahead of the reviews.

Last time I went to NY I saw Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. It was awesome in a hot mess, fun, historical fiction rock musical with cute guys in tight pants kind of way. I bet you could do 10 shows like that for what it's costing to make this fiasco.
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2011


Metafilter: Drinking deeply of the Schadenfreude. There. Saved someone the effort.

Metafilter: Saved someone the effort.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:41 AM on February 9, 2011


Metafilter: There.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:42 AM on February 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


> I mean, let's be honest-- Spiderman: The Musical?

Has there ever been a live-actor stage production of any kind, about superheroes, that worked? You have two possibilities: don't let them use their defining superpowers--e.g. Superman, dude who can fly--in which case what's left of 'em as characters? (Not much but a muscle suit.) Or try to let them do super stunts on stage, which has looked dumb and distancing since Mary Martin was swinging back... and forth... and back... and forth... on wires as Peter Pan. Neither option seems likely to end in Tony awards and long runs.
posted by jfuller at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I take it back, this is the most-positive review I've read so far, and it takes as given that Turn off the Dark was intended to be garbled and post-modern.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone remember this amazing post by Astro Zombie about the catastrophic 1972 musical Dude?
posted by hermitosis at 8:48 AM on February 9, 2011


Has there ever been a live-actor stage production of any kind, about superheroes, that worked?

Pee-Wee's Playhouse.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


Oh, there was meant to be A LINK.
posted by hermitosis at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2011


Glenn Beck: "The show takes the core of the Spider-Man story and makes it accessible to everyone."

That is one of the funniest things I've read. I never would have imagined that Spiderman was simply too difficult for some people.
posted by naju at 8:50 AM on February 9, 2011 [17 favorites]


I never would have imagined that Spiderman was simply too difficult for some people.

To be fair, Beck is probably referencing the convolutions of the Clone Saga. Go ahead, try explaining to someone who Ben Reilly and Kaine and "Spidercide" are. It ain't easy.
posted by fryman at 8:57 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


naju: Spider man is very much the comic book world's equivalent to 'Gravity's Rainbow'.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2011


(Metafilter: Drinking deeply of the Schadenfreude. There. Saved someone the effort.)

The first rule of taglining is that you cannot tagline your own stuff. Jesus.
posted by norm at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think one of the problems has to be it not being all that much about Spiderman. It's like that one teacher you had who tried to be "cool" by using comic characters in lectures to make things "relevant". You didn't buy it then, you're not buying it now.
posted by tommasz at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2011


Perhaps the producers and the accountant plan to abscond to Brazil with the investor's money after closing the play on Opening Night?
posted by mazola at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


See, the problem is it should be "Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark...on Ice!" That would be sure-fire.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:07 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Glenn Beck loved it" is pretty much the icing on the schadenfreude cake.
posted by schmod at 9:08 AM on February 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


empath: "And that's the thing--people will go see this, either because they want to see the spectacle and hope to laugh at it, or see a catastrophe.

Conan O'Brien, back when Titanic came out, said something like "He should have just set a billion dollars on fire and filmed that -- I'd have paid to see it
"

So Conan has a copy of The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid then?
posted by mkb at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2011


Has there ever been a live-actor stage production of any kind, about superheroes, that worked?

The Ring Cycle is about superheroes before superheroes were superheroes.

But yeah, the point remains. Despite the similarities, there's still a key difference between "mythical heroes" and "pop culture heroes."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2011


Spider man is very much the comic book world's equivalent to 'Gravity's Rainbow'.

A screaming hobgoblin comes across the sky.
posted by empath at 9:15 AM on February 9, 2011 [12 favorites]


this is the most-positive review I've read so far, and it takes as given that Turn off the Dark was intended to be garbled and post-modern

A clever conceit on the reviewer's part. But I highly doubt that the money men put up $65 million thinking they would be getting garbled post-modernism.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:16 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Any criticism is invalid because Hey! It's Beta!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:18 AM on February 9, 2011


I can see where this went wrong. It's Julie Taymor! It's Bono! Everything she's done has been considered groundbreaking and cutting-edge. Every album he's made has been adored by millions. Two great tastes that taste great together!

Wait, wait. No. When has that ever worked?

In any production, anywhere, there must be an alpha dog and role-players. The role-players can be very, very good at what they do. But they're role-players.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 AM on February 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


whuppy: "At intermission, I declared it critic-proof and boldly predicted that the production would recoup its money.

I recanted after the second act.

(That said, it was a glorious mess. I totally respect Taymor's swinging for the fences.)
"

I have four friends who have seen it and they all said the same thing. The first act is great and gives you a clear vision of the concept's potential. Unless you're in the balconies in which case you can't see the actors flying about. Then the show introduces a non-canon character: Arachne, and it falls apart horribly.
posted by zarq at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has there ever been an 'action musical' that worked? Forget superheroes.
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on February 9, 2011


Someone has invested in a huge insurance policy on the theatre and several, several gallons of gasoline.

Don't be stupid, be a smarty. Come and join the nazi party.
posted by cjets at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to discover that he had been transformed into a giant cockroach."

Nah, it's too good.

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2011


Man, I miss Starlight Express . . .
posted by KingEdRa at 9:27 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm puzzled why the folks at Disney, which now owns Marvel, haven't stepped in and taken over control of this. They have an entire branch devoted solely to theatrical productions and have considerable experience in taking (relatively) ridiculous ideas and turning them into phenomenally successful Broadway shows.
posted by BrianJ at 9:36 AM on February 9, 2011


It should be pointed out that the music is by Bono and The Edge. It's not by U2.

Yes, I know what you're going to say. But if Paul and John had put out some music and everyone was saying it was by The Beatles, everyone would be up in arms about how false that was because George and Ringo weren't actually involved. Exact same thing here.
posted by hippybear at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Has there ever been an 'action musical' that worked? Forget superheroes.

Define "action." Many musicals have action sequences. The Lion King, just to use Julie Taymor as a for example. And there are way, way too many swordfights to count.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2011


Has there ever been an 'action musical' that worked? Forget superheroes.

Ummm..... ballet?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm puzzled why the folks at Disney, which now owns Marvel, haven't stepped in and taken over control of this.

That's a relatively recent development, though. Spider-Man on film, for example, is licensed to Sony. Similarly, the Spider-Man license was granted to a stage production long before Disney showed up.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2011


Spider-Man. Not Spiderman.
posted by signal at 9:40 AM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Excelsior!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:41 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw a preview this weekend. You know, it doesn't completely suck. The mythology part of the storyline is annoying and undermines the arguably pro-science framing of the plot (climate change is real, evolution is real, and the problem with the mad scientist is the mad part, not the science part). The songs lack hooks. The storytelling isn't tight (yet).

But it's a Julie Taymor joint, and a lot of it is quite visually interesting. There's a bit too much extended video projection for my taste, but it plays out interestingly on moving panels. And there's some very interesting play with the sense of scale, which I loved. And it's nice to go to a Broadway show where you don't feel like the vertical dimension is being ignored.

And the audience around me really loved it, especially the flying. I was like, flying, meh, but kids were squealing every time he took off, and when spidey landed on the balcony rail (I was literally in the last row) and ran out through the emergency exit (twice I think), folks up there were going wild. That energy makes me guess the show has at least a 40% chance of sticking around for a while--and then some further chance that someone will build a special theatre for it in Vegas, since there's no way it's gonna tour.

I was ready to be a snobby hater, but I had a good time.
posted by Mngo at 9:44 AM on February 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cobwebs (1982); music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; directed by Harold Prince.

Synopsis: The first act follows Peter Parker, a nerdy orphan growing up in Forest Hills, Queens in the early sixties, through the usual story beats: vague adolescent restlessness ("Spectacles"), irradiated spider bite ("A Little Sting"), apprehension of unusual abilities ("A Little Tingling"), over-confidence ("With Great Powers"), the death of Uncle Ben ("Loving May Reilly"), romance with Mary Jane Watson ("Jackpot" - still a signature tune for Bernadette Peters), and triumph over the Green Goblin at the cost of his childhood friend Gwen Stacy's life ("One More Day").

The second act starts over from the beginning. This time, slight variations to lyrics and blocking soon find the spider crushed under Peter's heel before it can bite him ("A Little Step"). From there, the musical becomes a bittersweet coming of age story with a theme of missed chances ("Cobwebs") and mundane heroism. At the climax, the newly married Peter decides to forgo a fling with Mary Jane, and returns, unsettled and uncertain, but hopeful, to Gwen's side. ("Spectacles: Reprise," "With Little Powers").

Though it won some critical acclaim, extremely poor receipts meant an early end to Cobweb's run and a permanent split between Sondheim and Prince. To this day, Marvel refuses to license Spider-Man for stage or screen, though industry rumor suggests that the wild success of the Doctor Strange film franchise is compelling a reconsideration.
posted by Iridic at 9:47 AM on February 9, 2011 [52 favorites]


That energy makes me guess the show has at least a 40% chance of sticking around for a while

The Addams Family musical was also widely panned, and it's turned out to be one of the biggest ticket draws on Broadway at the moment.
Despite many negative reviews by New York critics, it has consistently played to 100% capacity and grossed third only to Wicked and The Lion King each week since it opened in previews. The New York Times reported that despite "the sort of scathing reviews that would bury most shows" the show had $851,000 in ticket sales on top of a $15 million advance sale the weekend following its opening, "huge figures for a new Broadway run". The Times attributes this success to a beloved brand-name title, nostalgia, star strength, and a top-notch marketing campaign by the producers.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2011


Has there ever been an 'action musical' that worked? Forget superheroes.

Depending on your definitions of "action" and "worked": West Side Story.
posted by rtha at 9:56 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has there ever been an 'action musical' that worked? Forget superheroes.
West Side Story?
posted by Gungho at 9:58 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every album he's made has been adored by millions.

U2 continued making records after The Joshua Tree, you know.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:23 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can see where this went wrong. It's Julie Taymor! It's Bono! Everything she's done has been considered groundbreaking and cutting-edge. Every album he's made has been adored by millions. Two great tastes that taste great together!

Wait, wait. No. When has that ever worked?


Yeah. Maybe it's the comics nerd in me, but out of "Spider-Man," "Julie Taymor," and "Bono," it ain't the Spider-Man that's keeping me away.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:35 AM on February 9, 2011


Or try to let them do super stunts on stage, which has looked dumb and distancing since Mary Martin was swinging back... and forth... and back... and forth... on wires as Peter Pan. Neither option seems likely to end in Tony awards and long runs.

But Mary Martin did win a Tony Award for the role, one of three for the show and the 1979, 1990 and 1998 revivals were all nominated for the best revival Tony. The 1979 revival ran for 554 performances. 1990 and 1998 both had short runs, but both also had return engagements.
posted by Jahaza at 10:35 AM on February 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dammit, Iridic made me look.
posted by whuppy at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


iridic: Marry me.

On a (slightly) serious note, a friend who's peripherally involved with the production - and who has seen it dozens of times since November - says in this case the root cause is Julie Taymor is not just the director/designer this time. She's got book credit, the original writer's already MIA, and the entire Arachne subplot she dreamed up has taken over what was once a fairly straightforward narrative (it's a fucking comic book, how complicated can it be, Glenn Beck?!). There's absolutely no one to tell her "No," and anyone who knows her career before "Lion King" is well aware that it's been (to put it nicely) "hit or miss, and mostly miss." She's a brilliant designer and visual artist; she's a hack director at best, and at her worst... (cf. "Spider-man").

There have been plenty of shows that had good long runs based solely on their spectacle, despite a score so banal you can't even hum it right after you've heard it (*cough* "Phantom" *cough*). And God knows musicals have seldom been known for the quality of their playwriting. Whether "Spider-man" was a good idea or not can be debated, but I don't think this version ever really stood a chance.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


There have been plenty of shows that had good long runs based solely on their spectacle, despite a score so banal you can't even hum it right after you've heard it (*cough* "Phantom" *cough*).

Interestingly enough, even Beck has referred to the show as "This generation's Phantom." Of course he meant this as a compliment. And of course Phantom had a plot.
posted by muddgirl at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2011


Wait, are you guys referring to Phantom? Or to Phantom? Or to The Phantom Of The Opera? Or to Phantom Of The Opera? Because those are pretty much three separate works (despite the second having being derived from the third).

Interesting side note: if you type "Phantom" often enough in one comment, it ceases to look like a real word.
posted by hippybear at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure we're talking about the famous Broadway production. You know, "the world's most financially successful single entertainment project to date."
posted by muddgirl at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2011


I would like to cast a dissenting vote on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is, in fact, a masterpiece of fun-to-watch hair-curling camp joyawfulness on a par with The Apple, both of which owe their lives to the mountainous snowdrifts of cocaine blown in by the howling Santa Ana winds in the late seventies. Turn Off the Dark just doesn't sound cocainey enough to me. Stacks of money rarely produce the same kind of fun as heart attack-inducing overdoses of stimulants. YMMV, however.
posted by sonascope at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has there ever been an 'action musical' that worked?

Is it Ghostbusters 2?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Wandering Spider- A Volume of Well-Scripted Tanka

First performed Ichimura-za theater in Tokyo for the start of the 1786 kabuki season, this play tells the story of an itinerant letter-writer who is transformed through contact with a kami who has taken the form of a kimura spider. Since 1832, the title role has been the possession of actors in the Bando Kamonowaka lineage.

At the start of the piece, the tragic hero Toshi appears dressed as an impoverished letter-writer, carrying his characteristic box of pens and wearing a paper kimono constructed of old letters. His identity is hinted at by the mon or crest on his clothing representing a stylized spider. As he proceeds across the stage, the chorus sings of the weighty burden of karma that must have brought about the loss of his family, his impoverishment and the hunger that leaves him as emaciated as a spider. He is so poor that he cannot even be with his lover, a simple tea-shop girl. As he prepares to sleep in the street, he is stung by a kimura spider.

In the next scene, Toshi, his paper kimono now removed to reveal a more striking costume of indigo and red diamonds, performs a series of dances inspired by traditional noh forms and accompanied by hand drum and flute. The chorus sings of his transformation and the anger that it has placed in his heart, worsening his karmic burden.

The action now shifts to a tea-shop in the Yoshiwara district of Tokyo, where Toshi's lover, Takako, cleans up after her customers. The onnagata in the role performs a dance based on the motions of cleaning, while the chorus sings of the plum blossom that blooms and withers on the branch and the cherry blossom which falls when still young. Takako then performs a dance miming the different uses of umbrellas, as the chorus tells of her own sadness: her father's debts, her long-departed lover, the impending loss of her own youth and beauty, and the attachments to this world that bring such pain.

In the next scene, two monks provide comic relief by debating the virtues of walking through the entertainment districts, and the risks of temptation therein. They resolve to enter a brother in order to instruct the courtesans in noble eightfold path.

We then return to the streets outside of the Yoshiwara district, where Takako's father has been confronted by two Otokodate or street toughs demanding payment of his debts. Suddenly, they are attacked by Toshi, leaping from the rooftops overhead. An acrobatic fight scene follows, and although Toshi is able to hold the toughs at bay, Takako's father is wounded accidentally.

The next scene is a shibaraku scene, as Kiyohara no Takehira appears on the hanamichi runway and shouts "Shibaraku!", halting the action. Takehira then drives off the toughs, and then explains to the audience that while Toshi has acted virtuously, the father will still die and his debts remain. Furthermore, it is revealed that Takako has sold herself into prostitution. Kiyohara no Takehira then departs again along the hanamichi.

In the penultimate scene, we find Takako in a park in the middle of a snowstorm, preparing to hang herself from a cherry tree that will not blossom for another month. As she mimes suicide, the chorus sings of the fleeting joys of existence, and the desires that chain people to the wheel of death and rebirth.

The scene changes again and Toshi appears from underneath the stage, now completely transformed into a vengeful kami. Resplendent in brocade kashimono, wig, and striking makeup, he performs an increasingly violent series of dances, accompanied by drums, shamisen and full chorus. Following a sequence of powerful foot-stamping moves, he is carried off the stage and over the audience on wires. The play ends.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


in this case the root cause is Julie Taymor is not just the director/designer this time. She's got book credit, ... There's absolutely no one to tell her "No,"

I can seriously believe this is the problem. I saw her film of The Tempest last fall, and found it rather lacking. There were times when it seemed like the only reason she'd chosen to do The Tempest is the main character is a magician, which provides excuses to throw all sorts of CGI spectacle at the film, whether it's needed or not. (And yet, the scene where one would rightly expect the wildest most eye-popping designs- the Masque created for Miranda and Ferdinand's engagement - was surprisingly short and underwhelming.) Overall, Taymor's visual styles seemed to undercut what were actually some very good performances.

I actually liked Across The Universe - it actually really is a good summation of the history of the late 60s. My biggest problem with it really is, why? Did we really need yet another re-telling of the hippie 1960s? Less of a problem for me, but for sure a problem for others, is the maximalist visuals - there's just so much going on in there that it becomes hard to really appreciate any of it. Too much of a good thing really can turn into the equivalent of noise.

It's seeming to me like she's just strayed too far from her creative roots. However much The Lion King may have cost to stage, the visual look of the puppets is still rooted in the kind of "less is more" aesthetic that comes from artists forced to make do with tiny budgets. Constraints can bring about even greater creativity - while lack of them just leaves one lost and directionless.
posted by dnash at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2011


I'm pretty sure we're talking about the famous Broadway West End production.

Because where better to be pedantic than in this Spider-man thread?
posted by hippybear at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2011


In the next scene, two monks provide comic relief by debating the virtues of walking through the entertainment districts, and the risks of temptation therein. They resolve to enter a brother

Ohhhh, I get it.
posted by AugieAugustus at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2011


It should be pointed out that the music is by Bono and The Edge. It's not by U2... if Paul and John had put out some music and everyone was saying it was by The Beatles, everyone would be up in arms about how false that was because George and Ringo weren't actually involved.

On U2 records, The Edge does most (not all) of the music and Bono does most (not all) of the lyrics.

So a ticket buyer to a Bono/Edge collaboration could reasonably expect "U2".

The Beatles comparison is inapplicable for two reasons:

1. U2 songs are credited to "U2". Beatles songs are credited to Lennon/McCartney.

2. Even the songs credited to Lennon/McCartney were only written by one of them.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:03 AM on February 9, 2011


I have been under the misapprehension that this was a sequel to Kiss of the Spider Woman.

NOBODY DISABUSE ME.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure we're talking about the famous Broadway West End production.

Maybe that's what you're talking about - it was only the second-longest running West End musical.
posted by muddgirl at 11:13 AM on February 9, 2011


On U2 records, The Edge does most (not all) of the music and Bono does most (not all) of the lyrics.

I will concede that most of the lyrics are credited to Bono. But saying that Edge does most of the music? I think that's understating the collaborative nature of how that band works. Many of the songs were built around Adam's bass line, or came out of hours of futzing around in the studio while the band waited for magic to happen.

And I think that even most Lennon/McCartney songs, despite being mainly by one person, were heavily influenced by the presence of the other. Often just a bridge, or a slightly different chord progression, or a lyrical change here or there can make a huge difference.

I still maintain that it's wrong to call this a "U2 musical". U2 aren't promoting it that way, and I'd think that they would have last word as to how it should be labeled.
posted by hippybear at 11:15 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, this post doesn't even have the best of the negative reviews! Seriously, look at StageGrade (kind of a Metacritic for theater) where the aggregate review is F+. Eff effing plus. Scroll aaaaaaall the way to the bottom. See the F- (yes, F minus) review by Isaac Butler at Parabasis?

That's it, read that. It's so good that had there not been a post about this show by the end of my 24 hour wait to post again, I was going to post it all by itself. It's about 3,000 words long (more than twice as long as Ben Brantley's review for the New York Times). It's amazing. Take a look at this:
Every time you think to yourself this couldn’t possible get worse, it does. By the middle of the second act as Our Hero faces his greatest crisis yet and the action stops so that a chorus of spider demons can sing a song about shoes, your jaw will drop with disbelief and conflicting emotions. On the one hand, you’ll be shocked things have gotten this bad. On the other, you’ll be shocked that it got even worse than it was half an hour ago when a Caribbean subway busker showed up to open the second act Rafifi-Style only to then disappear from the narrative, never to be seen again.

The above may read as snark, but it isn’t meant to be. This is sincere. I care about theatre. I care about the source material. I care about musicals. Spider-Man does considerable violence to all three. And what’s more, although it is in previews, the problems with it are fundamental to its conception and largely unfixable.

The first of these problems is that, title notwithstanding, it’s not really about Spider-Man, nor is it about any of the things that Spider-Man is about, nor is it concerned with any of Spider-Man’s concerns as a narrative project spanning multiple media over the past fifty years. Instead, it is about this dream Julie Taymor had this one time about the Greek demi-Goddess Arachne, the first spider. If you think I’m joking, Patrick Healy in the New York Times recently reminded us that “Ms. Taymor…said that she conceived of [Arachne] several years ago after having a dream about the transformation of a normal teenage boy into a powerful superhuman.”
And this:
Spider-Man at its best takes themes about responsibility, becoming a man and living in the workaday world and explores them through the superhero medium. Buffy The Vampire Slayer begins doing the same thing for women in its second season (not for nothing is Buffy compared overtly to Spider-Man in Season Four). Spider-Man vs. Venom, after all is about obsessive love and being stalked in New York City in the 1990s. Peter Parker is poor. Spider-Man is disliked by the public at large. And on and on.

The musical doesn’t get this. It doesn’t get it to such a great extent that Uncle Ben no longer tells Peter that With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility (the phrase still appears, shouted by Peter at the Green Goblin during a fight scene.) Instead he tells him to Rise Above meaning to Rise Above the petty squabbles and provocations of the every day world. To transcend the pettiness of the self.

He also tells him this, one suspects, because “With great power comes great responsibility” is a fucking terrible song lyric. “Rise Above,” on the other hand, by being vague, flexible and slightly religious is an almost perfect name for a U2 song.
And its final paragraph is just perfect:
And during the curtain call, as the largely foreign audience has to be goosed into a standing ovation, you may find yourself thinking about what the show’s Sixty Five Million Dollar budget is worth. You’ll find yourself calculating the number of showcase code productions it could pay for (2600), the number of countries it has a larger budget than (13). You might note that the Winklevoss’ lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg settled out of court for a Spider-Man, that the most expensive apartment to buy in Manhattan costs exactly One Spiderman, that the US government has a Spider-Man to spend on developing fuel cell technology, or that the GOP spent a Spider-Man running anti-Nancy Pelosi ads in 2010. The descendants of victims of the Armenian Genocide are demanding One Spider-Man in damages, and in Wisconsin, picking up the pieces after a massive flood in September will cost a Spider-Man. Incidentally, the NEA's budget is Two Spidermen. Ultimately, a Spider-Man can buy you a lot of things, including, sadly, this show.
Go read the full review here. You won't regret it.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:15 AM on February 9, 2011 [21 favorites]


Iridic, that musical sounds fantastic, and I feel it needs to at least be turned into a Fringe show (it, unlike the funny Lord of the Rings: The Musical: The Musical would probably be excellent in its own right). The current iteration of the Spider-Man musical is more like an off-key version of "Putting It Together" sung for several years straight.

(I had thought my theatre program might be able to snag some free tickets to see the show like we did for most Broadway outings. Instead, I managed to finish my Master's and move out of NYC before the previews even started.)
posted by ilana at 11:16 AM on February 9, 2011


I'm pretty sure we're talking about the famous Broadway West End production.

Maybe that's what you're talking about - it was only the second-longest running West End musical.


Well, seriously. It wasn't a Broadway production. It was a West End production which was then transferred to Broadway (and subsequently to everywhere else on the planet, nearly all of them copycat productions of the original West End staging).

A good counterpoint would be the different productions of Chess. The West End production, while messy, was largely successful in a lot of ways. The Broadway production (which used an entirely different book, several different songs, and not at all the same lyrics) was an entirely separate animal.
posted by hippybear at 11:17 AM on February 9, 2011


I now demand Spider Man as done by all the great theater traditions in the world.
posted by The Whelk at 11:22 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, my apologies - looks like they didn't re-work the show for Broadway as is (usually?) done. I guess as it was already a two-act musical (with a bit of a prologue), they didn't feel the need to cut a bunch of length to fit American attention spans.
posted by muddgirl at 11:23 AM on February 9, 2011


Spider-Beckett:

Bono: Let's open the play now.
Taymor: Yes, let's open.

They do not move.
posted by ilana at 11:27 AM on February 9, 2011 [27 favorites]


. It takes two really strange cultural conceits, musicals and superheroes, and mixes them together oblivious to the inherent absurdity of endeavor

Right? Because the dancing was the one part of Spiderman 3 everyone loved.....
posted by lumpenprole at 11:29 AM on February 9, 2011


The rumor I've heard is that Taymor's ego is not very different from when she was younger and hungrier, but back in the days of Titus and The Lion King, she had more people telling her "no." Her carte was more blanche for Spider-Man, and this is what we get out of it.

Her name isn't Taymor-Lucas, is it?
posted by maxwelton at 11:30 AM on February 9, 2011


The Merrie Tales Of The Spider-King was largely seen as Tudor propaganda.
posted by The Whelk at 11:31 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of pedantry, I don't quite understand why people insist "It's Batman you idiots! Not The Batman!" or "It's Spider-Man! Not Spiderman!" when the forms for both these characters have changed throughout their lifecycle. Spiderman. The Batman.

Yes, the name of this show is "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark", but will we argue that Spider-Man is a different character than Spiderman?
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 AM on February 9, 2011


Spider-Man would have been excellent as a Jacobean revenge play, actually.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:32 AM on February 9, 2011


Tis Pity She's a Super-villain
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2011


(Although I preferred The Duchess of Doomstadt)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:46 AM on February 9, 2011


Every album he's made has been adored by millions.

U2 continued making records after The Joshua Tree, you know.


Oh, so they weren't popular? Lemme check Wikipedia...

The Joshua Tree -- 25 million records sold
Rattle and Hum -- 5 million
Achtung Baby -- 18 million
Zooropa -- 1.8 million (in the U.S.)
Pop -- 1 million (in the U.S.)
All That You Can't Leave Behind -- 12 million
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb -- 9 million
No Line on the Horizon -- 5 million

I'd put that post-Joshua career in the "win" column.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:46 AM on February 9, 2011


The Goblin of Edmonton
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:58 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


From Spiders to the Sea, by J.M. Synge:

MAY: (in a whisper to the women who have come in) Is it Peter, it is?

GWEN: It is surely, God rest his soul.

[The two younger women pull out the table. Then HARRY and FLASH carry in the body of PETER, laid on a plank, with his torn costume for a shroud, and lay it on the table.]

MAY: (to the women, as they are doing so) What way was he drowned?

MARY JANE: A burning demon on a glider knocked him into the sea, and he was washed out where there is a great surf on the white rocks.

[GWEN has gone over and knelt down at the head of the table. MAY and MARY JANE kneel at the other end.]

MAY: (raising her head and speaking as if she did not see the people around her) They're all gone now, and there isn't anything more the sea can do to me.... I'll have no call now to be up crying and praying when the wind breaks from the south, and you can hear the surf is in the east, and the surf is in the west, making a great stir with the two noises, and they hitting one on the other. I'll have no call now to be going down and getting Holy Water in the dark nights after Samhain, and I won't care what way the sea is when the other women will be keening. (To GWEN) Give me the Holy Water, Gwen; there's a small sup still on the-

[Enter PETER, very much alive.]

PETER: Hush your weeping, now. It was only a clone.
posted by Iridic at 11:58 AM on February 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


ocherdraco's linked review really brings out some of the jaw dropping confusion of the second act. (Shoes! A huge song/plot point about shoes!!). Other odd notes: there is almost no emotion about Peter Parker as a person (shoot! my uncle died. Next scene!), and the jokes (and groaning U2 references) fall so amazingly flat. But I did really enjoy watching the spectacle of it all. Some parts are really amazing, and I enjoyed the flying.

My friend saw it with me a few weeks ago, and when it opened. He said both performances were 99% the same. Will they bother making any changes on March 15?
posted by armacy at 11:59 AM on February 9, 2011


2. Even the songs credited to Lennon/McCartney were only written by one of them.

I realize this is a dumband irrelevant thing to nitpick about here but, no.
posted by chaff at 12:04 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pshh. I hated Julie Taymor back when Across the Universe came out.
posted by catwash at 12:06 PM on February 9, 2011


Go ahead, try explaining to someone who Ben Reilly and Kaine and "Spidercide" are.

Fuck it, here we go, in case somebody is curious, and to watch me actually defend the core concept of the Clone Saga:

Back in the '60s, there was a Spider-Man plotline where a villain called The Jackal made a clone of Spider-Man. They fought, and Spider-Man won, doing away with the clone's body by stuffing it down a chimney. He briefly wondered how he'd know if he was the clone, but some tests by a scientist buddy confirmed that he was indeed the original article.

Years later, in an attempt to inject some new energy into the Spider-Man franchise, Marvel brought that clone back. The argument was that the "clone" was indeed the original, and scientist-buddy had either botched the test or was lying back in the '60s to save Spidey's feelings. The "clone" hadn't died, and escaping from his chimney, skipped town thinking that he really was the clone, took the name Ben Reilly, and lived a fairly normal life for about five years of comic-book time.

But then Spidey's beloved Aunt May was about to die, and Reilly, getting wind of this, returned to New York to say his goodbyes -- even though he thought he was a clone, his emotions were still real to him. Spidey catches him, and much fooferaw ensues, including the return of clonemaster The Jackal and the revelation that Ben Reilly is the original Spider-Man and "our" Spider-Man is the clone, and there are even more clones running around with various goofy names including Spidercide, a clone that exists only to kill other clones. Whee!

The general idea was this: Peter Parker, realizing he's a clone, retires the Spider-Man mantle. Ben Reilly, the original Spider-Man, is back in the saddle, but without the accoutrements that had made Peter Parker so unlike the Platonic ideal of Spider-Man: the "essential" Spider-Man is single, broke, and kind of shlumpy in his non-costumed life; Peter was none of these things.

So Peter -- the married, successful, non-shlumpy guy -- gets shuffled off to a consulting/retirement role in Buffalo, and Ben Reilly takes up the mantle, but with all the "classic" Spider-Man elements: he's single, he's broke, and he has absolutely no fucking idea what's been going on for the last five years. New villains, villains that are now heroes, heroes that are now villains, old punching bags that have radically augmented powers, new allies, dead friends -- he's basically got a five-year memory hole and is scrambling to keep up. This really could have been awesome.

Marvel does really well with the clone story, though, and decides to cash-in mid-storyline. That's where the "bazillion goofy clones" thing comes in. The clone thing becomes ridiculous, and then a joke, and editorial has no choice but to say "fuck it" and reveal that Peter is really-really the real one, honest, and then kill all the clones off.

And then, years later, we get disappearing babies, Norman Osborn being the father of Gwen Stacy's twins, and One More Day/Brand New Day.

I'd much rather have had original-plan Reilly.
posted by Shepherd at 12:12 PM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I saw this show in an early preview. Yes, it's as bad as the reviews suggest. There were multiple moments where Mrs. H and I just stared at each other in disbelief - the badness was almost surreal.

First off, the plot made no sense. It wasn't convoluted, it wasn't trite, it just MADE NO SENSE. Act I had a decent sense of narrative, but Act II was just "Huh? What? Who?" It was as if during the intermission the actors had continued to perform back-stage, and then Act II began 30 pages later in the script than where Act I left off.

The music was sad. I'm a big U2 fan, and most of the "songs" sounded like half-formed ideas from the Achtung Baby era. You guys remember that album U2 put out around 1993 that nobody bought? Zooropa? Yeah, these songs wouldn't have made the B-sides from that album. A lot of them weren't even songs, so much as a few musical phrases strung together for about 30 seconds.

The biggest WTF moment was in Act II. There's a female spider antagonist character who starts a crime wave across the city (note that this has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the plot in Act I; the character appeared in once scene as a dream sequence and gave Peter Parker his Spiderman suit. The villain in Act I is a totally different person,) and she's frustrated that her crimes aren't attracting enough attention. She then reads in the newspaper that her hench-spiders have robbed a series of shoe stores across the city. Cue giant piles of shoes, and a team of dancers in spider-outfits wearing 4" stilettos on all 8 legs. We honestly burst out laughing. It's the sort of thing that needs to be seen to be believed. Imagine human-sized marionettes, with 8 legs, slowly lifting and lowering their legs in time to the campiest music you've ever heard. Wearing Manolo Blahniks. Singing about shoes. Yeah.

Speaking of "dancing," the choreography was straight out of a Janet Jackson video circa 1989. The dancers were all lined up in a pyramid formation, doing moves I haven't seen since "Nasty Boys." The outfits in several of the high school dance scenes looked like they came out of the back of Kid N Play's closet.

By the end of the production the actor playing Peter Parker was no longer able to sing. His voice was totally shot and he was sort of rasping in tune with the music as best as he could. I honestly felt sorry for him - an already restless audience wasn't going to put up with much more, and he just wanted to get off the stage.

The first thing I said to my wife, when the final curtain fell: "I really think they're pulling a Bialystock and Bloom. How did they possibly spend $65 million on this?" This show was the worst dreck I've ever seen. ocherdraco's reviews linked above are completely accurate. After the show we went home, read a bunch of them, and laughed all night.

hippybear: The Addams Family musical was also widely panned, and it's turned out to be one of the biggest ticket draws on Broadway at the moment.

I saw that show too. It wasn't great, but Spiderman is an entirely different level of suck. It's like saying Star Trek V was only ok, but did pretty well at the box office, so maybe Plan 9 From Outer Space isn't so terrible.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 12:22 PM on February 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


It's like saying Star Trek V was only ok, but did pretty well at the box office, so maybe Plan 9 From Outer Space Battlefield Earth isn't so terrible.

fixed &c.
posted by dersins at 12:34 PM on February 9, 2011


You guys remember that album U2 put out around 1993 that nobody bought? Zooropa? Yeah, these songs wouldn't have made the B-sides from that album.

*heh* Indeed. There really weren't many B-sides to that album, actually. Probably due to it having been recorded while on tour and originally intended as an EP. It did have all those remixes of Lemon, some of which are pretty fantastic. And Slow Dancing, a lovely sleepy little number which was later re-recorded with Willie Nelson singing lead.

But yeah, I take your point. I understand that there are maybe 2 or 3 really outstanding songs in the score. Probably not overall enough to carry a full-length show.
posted by hippybear at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2011


The Merrie Tales Of The Spider-King was largely seen as Tudor propaganda.

On the other hand, The Most Foul Tragedie of the Spyder-Man, by Christopher Marlowe, while flawed, is now considered an overlooked masterpiece.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2011


Psssh. Everyone knows that was written by Shakespeare, not Marlowe.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:05 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


davebush: my point was that assumptions are formed prior to release, based on the money spent on a project. I know it's kind of fun to watch things crash, and part of that fun is the anticipation, but it's not really fair.

The money spend on those projects is only part of the picture, though; it also factors in delays as well as insider reports about the auteur(s) involved. Looking at the examples you gave above, for instance--Heaven's Gate, Chinese Democracy, and Avatar--you have projects that took a lot longer and were a lot more expensive than originally anticipated, with numerous reports of control-freakishness on the parts of Michael Cimino, Axl Rose, and James Cameron, respectively. Sometimes those creative impulses worked out (for Cameron, also with Titanic), sometimes not (Cimino). Chinese Democracy is somewhere in the middle; it sold a fair number of copies and got decent reviews, although no one seemed to think that it should have taken fifteen years to make.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2011


Oh man, Iridic. I'm the biggest musical theatre geek in the world and even I had to look that one up. You better start writing. Seriously awesome.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 1:16 PM on February 9, 2011


It did have all those remixes of Lemon, some of which are pretty fantastic.

Woah, I didn't realize that Skin on Skin was a relabeled Lemon remix.... neat...
posted by empath at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"it's a fucking comic book, how complicated can it be, Glenn Beck?!"

Um... very? Comic book continuity is amazingly convoluted
Didn't Bendis or Stryzinski write about the totemic aspects of Spidey? And Madame Web was in the 90s cartoon

No way this is good as the 70's concept album Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero. That got me through middle school. It included a rock anthem about Spidey, the sad 'Nobody's Got A Crush On Peter' and the doo-wop 'Gwen Stacey'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:46 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


hippybear: Zooropa was the first U2 album I ever bought.

I quite liked it.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:50 PM on February 9, 2011


Grimgrin: Zooropa took a long while to grow on me, but at this point, I think it's quite a great work. It's got a kind of loopy, loose feel to it that the albums which are much longer in production don't have, and it has songs which haunt me even when I haven't listened to it in years.

And, well, "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" is a true classic, right up there with "One" in my opinion. Especially the stripped down version which Bono and Edge perform regularly these days. It's the pivot point of their Elevation Tour DVD, tying the first half of the show (about loss and bad choices and loneliness) together with the second, redemptive half.

But maybe I should mention that POP remains my favorite U2 album, probably for all the reasons everyone else hates it. Still, Zooropa... For anyone who hasn't listened to it in years: pull it out and give it a spin. It may surprise you.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 PM on February 9, 2011


empath: "I mean, let's be honest-- Spiderman: The Musical?

Really?

Why bother with a review? It's a shit idea from which nothing good can come.
"

Well, I can't get behind that 100%, because great musicals have come from equally stupid ideas:

"Let's be honest; a barber and a baker get revenge on the barber's enemies by slicing their throats and turning them into meat pies that sell like crazy?"

"Let's be honest; a town that rations water to the point that people have to line up and pay money in order to take a whizz?"

and so on.

This, however, does not deny the possibility that the Spider-Man musical may suck puréed moose testicles through a twisty straw.
posted by tzikeh at 2:12 PM on February 9, 2011


When you're a bug, you're a bug all the way
From your first can of raid, to your last dying day...

...

You're Doc Ock!
You're no Mahatma Gandhi.
You're Doc Ock!
You drink too much brandy.
You're an eight armed refugee from some forsaken lab-
You stole the Tower of Pisa,
Even the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're Doc Ock!
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:23 PM on February 9, 2011


The Goblin of Edmonton (Astro Zombie)

No fucking way! AZ, I just saw The Witch of Edmonton last night. It was great!

posted by ocherdraco at 2:31 PM on February 9, 2011


By which I mean I'm delighted that you used it as the basis for your joke because it's a joke I wouldn't have understood before yesterday.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:32 PM on February 9, 2011


Why is this news? The media has always had a weird love / hate relationship with Spider-Man.
posted by mazola at 2:47 PM on February 9, 2011


D'oh! A spider bit my hand.
Ra- diation fills my blood!
Me, I feel quite diff'rent now!
Far, I now can fling my web!
So, I will put on these tiiiiiights
La- ter swinging I will fly
Tee- t'ring on the very edge...
Mary Jane I love you so oh oh oh oh.. d'oh!
posted by hippybear at 2:54 PM on February 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Did anyone else see the Lord of the rings musical? I was amazed how dreadful that was (apart from the orcs in the interval), and thought that would be the biggest disaster I ever saw, but (at a third of the price) it looks like I was wrong.
posted by ciderwoman at 2:54 PM on February 9, 2011


Sorry about the lack of rhyme scheme. I take my cues from Sondheim sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 2:54 PM on February 9, 2011


It's like saying Star Trek V was only ok, but did pretty well at the box office, so maybe Plan 9 From Outer Space Battlefield Earth isn't so terrible.

You know, I had originally written Battlefield Earth, but changed it at the last minute for some reason. The correction is completely valid.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 3:09 PM on February 9, 2011


Count me in for some Zooropa love too. This is the first time I have admitted this in public. I feel so liberated.

It was actually one of the few CDs that I owned in my formative junior high years, and also the only U2 I had been exposed to, so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. Nostalgia is a bitch. Still, honestly, there's a certain kind of distinctly odd tone and mystery that I get from this album that I simply don't find in any other U2 I've heard.
posted by naju at 3:14 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also quite like Zooropa, though my taste in music can best be described as "uninformed" and "pedestrian." I am especially fond of the Cash collaboration "The Wanderer," whatever its value as a piece of music.
posted by maxwelton at 3:14 PM on February 9, 2011


I'll say one thing about Sgt. Pepper:

Where else could you hear Donald Pleasence sing 'I Want You'?
posted by ovvl at 4:24 PM on February 9, 2011


Well, because I have been thinking of it all afternoon, I'm going to have to provide a synopsis of The Foul Tragedie of the Spyder-Man (which was written by Marlowe):

Peter is a Briton in the Roman town of York (Eboracum). As a boy, his parents were slaughtered by the Roman invaders and he was taken as a slave by the Roman governor, Rufio, and raised in his household. Sent to gather wood in the forest outside the town walls, he is contacted by his aunt, a powerful witch. She calls on him to avenge his tribe and his family, including her husband (also killed by the Romans during the raid in which Peter was captured). Using pagan sorcery, she gives Peter the powers of a spider and commands him to kill Rufio and his family.

Peter returns to Rufio's house, but does not act due to conflicted feelings caused by the loyalty he feels to his master. In an extended soliloquy, he reveals that he is also in love with Rufio's daughter, Marianne, whom he has know from childhood. In an ironic twist of fate, he discovers a plot by Rufio's political enemies to assassinate him before he can return to Rome. Using his spider powers, he captures the assassins as they attempt to break into Rufio's villa. As a reward, Rufio gives Peter his freedom, and adopts him as a son. Now a citizen and favored by the governor, Peter is given a position in the Roman administration, and is able to woo Marianne (the familial relationship is glossed over in the text).

Later, Peter is out riding in the moors, and is confronted again by his aunt, who demands to know why he has not yet killed Rufio. He is also confronted by his cousin, Gwendolyn (a proxy for Boadicea) who insists he avenge the outrages committed against her by the Romans. Peter returns to York and prepares to marry, but on the night of the wedding he is visited by several ghosts (or are they apparitions sent by his aunt?). These include the spirits of his parents, as well as his uncle, who reminds him that With pow'r great, there must lie/ A measure equal of responsibility.

Following his encounter with the ghosts, Peter sneaks into Rufio's chambers and kills him in his sleep. He then uses his web to trap the family and servants in their quarters, then smothers Marianne and sets fire to the villa. In the play's denouement, Peter goes out to join his cousin who has besieged the town.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Didn't Neil Gaiman connect Peter Parker to Marlowe in 1602?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:55 PM on February 9, 2011


1602 is great because you spend the ENTIRE series with Peter Parkers not doing anything until the very last line

"Ow"

"what was that?"

"Oh nothing, just a spider bite."
posted by The Whelk at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2011


SOMETHING PETER THIS WAY PARKERS
By Ray Bradbury
Adapted for the stage by Rod Serling

NARRATOR: Peter Parker. A boy, just a boy, like a million others in a million small towns all across America. He's not a football player, he doesn't play baseball, and he doesn't excel at math. Like most boys, he isn't much of anything. Yet. But on this sun-dappled spring day, young Peter Parker is going to discover that all it takes to be more than a boy is a field trip, an accident, and a spider.

PETER PARKER: Say, Mary Jane. I haven't kept you waiting, have I?

MARY JANE: Why, Peter Parker. It would serve you right if I just walked away at this very moment!

PETER PARKER: Gosh! I'm sorry! I was feeding coins into that devil-head fortune machine, and it was giving me some puzzling answers, and I guess I just got caught up in it all.

MARY JANE: What did it tell you?

PETER PARKER: It told me my life was going to change. Ow!

MARY JANE: Gosh! What is it!

PETER PARKER: I don't know! Something bit me! I feel so ... odd.

MARY JANE: Gosh, Peter! I'm going to get a doctor!

[She exits. Parker staggers to a window, opens it. He looks out, and then reacts in horror.]

PETER PARKER: Mary Jane! Mary Jane!

[Mary Jane returns.]

MARY JANE: Why, what is it, Peter?

PETER PARKER: There was a man outside the window! But he wasn't like a man! He was some sort of monster! He was some sort of hideous goblin!

MARY JANE: Oh, Peter! There's nobody out there now. Are you sure you didn't just imagine it?

PETER PARKER: Honest I didn't! Gosh, things sure seem strange! My body feels different! Suddenly, I feel so strong! Why, all those books I took home from the library, but there were so many I couldn't lift them? I feel sure I could life them now!

[He crosses to a floor safe, hoists it in the air with an easy gesture.

PETER PARKER: At last! There's strength enough at least to read all those books!

MARY JANE: You're scaring me, Peter! What's happened to you?

PETER PARKER: I suddenly feel like I could do anything! I can be anybody I want to be!

[He leaps up to the ceiling, hangs there, spiderlike]

MARY JANE: Peter! What's happened to you! This isn't normal! You're like some sort of a freak! A horrible freak!

PETER PARKER: You shouldn't talk to me like that, Mary Jane.

[He takes a envelope out of his pocket, opens it, shows it to her; it contains a reel of transcription tape. She blanches, backs away. He throws it on the fire. She screams and disappears]

PETER PARKER: You see, you were just a piece of fiction all along, Mary Jane. Just words on a reel to reel magnet strip of tape. And now you're gone. And the man in the window is gone. And there is nobody. Where is everybody? Where did everybody go?

[Peter suddenly realizes what has happened. He looks at the sky, crying out in horror:]

PETER PARKER: I AM ALL ALONE! I AM THE LAST MAN ON EARTH!

END
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:02 PM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't have any strong feelings against Bono or Broadway, but something about this show irritated me from the moment I first heard of it. Was it the obscene expense? The nonsensical, faux-cool title? The very idea of turning a down-to-earth superhero tale into a bombastic musical?

Who knows, but it's nice having my baseless snap judgments thoroughly validated.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:49 AM on February 10, 2011


From "Spiderman Rex" (with apologies to A. E. Housman)

CHORUS: O suitably-attired-in-spandex-unitard
Head of a traveller, wherefore seeking whom
Whence by what way how purposed art thou come
To this well-supervillain'd vicinity?
My object in inquiring is to know.
But if you happen to be deaf and dumb
And do not understand a word I say,
Then wave your hand, to signify as much.
SPIDERMAN: I journeyed hither a Brooklynian road.
CHORUS: Sailing on horseback, or with feet for oars?
SPIDERMAN: Plying with speed my partnership of webs.
CHORUS: Beneath a shining or a rainy Zeus?
SPIDERMAN: Mud's sister, not himself, adorns the streets.
CHORUS: To learn your name would not displease me much.
SPIDERMAN: Not all that men desire do they obtain.
CHORUS: Might I then hear at what thy presence shoots.
SPIDERMAN: A spider-clone's questioned mouth informed me that--
CHORUS: What? for I know not yet what you will say.
SPIDERMAN: Nor will you ever, if you interrupt.
CHORUS: Proceed, and I will hold my speechless tongue.
SPIDERMAN: This house was Norman Osborn's, no one else's.
CHORUS: Nor did he shame his throat with shameful lies.
SPIDERMAN: May I then enter, passing through the door?
CHORUS: Go chase into the house a lucky foot.
And, O my son, be, on the one hand, good,
And do not, on the other hand, be bad;
For that is very much the safest plan.
SPIDERMAN: I go into the house with heels and speed.
CHORUS: (Strophe)
In speculation
I would not willingly acquire a name
For ill-digested thought;
But after pondering much
To this conclusion I at last have come:
WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.
This truth I have written deep
In my reflective midriff
On tablets not of wax,
Nor with a pen did I inscribe it there,
For many reasons: GREAT POWER, I say, IS NOT
A STRANGER TO RESPONSIBILITY.
Not from the flight of omen-yelling fowls
This fact did I discover,
Nor did the Delphine tripod bark it out,
Nor yet Dodona.
Its native ingenuity sufficed
My self-taught diaphragm.
(Antistrophe)
Why should I mention
The Hypaepian daughter, hated of Minerva?
Her whom of old the goddess,
More provident than kind,
Provided with eight limbs, eight eyes, one cepahlothorax,
A gift not asked for,
And sent her forth to learn
The unfamiliar science
Of how to spin the web.
She therefore, all about the Lydian fields,
Went catching dark black flies and lithe mosquitoes,
Nor did they disagree with her.
But yet, howe'er nutritious, such repasts
I do not hanker after:
Never may Cypris for her seat select
My dappled liver!
Why should I mention Arachne? Why indeed?
I have no notion why.
(Epode)
But now does my boding heart,
Unhired, unaccompanied, sing
A strain not meet for the dance.
Yes even the palace appears
To my yoke of circular eyes
(The right, nor omit I the left)
Like a slaughterhouse, so to speak,
Garnished with goblin deaths
And many sphipwrecks of supervillains.
I therefore in a Cissian strain lament:
And to the rapid
Loud, linen-tattering thumps upon my chest
Resounds in concert
The battering of my unlucky head.
NORMAN OSBORN (within): O, I am smitten with a hoverboard's jaw;
And that in deed and not in word alone.
CHORUS: I thought I heard a sound within the house
Unlike the voice of one that jumps for joy.
NORMAN OSBORN: It splits my skull, not in a friendly way,
Once more: it purposes to kill me dead.
CHORUS: I would not be reputed rash, but yet
I doubt if all be gay within the house.
NORMAN OSBORN: O! O! another stroke! that makes the third.
It stabs me to the heart against my wish.
CHORUS: If that be so, thy state of health is poor;
But thine arithmetic is quite correct.
posted by kyrademon at 3:23 AM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have now spent far too long working on a Tom Stoppard "Peter Parker and Ben Reilly Are Dead" gag that just did not pan out.
posted by Shepherd at 6:12 AM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Zooropa's first five tracks are fantastic, as good as anything U2 has done. The rest is totally off the rails (with the arguable exception of the Wanderer, which is cool just because of Cash). It should have been an EP.
posted by norm at 8:10 AM on February 10, 2011


I'll be mining this thread for fringe festival submissions FYI
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on February 10, 2011


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