Any rubberneckers who paid big bucks to see some death or dismemberment at last night's Spider-Man musical were destined for disappointment. The performance—the first since the show's main aerialist fell 30 feet and broke his ribs—went off with out incident or injury. And while it's good that no actors were hurt last night, what about the damage done to the lives and wallets of ticket buyers? If the state Labor Department can't save theatergoers from this enervating abomination, shouldn't the Department of Consumer Affairs intervene? Sadly, many of them don't even know they need help. Here's video of audience reactions after last night's performance:
Seems like a commercial for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, right? At least, it could be if we cut their comments about the story making no sense and the second act being a total train-wreck. But it's sort of astonishing that these individuals—who don't strike us as illiterate hayseeds from the sticks—were NOT slinking out of the theater trying to shake off a feeling of ineffable emptiness. Because that's how Spider-Man made us feel. It's like watching a spandex-clad fat man with a flesh-hook suspension fetish masturbate onto a giant pile of money, while singing Muzak versions of all your least favorite U2 songs. But for kids!
To be fair, if you set aside the idiotic book, the insipid music, the cringe-worthy lyrics, and star Reeve Carney's whiny voice, it's not all bad. There are several inspired, visually-arresting sequences, like when director Julie Taymor inverts the audience's perspective at the end of Act I so that you're looking down from the top of the Chrysler building to taxi cabs passing by on the street below (which is actually the back of the stage). And the floating spider called Arachne stars in a couple of gorgeous Act II chorus numbers with her Lady Gaga-esque back-up spiders. Also, it is pretty cool to watch the Green Goblin (the excellent Patrick Page) fly around over the audience while fighting Spider-Man. We'll even go so far as to call this the first Broadway spectacle to exploit video to stunning effect.
Of course, you walk out humming the stunts, not the score. And while the villains' costumes are for the most part pretty spectacular (Swiss Miss FTW!), it's something of a letdown to see Spider-Man running around in his tights—live on stage, he looks more The Electric Company's Spider-Man than Sam Raimi or Todd McFarlane's web-slinger. And believe the men on the street in our video—the second act really does not make much narrative sense. Taymor, Bono and the Edge are reportedly going to rework it before the show officially opens next month, but for audience members officially paying real money now, it remains a bafflement.
Last night's performance began with a disclaimer from producers Michael Cohl and Jerry Harris, who took the stage to assure the crowd that what they were about to see was "better than ever." Touching on the near-fatal accident that shut down the production for two performances, Cohl said that aerialist Christopher Tierney's back surgery had been a success and announced, "Our compatriot will be out of the hospital Monday!" Show biz! Cohl also said that "prior to the mishap the other night, the shows have run very smoothly." So smoothly, in fact, that the actress who plays Arachne, Natalie Mendoza, suffered a concussion and was missed several performances. (An understudy filled in for her last night.)
Camera crews and reporters, smelling blood in the water, crowded outside the Foxwoods Theater in anticipation of another disaster, but it was not to be. Everyone we spoke with expressed basic human decency and relief that nobody was hurt, but leave it to the NY Post to find a blood-thirsty prole for comment. "We were nervous as an audience," one woman attending with her two young sons told the tabloid. "But I figured it would be more exciting for the kids if something did happen." Well, something did happen, but unfortunately it's just not specifically too good.