Theater Critic: Superhero musical takes extra risks

Let’s do a mathematical equation. A beloved superhero, plus a Tony Award-winning director, plus a Grammy Award-winning composer, plus a $65 million budget, plus state-of-the-art technology, minus four injured actors equals Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the new musical taking the theater world by storm.

Currently in previews at the Foxwoods Theater in New York City, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is the new controversial musical staged by director Julie Taymor (The Lion King on Broadway, Across the Universe) with music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge, both of U2. With jokes coming from every comedian under the sun and terrible reviews coming from many major publications, this is hands-down the most talked about show in Broadway history. The main question that is being asked is, “Is it worth it?” Is it right for one show to be spending this much time and money to create a product that puts actors in harm’s way and has audiences leaving extremely disappointed with the final result?

Well, it may not make sense, but I am actually pro-Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. While it does not seem like a safe bet, I believe that it is not ruining the face of Broadway, as some are claiming. It is true that several injuries, like the concussion suffered by actress Natalie Mendoza, who has since officially left the show, and the 30-foot fall suffered by stunt performer Christopher Tierney, make this look like an insane undertaking.

In all honesty, who wants to see the manly Spider-Man dance and sing around a stage? The answer to that question is no one, and that is why Taymor went in the opposite direction.

Spider-Man and his enemies instead fly around the entire theater performing death-defying stunts in the midst of some of the best designs (lighting, costume and scenic) to ever come to Broadway. So to those who say that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a crazy idea, I say that some shows are designed to make audience members think, others to make them laugh, while others set out to simply entertain, which is exactly what this show is doing. People are thinking about it 24/7 and laughing at some of its problems, but they are ultimately being entertained by this crazy and original musical.

Some of you reading might be against this piece of theater and that is fine; the best part of the arts is that not everyone will agree with each other. But, no matter what your opinion is, know that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is selling out every performance and making more than $1 million a week in ticket sales, and that’s not even counting the revenue that merchandise brings in. So, while some may be against it, it looks as if this show will be around for quite some time, and I for one will be in line to get tickets the day it opens — if that day ever does come.

– Ryan Oliveti

Junior elementary education and theater major

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