Although the Julie Taymor-U2 musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is still technically under the protective umbrella of “preview performances”—because safety is paramount—many critics went ahead and published their reviews last night on the show’s originally scheduled opening date, having waited patiently as it fine-tuned the little things, like its story and fatality moves. Apparently the reviewers spent the forced interim doing some fine-tuning of their own, as yesterday they uncorked a bubbling broth of critical hydrochloric acid: Across the board, they hated it—and when they weren’t hating it, they were pitying it and everyone involved, including those who were forced to watch it.
“I spent much of this new musical muttering, ‘Please Lord, make it stop,” wrote Charles Spencer in The Telegraph, echoing The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney who called it “chaotic, dull, and a little silly” while saying, “When this amount of time and money is tossed at a show, even demanding theatergoers should be awed, not bored.” While some blame Taymor directly (the L.A. Times' Charles McNulty calls the overindulgent spectacle “an artistic form of megalomania”) and others say the lifeless score deserves shaming (“[Bono and the Edge] transformed their sound into stock Broadway schlock pop—sentimental wailing from the early Andrew Lloyd Webber playbook, winceable lyrics and the kind of thumpa-thumpa music that passes for suspense in action flicks,” writes Linda Winer in Newsday), almost all agree that, at its core, it’s an unfixable mess.
“Constantly seesawing between the galvanizing and the lame,” according to the New York Post’s Elizabeth Vincentenelli, and “a tangle of disjointed concepts, scenes and musical sequences that suggests its more appropriate home would be off a highway in Orlando,” says the Washington Post’s Peter Marks, who adds, “Come to think of it, the optimal audience might be non-English-speaking.” New York Magazine’s Scott Brown goes them one better, saying that the many, many technical glitches at this point may be its only salvation because “they puncture the show’s pretense and furnish meta-theatrical opportunities that can’t be staged.”
Still, no one trashes a show quite like the New York Times’ Ben Brantley, who shared Brown’s sentiments in relating a show-stopping accident that found star Reeve Carney once again trapped in his wires, with Patrick Page’s Green Goblin—having learned this trick during the show’s preview debut—marking time by “vamping on a green fake piano” and ad-libbing, “You gotta be careful. You’re gonna fly over the heads of the audience, you know. I hear they dropped a few of them” to the relieved laughter and rare spontaneous applause of the audience.
Brantley argued that all future performances of the show should include that kind of open self-deprecation, because “actively letting theatergoers in on the national joke that this problem-plagued show has become helps make them believe that they have a reason to be there.” In case that wasn’t clear enough, Brantley brands the show as “so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair,” and adds, “Spider-Man is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst.” (Well, Glenn Beck did say it was making history.)
Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, show spokesman Rick Miramontez has issued a response to Entertainment Weekly saying, “The PILE-ON by the critics was ridiculous and uncalled for. Their actions are unprecedented and UNCOOL!” Totally uncool, guys!