Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark

The alternate title of this blog post is "Never Say Never." I said I'd never see Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. In fact, I wrote all about it in my very first blog post on this blog. My words...I ate them. That being said, they didn't taste nearly as bad as I thought they would. I suppose they might have if I'd actually liked the show. Then my words might have tasted slightly bitter. But, truth be known, I didn't like the show.

Let me start at the beginning: How I ended up seeing a show I swore I'd never see. Blame it on my American Idiot addiction. Jake Epstein, who played Will in the first national tour of American Idiot, plays Peter Parker/Spider Man for weekend matinees right now. He's been doing this for a while. And I LOVE my Idiots.

So, I broke down. I took a very quick weekend trip (only 1 night) to the city and a friend and I rushed for tickets to Spider Man. Truth be known, other than the occasional report about the status of the Julie Taymor court case, I've not heard much about the show in a quite some time. In a way, that gave me hope. I knew there would be no doubt that I'd love seeing Jake as Peter Parker, but I didn't know much else, and I took it as a possible "no news is good news" thing. Or at least that I was going in with expectations that weren't that high for the show itself, so I figured that I'd probably come out thinking "Oh, well it wasn't as bad as I thought."

I wish I could say that was the case. First off, let me give my compliments to the cast. They do a terrific job. With what they have to work with. Jake Epstein as Peter Parker/Spider Man was fun. Vocally he does a fantastic job (no surprise there). The lovely Rebecca Faulkenberry played Mary Jane Watson and I truly enjoyed her performance. I expect to see some great things in her future as well.

First off, I understand that there were all KINDS of safety issues with this show, which is why the flying in the show was nowhere near as spectacular as I expected. I'm GLAD they toned it down. We want our actors and actresses safe and in one piece so they can continue to do what they love and so that we can continue to enjoy their performances. That being said, because they flying wasn't as spectacular as I'm guessing it was in the beginning, the book, songs, ad overall show needed to be stronger.

Listen, I'm not a comic book person. I've never seen the Spider Man movies. I don't follow stuff like that, but I should have been able to understand a little bit of what was going on. In essence, not a whole lot made sense. From what I could tell, Peter Parker and his family live in New York. The scientist Norman Osborn (who later turns into the Green Goblin) works in a lab with his wife Emily and that lab is also in New York. So can someone explain to me why Peter Parker's aunt & uncle, along with Norman Osborn and wife Emily ALL had southern accents?? I mean, besides my own southern accent, I've rarely heard one in New York.

Also, I never really understood the purpose of the character Arachne. I get that she was supposed
to be Peter Parker's spidey-guide, but she didn't seem to do much. And the school bullies never seemed to serve a purpose. I know they were put there to show that Peter Parker (pre-spider bite) was weak and nerdy and picked on. But nothing ever really happened to them. The characters were completely flat and never had any kind of purpose to the story in my mind.

Those book things aside (perhaps someone can tell me I'm wrong and that those things were what happened in the actual comic books; like I said, I'm not knowledgeable when it comes to this stuff), I was very disappointed in the music. Bono and The Edge wrote it for cryin' out loud! Their music is catchy...normally. It's good...normally. They're FAMOUS for a reason, right? Well, I sure hope they don't quite their day job because not a single song was memorable. Not one. In fact, I tried to think of some of the lyrics while I was sitting here writing this, and not one comes to mind. There was a lot of rhyming going on in it. And a lot of off beat lyrics. And by off beat I mean literally off the beat, not "odd."

Costuming. Oh my. Comic book themed again? I get it. I do. Spider Man is a comic book character. But the costumes were just weird. The "bad guys" had costumes that didn't seem to be anything other than over grown Halloween costumes. Most of the ensemble had costumes that were "matching" but not matching. But not in a good way like in Wicked at the Oz Dust Ball Room. More like Glee season one when they all tried to dress similar but different...or basically...cheesy looking.

I appreciate all kinds of choreography. I do. But this choreography looked like something that a community theatre person might put together. In some ways, I've seen BETTER choreography in community theatre. The two people they had doing choreography seemed to be more into modern dance, which is typically a GREAT thing. But this was just jerky movements and robot looking actions that looked like they hurt.

Then I start looking at things like lighting and sets. Again, a big disappointment. You could tell that they were trying for a comic book feel throughout the entire show. And to a degree, they did that. It just didn't translate very well to the stage. When Peter Parker started fighting a giant blow up doll that was supposed to be a wrestler....yeah. It was bad. The one time that I WAS impressed with the set was toward the end of the show when Spider Man and the Green Goblin were fighting each other on the side of the Chrysler Building. They actually made it look like you were looking down from the top of the building, complete with the cars driving by on the street below (which was actually the back of the stage) and the building sticking out toward the audience. That was pretty fun to see and an impressive view.

I want to say, again, that I appreciate what the cast does. You put into a show what you can. You work with what you're given. And they did a good job with the material that they have. I'm overjoyed that I got to see Jake Epstein playing a lead role on Broadway. I just wish I could have left that show saying that I had misjudged it. But I didn't. I don't have any idea how it's still open right now. I don't wish anyone out of a job. I'm glad it's putting people to work, but if this is what stays open for long periods of time on Broadway, I worry about the future of the Broadway theatre.

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