Feature

The new Spider-Man: A menace to Broadway’s future?

Seven weeks into preview performances, the producers of Spider-Man have announced they will continue with previews for another nine weeks.

Broadway’s Spider-Man is looking more like a con artist than a superhero every day, said Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News. Seven weeks after theatergoers started shelling out up to $275 a ticket to see the famed webslinger in previews of the $65 million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, producers of the “overexposed and overindulged” show are still insisting that critics not yet say whether it’s any good. The show’s creators have had no trouble grabbing headlines and raking in dough. Last week, they “trotted out” one of the four actors who’ve been seriously injured while performing the production’s aerial acrobatics—a smiling stunt double who said he hoped to return to the show despite his fractured skull and three broken vertebrae. “Classy.” Having just learned that Dark had displaced Wicked to become Broadway’s current top-grossing show, the producers announced that preview performances would continue another nine weeks—until the middle of March.

Count me among the critics who won’t wait that long to weigh in, said Jesse Oxfeld in The New York Observer. Custom demands that reviews not be filed until after a show’s official “opening night,” but it’s nuts that reviewers are the “only class of people” expected to stay mum about “the most talked-about, reported-upon, and analyzed theater event in recent memory.” Happily, no performers were hurt at the matinee I paid to see; the “key aerial sequence” was, in fact, “pulse-quickening and spectacular.” But the show’s original music, by U2’s Bono and the Edge, is “surprisingly bland,” and the story, co-written by director Julie Taymor, is “muddled and often incoherent.” You’d think “a show that has been in the works for nine years” before its first preview would have a second act written, said Jeremy Gerard in Bloomberg.com. “On the evidence of what I saw,” this one doesn’t.

The long-term damage that Spider-Man is now inflicting on the theater world “could be significant,” said Charles Isherwood in The New York Times. “Interaction with a live audience” is crucial to the fine-tuning of any work of theater, and if this spectacle’s record-setting number of performances ends up destroying the preview system, “the price will be paid not just by the artists creating theater but also by all who enjoy it.” The fate of the previous standard-bearer doesn’t bode well for Spidey, said Robert Feldberg in the Bergen County, N.J., Record. In 1991, Nick and Nora logged 71 preview performances before closing just a week after opening night. Turn Off the Dark’s team still has time to get things right, but “they don’t have forever.”

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