The critics and their radioactive reviews have lost little of their bite. Spider-Man the “megalomusical” might be safely reined in, but many of the journalistic verdicts still drip with that acidic, arachnidic sting.
Broadway’s Spidey finally opened Tuesday night, deciding to creatively mutate rather than die after a record 180-plus previews. With performers no longer raining down from the rafters, the cliffhanger now becomes: Has the Most Expensive Show in Broadway History (and Counting) been rescued?
Some theater critics, including The Post’s Peter Marks, say that “Turn Off the Dark” now has a coherent story but is still artistically riddled with other gaping woes. Other writers, such as USA Today’s Elysa Gardner, think ”Spider-Man: 2.0” is improved enough to be promising.
Reading a range of reviews, Comic Riffs walks away with Six Take-Away Conclusions based entirely on critical reaction. They are:
1. “Turn Off the Dark” might be better set at Disney World, Vegas or, especially, Coney Island.
Writes TWP’s Marks: So even in its incrementally surer form, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” can’t shed the sensation that it would find a more suitable base of operations someplace like Coney Island.
Jabs Rolling Stone’s Evie Nagy: The swinging was such a high point that it supported an idea that this whole thing should have been a Cirque du Soleil show.
Spins the New York Times’s Ben Brantley: Come to think of it, Coney Island might be a more satisfying choice.
Upper-cuts the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney: “Spider-Man” is the apotheosis of theme-park product. It’s Orlando in New York
Eviscerates New York magazine’s Scott Brown: 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.
(Also: The show “has deteriorated from mindblowingly misbegotten carnival-of-the-damned.”)
2. As the Green Goblin, the scene-stealing Patrick Page is the foremost reason to fork over your hard-earned green for “Turn Off the Dark.”
TWP: In any event, Page appears to be having a ball, filling the hall with mad-doctor guffaws. He camps it up as gleefully as Cyril Ritchard once did, playing Captain Hook to Mary Martin’s Peter Pan.
NYT: Patrick Page, as the megalomaniacal scientist who becomes the evil mutant called the Green Goblin, provides the one reason for adults unaccompanied by minors to see the show. He also has become the show’s entertaining id, channeling and deflecting our own dark thoughts about this lopsided spectacle.
NYM: Patrick Page’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin has been handed the whole show. Pre-rehab, Page was the best thing about the musical...
RS: Osborn/Goblin actor Patrick Page ... is the production’s consistent scene-stealer.
3. The budget for the Biggest Broadway Show Ever has passed the earlier-advertised $65-million and reached at least $70-mill, if not millions more:
According to multiple journalists, the Green Goblin sings with a knowing wink:
“I’m a $65 million circus tragedy. ... Well, more like 75 million.”
4. With a freshly reconstructed plot, “Turn Off the Dark” has been rendered coherent — but perhaps shined to a duller finish.
TWP: You can’t go so far as to declare that “Spider-Man” has found its voice, but at least now you can understand what it’s saying.
NYT: This singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It’s just a bore.
NYM: Spidey 2.0 is indeed leaner and more linear, and its story has been brutally clarified: It’s now all too clear how very, very little was there in the first place.
RS: ...A little too blandly and competently whipped into shape to be the unforgettable hot mess we’ve collectively embraced.
THR: 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.
5. The songs still do the production no favors.
NYM: No amount of mulch or manure can cover up the music, which is, by far, the show’s greatest weakness. (Which is saying something. )
THR: ...There’s no compelling reason for “Spider-Man” to be a musical. ... U2’s Bono and the Edge, who wrote the forgettable music and lyrics, have been largely exonerated for their role in this $70 million folly. But it’s their mediocre score, as much as anything, that makes this third-rate entertainment.
6. And the children shall lead them from financial ruin? The production apparently has the power to wow the kids — if only “Turn Off the Dark” could pack ‘em in for cut-rate summer matinees, or weren’t such a prohibitively expensive show to tour.
NYT: 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.”
RS: ...Some of the eye-rollingest moments have magical potential, thanks to an audience full of kids.