So What Did Critics Think of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" 2.0?

Slate's Culture Blog
June 15 2011 9:58 AM

So What Did Critics Think of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" 2.0?

Last night, three months after the epically fraught musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark scrubbedits original creative team including director and co-creator Julie Taymor arevamped, super-Bono'ed revision opened at Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre. Well,the reviews are in, and critics are falling all over themselves to damn the showwith unanimously faint praise. Yes, the story is now easy to follow, bearing littleresemblance to Taymor's flustered fever dream. The sets look good, the flyingrigs seem remarkably OSHA-friendly, and Patrick Page, as the villainous GreenGoblin, is a hammy delight. But the book and score are lame, and considering all thefolderol that came before, the end result hardly seems worth the fuss.

BenBrantley wins the underminer award for his NewYork Times review :

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[Is] this ascent from jaw-dropping badness to mere mediocrity a step upward?Well, until last weekend, when I caught a performance of this show's latestincarnation, I would have recommended "Spider-Man" only to carrion-feastingtheater vultures. Now, if I knew a less-than-precocious child of 10 or so, andhad several hundred dollars to throw away, I would consider taking him or herto the new and improved "Spider-Man."

The mostentertaining write-up comes from Vulture'sScott Brown , who's quickly become one of my favorite theater critics. Hiswhole piece is worth a read, but here's the kicker:

Spider-Man ... is like that good-and-crazy friendwith a highly entertaining substance-abuse problem, the one who went off andgot clean, and came back a different and diminished person. With his manias andovermuchness, you realized, after he returned, how very little you ever had tooffer one another. With Taymor gone, and the ruins of her monstrousLovecraftian vision overrun by Lilliputians, there's simply nothing to seehere, other than the sort of "stunt spectacular" that wouldn't lookout of place amidst a backdrop of roller coasters and toddler-vomit. It's avast emptiness, void even of its animating madness. It shuffles and smiles andsubsides, like a good inmate, its hummingbird heartbeat slowed to a crawl. Putyour head to Spidey's chest, and all you'll hear is the dull smack of a dampwad of cash hitting the boards.

Meanwhile, TerryTeachout of the Wall Street Journal calls it "the best-looking mediocre musical ever to open on Broadway," a "white-breadcommodity musical" that's "as unpoetic as you can get." His final verdict: "$70million and nearly nine years of effort, all squandered on a damp squib ... Never in the history of Broadway has somuch been spent to so little effect." EW.com's Thom Geier gave ita C+ , saying, "It may be anadmirable work of revision, but it's an unsatisfying meal, like one of mom'send-of-the-week casseroles made of leftovers she couldn't bear to toss." However, RollingStone.com'sEvie Nagy , while noting that "grown-up snarkers" might find the show "alittle too blandly and competently whipped into shape," writes that there's "magical potential"for children, who presumably don't know any better.

Until tickets drop below the $70 to $150 level, I think I'lljust amuse myself with Spider-Monster :

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