Review Roundup: SPIDER-MAN 2.0 on Broadway - All the Reviews

By: Jun. 14, 2011

Well, it's finally here. SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has officially opened on Broadway, on Tuesday, June 14 th at the Foxwoods Theatre. The show now features creative consultation by Philip William McKinley, original direction by Tony Award-winner Julie Taymor, music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge, and book co-written by Taymor, Glen Berger  and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa . 

This time, unlike back in February, the critics were actually invited. Let's see what they thought...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: So is this ascent from jaw-dropping badness to mere mediocrity a step upward? Well, until last weekend, when I caught a performance of this show's latest incarnation, I would have recommended "Spider-Man" only to carrion-feasting theater vultures. Now, if I knew a less-than-precocious child of 10 or so, and had several hundred dollars to throw away, I would consider taking him or her to the new and improved "Spider-Man."

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Essential elements of that production remain, along with the flying feats and other high-tech visuals. But the new Spider-Man is cuter and more cautious than its predecessor, more in line with the winking musical adaptations of famous films and brands that have lined the theater district in recent years. Clearly, producers heeded the critics and fans who hoped to see the title character represented more as he'd been in comic books and movies. Specifically, that meant streamlining the story to eliminate a love triangle involving the spider-woman Arachne, who in 1.0 emerged as both protector and nemesis to Spider-Man/Peter Parker and rival to Mary Jane, Peter's girlfriend. The Arachne of 2.0 is a simpler, sweeter creature; the antagonist is now scientist Norm Osborn's deranged alter ego, the Green Goblin, who views Peter/Spidey as his wayward son.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The first act drags as the storytellers pack in as much background as possible, but the pace picks up in Act 2. The songs, by U2's Bono and The Edge, have been gradually Broadway-ized, or at least de-Edge-ified. Gone, for the most part, are tons of jangling guitars. If there was once a sense that this Irish duo could simply write two dozen new songs and plunk them into a musical, that time is gone.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: In the last year, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" has gone from artistic oddity to conventional family entertainment. Between that and the strength of its brand name, it's ready to join Madame Tussauds and Shake Shack on a tourist's Times Square itinerary.

Evie Nagy, Rolling Stone: But still, for the grown-up snarkers among us, the new Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a little too blandly and competently whipped into shape to be the unforgettable hot mess we've collectively embraced. Shortly after Norman Osborn's transformation, the Green Goblin wink-nudgingly refers to himself as a "65 million dollar circus tragedy - well more like 75 million." Man, if only.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: But the cloth now looks wrinkled and tired, as does much of a cast that has been giving its all for so long. The songs still stop the show in its tracks because they're pop songs, not theater songs that get inside the characters while advancing the plot.

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal:And there you have it: $70 million and nearly nine years of effort, all squandered on a damp squib. To be sure, the people who came to last Saturday's sold-out press preview seemed to be enjoying themselves, though they saved their cheers for the flying, not the songs. No doubt "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" will continue to draw crowds, if only because it's been written about with such pendulum-like regularity. But it's neither good enough to get you excited nor bad enough to make you mad, and that will in all likelihood be its epitaph: Never in the history of Broadway has so much been spent to so little effect.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Emerging from all that tangled drama, Spidey 2.0 is more cohesive, streamlined and funnier than before, and its thrills are still intact - though it is still weighed down by so-so songs. "Spider-Man" isn't a great, gourmet meal, but it's a tasty diversion.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: For those who do -- or those for whom flying around to impress a girl and save the world sounds like a Saturday night of all Saturday nights -- Broadway now has an efficient, very expensive, very new comic-book musical with cool effects, some amusements, a brooding hero in Carney, a somewhat shellshocked but spunky heroine in Damiano, and, I predict, a line out the door for a good long while. And, of course, pending clones.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: What swings from the rafters, springs from the wings and bursts from the stage floor of the Foxwoods Theatre is a definite upgrade from the flailing behemoth on view in February, when I and a bunch of other reviewers, tired of the delays, took a gander at what director Julie Taymor had wrought. Still, in the story set to rock music by Bono and the Edge - of meek Peter Parker's acquisition of spidery agility and subsequent battle royal with the dastardly Green Goblin - this effects-driven musical is still situated a wide canyon's distance from good.

David Sheward, Backstage: What an improvement. The tangled plot threads that made the new musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" a sticky mess during its record-breaking preview period have been unraveled and woven into an exciting web of wonder... "Spider-Man" threatened to go down in history as one of Broadway's biggest flops. While it probably won't become one of the street's greatest smashes, it's now a fun family show that will entertain fans of both superheroes and showstoppers. Was it worth the wait? For this combination fanboy and show queen, definitely.

Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: Unfortunately, tipping your top hat - or, in the case of Bono's songwriting collaborator, The Edge, doffing your knit cap - to Broadway geniuses also reminds us how second-rate your tunes are. The numbers - from a Cocteau Twins-ish "Turn Off the Dark" to a by-the-numbers U2 power ballad, "Rise Above" - are mildly engaging, nothing more. Lyrics and melodies do little to deepen character, nor are they very integrated into the book.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:  In terms of narrative clarity and character definition, the show is sharper. But while the emergency surgical team has injected fanboy humor and self-conscious acknowledgments of the production's rocky gestation, they have not located a heart in this bloated monster.

Michael Musto, The Village Voice: The tonal shifts are uncomfortable, but what's worse is the fact that most of the times someone opens their mouth to sing, you want to reach for the Raid can. Bono has moaned that Julie Taymor was too close to the material to accept criticism, which is what I've said all along, but his and the Edge's score is not exactly inspired, so should he be the one to complain? Maybe they should have called Elton John for lessons on how to write pop-rock music for the theater-or perhaps just trotted out their old hits and set the show on "New Year's Day."

Matt Windman, AM New York: But at the same time, it remains little more than a kid-friendly stunt spectacular with glitzy superhero costumes, bad songs and a few cheesy laughs. It's just an oversized, overpriced, longer version of what you'd find at a theme park.

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Early in Act 2 of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the genetically altered villain Green Goblin (Patrick Page) sings, 'I'm a $65 million circus tragedy - actually, more like 75.' Yes, that's a wink-wink nod to the show's notorious crawl to opening night following months of delays, budget overruns, cast injuries, and the exit of original director and co-creator Julie Taymor. So how does the retooled Broadway production fare? It gets full marks for spectacle - Daniel Ezralow's aerial choreography and George Tsypin's sets deserve a curtain call all their own - but only partial credit as musical theater.

Howard Shaprio, Philadelphia Inquirer: The new Spider-Man is all for fun, a live-on-stage comic book, pure and simple - precisely what the last version wasn't, and what its team, on hiatus for several weeks of rewrites and rehearsals, reimagined. It will by no means assume a spot in the pantheon of great Broadway musicals, but it's now far more than a tortured curiosity. It has humor, and winks gamely at itself. It has flight sequences that make sense, are not repetitively tiresome and, most of all, work technically. (The show was getting to be like a NASCAR event, with spectators hoping for trouble.)

Jonathan Mandell, The Faster Times: Time and ticket sales will tell whether the show becomes a lasting commercial success. But, while Spider-Man is no longer a catastrophe, neither did I find it the thrill that the hype would have you believe.

New York Magazine: Spider-Man-to beat my running metaphor into the ground and then leave it for dead-is like that good-and-crazy friend with a highly entertaining substance-abuse problem, the one who went off and got clean, and came back a different and diminished person. With his manias and overmuchness, you realized, after he returned, how very little you ever had to offer one another. With Taymor gone, and the ruins of her monstrous Lovecraftian vision overrun by Lilliputians, there's simply nothing to see here, other than the sort of "stunt spectacular" that wouldn't look out of place amidst a backdrop of roller coasters and toddler-vomit. It's a vast emptiness, void even of its animating madness. It shuffles and smiles and subsides, like a good inmate, its hummingbird heartbeat slowed to a crawl. Put your head to Spidey's chest, and all you'll hear is the dull smack of a damp wad of cash hitting the boards.

Josh Grossberg, So how is everyone's friendly neighborhood webslinger after the recent makeover? After attending last weekend's performance for the press, we've come up with the five best-and worst-things about Spider-Man 2.0

More Reviews to Come in the AM...

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