Thursday, March 10, 2011


Of all the unfortunate things to come from the whole Charlie Sheen affair, the worst by far is that it has stolen the nation's pop cultural spotlight away from that godawful Spider-Man musical.

Really, they might as well start billing it as "That God-Awful Spider-Man Musical" but until they do, it's still called Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which, as I've said over and over again, is the worst title of anything conceived in human history.  Turns out, the title was contributed by Bono, who is perfectly happy to have people call him Bono, so the sheer stupidity of it becomes a bit more understandable.

But not acceptable.  The annoyingly pretentious Irishman dreamed up the title based on a story he vaguely recalled about a kid who said "Turn off the dark" instead of "turn on the light".  Ha, ha.  That's cute, Bono, but what the fuck does it have to do with Spider-Man?  By that logic, I could write a terrible musical adaptation of Taxi Driver and call it "Travis Bickle: Masho Peetato" and explain that the title comes from my inability as a child to properly pronounce "mashed potatoes".  Would that have anything to do with the character at hand?  Of course not.  Does "turn off the dark" have anything to do with Spider-Man?  Of course not.

Bono's indulgence is clearly typical of the show right down the line.  Seriously, read this synopsis of the plot.  Sure, a typical Marvel Comics plot could be ridiculously convoluted, but it would at least be straightforward.  This...this makes no damned sense.  And worse, it's obvious that Spider-Man/Peter Parker is a hapless bystander in his own show, that director Julie Taymor (who was referred to in every story about this thing until previews began as "visionary director Julie Taymor") is more interested in the whole Arachne/mythology thing and grafted some shit she was already working on onto the Spider-Man show because there was funding for it.

Taymor deserves all the mockery she's been receiving--did I mention the show includes a supervillain fashion parade?--but to offer a half-hearted defense of her position, the show as it stands is only partially her fault.  Sure, the creative debacle is entirely her doing, but there's no way anyone should have let the show get that far.  Once anybody with any business sense read her script, they should have clearly said, "Thanks, not what we're looking for."  Nobody could have thought that fake-poetic hooha about Greek mythology was a good idea in a show about a contemporary superhero.  Maybe they were waiting around to get some idea of Taymor's staging concept--her, uh, vision, if you will--but again, once they saw this crap in rehearsals, the producers should have either pulled the plug or started over with an entirely different concept.  All the wirework in the world can't save a bad idea.

Now that Taymor has been shown the door (or metaphorically snapped her cable and plunged to the stage) it's unclear how the new creative team can possibly salvage this thing.  They are so far only being given a three-month window to work this into shape, so there's no time to start from scratch.  (Everyone who has seen the damned thing agrees that the whole Arachne thing needs to be dropped, but given how much of the physical production is built around her, that seems unlikely.)  And really, why should they change it?  Taymor's show is already considered one of the worst things in Broadway history; bringing it to the level of respectable competence would reduce a legendary disaster to a merely dull failure.