Thursday, December 23, 2010


You know, there are so many reasons to slog on the truly dreadful-sounding Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, it almost seems unnecessary to list them.  You can start with the fact that it recently endured its fourth injury of a cast member, continue with the practice of charging full ticket prices for preview performances of a show that is nowhere near completion (its creators cheerily admit that they STILL don't have a final act), continue by pointing out that its songwriters, Bono and The Edge (who, incidentally, continue to call themselves Bono and The Edge, a fact which calls their very intelligence into question), are touring with U2 and are thus unavailable to provide the new material a preview period might demand, and of course, there's no overlooking the fact that it's called Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, the stupidest title of anything in recorded history.

The greatest venom would have to be reserved for the show's director and co-writer, Julie Taymor (or, as she's apparently contractually required to be called, "visionary director Julie Taymor").  While it is undeniably true that the producers of this thing deserve some of the blame for indulging her too long--the budget is still listed at sixty-five million, though that was the official count on opening night, and numerous revisions (and hospital stays) have no doubt driven the costs up considerably since then--it is Taymor's inability to see the show as anything other than a monument to her own hubris that is so infuriating.  Whatever fans may want or expect from a Spider-Man musical (and I'm not sure many of them would want one in the first place, but whatever), that is not want Taymor intends to give them.  She apparently is determined to use the character as a jumping-off point for a fantasia on Greek mythology, pop culture and whatever else pops into her head.  Such basic concepts as "story" or "characterization" or even "entertainment" seem foreign to her.

Which is all well and good, and I'm not at all opposed to Taymor's ambition (except when, you know, it could cost the life of a cast member), but, boy, is it misplaced.  She's not making some semi-avant garde piece to be seen by the season's subscribers at BAM this time out, she's making a fucking Broadway musical about a superhero.  Given that, yes, she does have an obligation to meet an audience's basic expectations.  She could exceed those expectations, go beyond them, yes, but only if she shows any understanding of what people like about the character in the first place. 

But we're talking about the director of Across the Universe here, so...