We all know that the saying "With great power, comes great responsibility" gets the ball rolling for Peter Parker. It's in the comic books and it's in the first Spider-Man movie. Any kid will buy into this saying when you explain how Peter Parker became Spider-Man.
But what if you threw out this quote as the foundation for Peter Parker becoming our favorite Web-Head? Then what?
This is what Turn Off The Dark decides to do: re-evaluate and in essence, make Peter Parker more complicated and more human. And what they decide to substitute for the famous quotation is what's at the core of this amibitious musical.
The first question I've been asked is how suitable is this for kids. My 8-year old son gave it a big thumbs up, sitting next to me. He admitted he was a little bored with all the singing parts if the characters are just standing on the stage. My only word of caution for taking kids is the length of the musical. It's about 3 hours long with an intermission (and several interruptions by the production stage manager to make adjustments). Since kids usually sit for a 90 minute movie, the question parents have to ask is whether or not their kids can sit for so long.
You can't help noticing the set designs have a lot of angles to them. They add depth, they add economyl, they add extravagance when needed. One scene they are a video screen, then part of a giant spider web and then they bend in various angles like in a comic book.
The costumes make Spider-Man's outfit look bland. They look like comic-book cut-outs come to life with the volume turned up. The "Sinister 6" features Venom, Kraven, Lizard, "Swiss Miss," Electro, and Swarm. The best of the bunch for me was Lizard in how they show this villain's transformation. Swiss Miss came off as Grace Jones on steroids.
My favorite character was Green Goblin/Norman Osborne. He seemed to have the most fun on stage and above the stage. He sold the audience with his piano lounge singing of "I'll Take Manhattan." Patrick Page did a fantastic job but I had a feeling that somebody else would have loved to play this role in the production team: Bono.
The fight sequences between the time when Parker is bit by the spider and gets overwhelmed are choreographed well. Slow motion works far better (and scores more points for the kids) than the actors appearing like they're actually fighting.
U2's music works throughout the production. Edge's trademark guitar style worked just as did Bono's lyrics. During the performance, one of my wishes was to have the lyric sheets in front of me.
If there was anything about this production you cannot criticize, it's the flying sequences. My 8 year-old son reacted the same way after each sequence: "Wow!" The best view for these scenes is the first mezzanine. I wouldn't want to be in orchestra seating looking straight up as Spider-Man fights Green Goblin. What was extraordinary about the fight between them was how well the set designs adjusted to what they were doing.
Since this was the opening preview performance, it's still a work in progress, especially the second act. I was told after the performance that this was the first time they performed the second act in its entirety.
There were several occasions in the first act when the production stage manager stopped the performance in order to make unseen adjustments, each time apologizing to the audience. And his apologies were accepted since the first act was so polished in its storytelling. But the second act reached a plateau in the storytelling department instead of gaining momentum, as if the writers weren't sure when or how to end the story.
It's hard to believe that the most
expensive Broadway production ever will keep the second act the way it is. They need to be more economical in the scenes in the second act and, in effect, develop Peter Parker's ownership of Spider-Man better since
we know that with great power comes great responsibility, right?