Nov 29, 2010

Spider-Man's Broadway Debut Needs a Rescue

It won't officially open until January 11 but Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark debuted on Broadway last night in previews and let's just say Peter Parker needs to work out a few kinks in his webbing.

The musical had been plagued by delays for almost a year, not the least of which was running out of money, but as they say "the show must go on" and sure enough, it finally did. Only not as perfectly as anyone involved would have hoped. The New York Times reported the show stopping five times throughout the performance due to technical difficulties. And when I say technical difficulties, I don't mean someone's microphone cutting out, I mean stars of the show including Spider-Man himself Reeve Carney was left dangling from wires just feet above the audience.

"The fourth and final pause at the end of Act I was the worst glitch of the night by far. Spider-Man had just flown and landed onstage with the musical’s heroine, Mary Jane Watson (played by Jennifer Damiano), in his arms," said The New York Times, "He was then supposed to zoom off toward the balcony seating area, a few hundred feet away. Instead, a harness and cables lifted Spider-Man several yards up and over the audience, then stopped. A production stage manager, C. Randall White, called for a halt to the show over the sound system, apparently in hopes of fixing and re-doing the stunt."

As if that wasn't bad enough, the show, which started late, was met with vocal disapproval from an audience member who was seemingly fed up. "Act II began shortly after 9 p.m. and unfolded fairly smoothly until about 50 minutes later, when Mr. White called for a pause. After a few minutes, as some audience members were stretching, a woman in the audience suddenly shouted, 'I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I feel like a guinea pig today — I feel like it’s a dress rehearsal.' She was met with a chorus of boos."

With all the money put into Turn Off the Dark ($65 million, the most expensive Broadway budget ever) and the combined musical talent of U2's Bono, The Edge and Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor you'd think the show would have been better prepared by now. Although Carney thought the performance was a success, he revealed one reason why things didn't go so smoothly.

"We all tried our best to stay focused,” he told Broadway.com after the show. "That was the first time we’ve gone all the way through the show. We were writing some new stuff today. Now that we’ve run through it, I’m excited to know where it stands." The FIRST TIME they went all through the show? Writing new stuff TODAY? My middle school performance of Cinderella was better prepared.

Although many audience members were disappointed (some even asking for refunds) it's important to note that the show is in previews which means hitches are expected. It wasn't a total bust though, several of the smaller show-goers were impressed. "Parts of it were really exciting,” a six-year-old Jack Soldano told the New York Times. "I’ve never seen people flying before."

What's your opinion? Are huge technical failures expected for a new show or do you think the show should have been perfected before debuting? This is Broadway after all. Were you planning on seeing it and has your decision changed since hearing the reviews?

12 comments:

Sean said...

As someone who was fairly friendly with theatre majors while in college, I can say for certain that using a preview showing as your first full run-through is not only just not done, it is absolutely disastrous for the scheduling of the rest. The fact that they're still re-writing the show, apparently as this preview went on, does not help this perception. The preview is supposed to be used as a special advanced showing of the completed show. Not all the kinks are supposed to be completely worked out, sure, but it shouldn't be a first run-through by any stretch.

DirtyD said...

Nanking was once raped, also.

I don't see any difference between that and the source material for this musical.

Booster Gold / Javier J. said...

Why must they try to improve on something already made perfect by Universal Studios...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyDsofGSFXQ

I saw that live, and I can't ever unsee it again.

Heretic said...

I wanted to see it, but now I'm not so sure. It's the end of December and it's still in it's production stages. Doesn't leave a whole lot of confidence that my pocketbook will smile at me for making the ticket purchase.

Vinnie Bartilucci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vinnie Bartilucci said...

Like Ishtar and many other productions that had epic budgetary issues before release, this is another one that people have made up their minds about before its opening. As such, it has a long way to go to get back to zero. That shot of Spider-Man running in slow motion at the beginning of the 60 Minutes piece was quite symbolic, albeit accidentally.

Like Lloyd-Webber's Hollywood Boulevard, the technical difficulties seem destined to be more of a story than the show. The gigantic house that rose and fell broke more often than Bruce the shark in Jaws, and alas there was no way to shoot around it. It's one of the reasons the show closed relatively quickly.

Having said that, the songs sounded quite good, and no surprise. But right now, they were able to find one positive review, from a six-year-old, who even then only found it exciting in spots.

What I fear we'll get more of are pissy comments about what went wrong overshadowing any positives the how may have. And if that's all people hear, that's all they're going to know. If the creators start going to the show and don't come out with immediate praise, that's going to scare the pants off of people.

Continuing to re-write a show in previews is perfectly common. Sometimes entire songs are added or removed from shows in previews. Now in many cases, these tweaks are done while the show is previewing out of town; in the case of a show this large, there's no way to do that. So don't take that as a negative.

If they can get some solid run-throughs under their belt and some positive reviews (especially from some actual comics fans) out there, the buzz may reverse, and this may end up being more of a "Titanic" story than a "Heaven's Gate".

Christopher said...

This show is going to die a very hard death. I believe it is going to have to sell out every night for seven years just to recoup (easily the most expensive musical ever). THose are Wicked like numbers and it just isn't going to happen.

You should not have your star hanging over the audience even in previews. That is called rehearsal. As for writing new material. The show has about a month before they have to lock everything down (I believe this is a union rule). By the time you start previews you should just be making small tweaks to the show.

It is like watching the Titanic sink. You know it is going down, you're just not sure how long it is going to take.

Action Flick Chick said...

It was the first time they'd gone all the way through a $65 million show?!

Comix Book Gurl said...

Not very impressed :(

Eleni said...

Wow, I remember one really rocky high school production where our first full run through was our dress rehearsal. But once we finished, we turned around and did a second run through right then and there. The only time I've heard of using the first showing as a dress rehearsal was in Noises Off!--you know, a comedy about an epically disastrous production. Ouch.

I'm kind of glad I don't live in the area and don't have to make the choice of whether or not to attend. It's not looking good at this point.

Psychotronic said...

Superheroes and Broadway musicals are seldom a good mix. It didn't work very well with It's A Bird... It's A Plane... It's Superman either. And yes, I'm old enough to remember that train-wreck.

Dave Martin said...

I live in California, but I'm thinking of flying out to New York just to see this abomination. Everything I've read about this musical clearly shows that it was created by people who obviously never read or understood Spider-Man. Also, it's just a matter of time before it gets shut down for killing someone.