The Craptacular Spider-Man: Turn Off the Pain Part 1

With Greek Chorus Comes Greek Mythology

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark posterPink angora. That, I thought to myself examining my now apparently foolish wardrobe choices of red, blue and black, is what I should have worn. As I turned to my Spider-Man collector boyfriend and asked him if we were at an Ed Wood tribute, I realized Eddie would have been proud. He would have shed a single delighted tear at the misery that was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Even he could not have achieved the glorious folly that was set upon the stage.

I would like to stress that the actors and technicians did their level best to bail water from this Titanic. I felt for them, all of them. It was for them that I clapped, when I could muster the strength to do so. The various singing, acting and stunt work were not really to blame for this homicide of a childhood icon. No, that distinction belongs to Julie Taymor. If anything ever suffered from poor administrative decisions, it is SMTOTD. The production, fraught with complications ranging from broken limbs to the tragic death of original producer David Adams (who according to the 60 Minutes special died when he brought the contract to Bono and the Edge….apparently God did not want this musical to happen, is he a Spidey fan?), and the various budget issues ($65 million, anyone?) all should have indicated to someone to leave well enough alone.  The bloated, simultaneously over and under produced effects, meandering and pointless script and bizarre theatrical choices, all put the pineapple on this ham.

With regard to the casting, our “hero” Peter was portrayed by Reeve Carney. Admittedly he is slightly Bieber-esque  and a little too Twilight for my taste, but his talent is clear, and he was not the main issue. Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane ‘MJ’ Watson and Patrick Page as Norman Osborn both played their parts well, considering the dialogue they were given. Dialogue, I should note, that contains audible ellipses. The following may not be exact quotes (as I may have drifted off momentarily while watching), but they come damn close to some of the exchanges, and well, you will get the idea:

Reeve Carney“Wow, Peter, that was……”

“Yeah I know……it’s just that……”

“That was really ….something…..”

“Really… I mean…….really something.”

The pacing progressed like this, for about 4 hours. It was broken up by people flying around. Wait, wait you don’t want to hear about the nuts and bolts of musical theater ….you want to hear about SPIDER-MAN, right? The story you grew up with and turned to for comfort and escape when the world was bleak. The world where Peter Parker was just like us until that radioactive spider bite which transformed him into the sarcastic, web-slinging wise-cracker we all love.

Here goes…this is long, and even as such it is edited down considerably. Trust me, at least you weren’t there….

Our story opens, as most comic book stories do, with an origin story…a bit of exposition explaining the pathos, sacrifices, and psychological development of the main character. I bet you would assume that a musical about Spider-Man would open with Spider-Man’s origin story. Well…. when you make an assumption….you know the rest. Our fair play opens with the origin story of Arachne. Yes, the Greek Arachne and the story of her hubris.  You know the one where Arachne thought she wove better than Athena (and did!), thereby incurring her wrath, and upon Athena’s destruction of Arachne’s superior weaving, Arachne took her own life. Athena, pitying Arachne, transformed her into the world’s first spider. Anyone vaguely familiar with Greek mythology has heard this story (and if you haven’t, it is in the Playbill, as an excerpt from Peter Parker’s oral report for school). If you failed to listen in grade school, or to read the Playbill, there is a Greek Chorus of hip teen types (I couldn’t figure out if they were Team Edward or Jacob) who guide the “plot” for ¾ of the show.

Arachne

While the staging of the Arachne origin was artistically striking, one is left wondering why, with all of the Spider-Man related plot to attend to, is so much time being devoted to Greek mythology?  Why indeed. That sinking feeling in your stomach is a valuable survival instinct. Do not ignore it. Oh, you can rationalize that this is a musical, and that maybe this is just an extra bit of fluff, an additional dimension to flesh out the concept of the archetypal spider totem, but you know, deep in your heart, that this isn’t true. You know that it will cause hurting later, kind-of like eating convenience store burritos. You know it’s coming.

Continue on, True Believers, to the second installment of Turn Off the Pain – the origin of this musical’s actual main character. Excelsior!

Subscribe to Unwinnable Weekly
Categories:
Carmen De Luccia, Comic Books
Unwinnable On The Web:
  • George collazo

    Ug hearing about Arachne just reminded me of the awful directors cut of the warriors.

  • Carmen

    @George collazo

    ya know if there was a Greek mythology musical with Arachne and the effects that went along with her part…it would be cool. She looked good….but has no real business being in Spidey….especially when so much Spidey related stuff was left out!

  • Tammy Harrison

    It's good to know before the money was spent on the gift of the Spidey show for my son, a true fan of the Web slinger.

    Well done Carmen! I look forward to more reviews!

  • George Collazo

    @Carmen Yeah, I know what your saying, I get the impression from reading your article that it was tacted on almost to give more "musical legitimacy" to spider-man, when the writers or directors should have realized that spider-man is a multibillion dollar franchise. It doesn't really need artistic legitimacy. I wonder if whoever was writing it was almost embarrassed about writing a spider-man story. He probably should have realized if Ovid was around today, he'd probably be stan lee.

  • George Collazo

    @carmen great article by the way!!! It got me all sorts of incensed!

  • Carmen

    @George Collazo

    Thanks!

    Oh honey, it wasn't just tacked on…so much worse….make sure to read all of the segments….

  • Ian Gonzales

    Great review Carmen. I'm psyched for the rest of the review to roll out this week!

  • Carmen

    @Ian Gonzales

    Thanks!

    When I say that my heart bleeds for the actors, dancers, stunt men, technicians, etc. that is an understatement.

  • Gia

    FANTASTICALLY funny and spot on review…your words are as sharp as Batman's boomerang!

  • CromsFury

    First of all, I AM a Spider-Man Collector!

    I wish this article weren't so accurate. Well Done!

    So where is your HP7 review?

    (0_o)

  • Carmen

    @CromsFury

    HA! Unfortunately I'm guessing it is a little late for that…besides, even broken up it would take a solid month to hear my ummmm "thoughts" on Yates's choices…

  • Marsha

    WOW. You should have gone full Rocky Horror on it – this is cult camp classic in the making.

  • CromsFury

    @Marsha

    In order to go Rocky Horror on it, there would've needed to be have been a SCRIPT!

  • Patrik D

    …Maybe it is not too late… Perhaps it could be salvaged by filming it, and then converting parts of the film to 3-D for a holiday release at the mall-o-plex near you? A free spidey press on tattoo with every admission?

  • Carmen

    @Marsha

    Honestly, it lacks the heart that a true camp cult classic requires to make it beloved. There is a wad of sticky cash where the heart of this production ought to be.

  • John McGuire

    I really wonder how long this show can survive on Broadway. Burning through money is one thing, but being this undeniably bad doesn't bode well for our web slinging hero. Great read Carmen, I look forward to the rest of the story.

  • Robert T.

    Great article Carmen. I too can't wait for the rest of them. I posted it on my Facebook page. If your wondering how I found your reveiw, your mom sent me the link.

  • Peter Lang

    Welcome to the fold, Carmen. If the 60 minutes clip wasn't moan-worthy enough…you've made it guttural for everyone – and i love it!

  • Carmen

    @Peter Lang

    Thanks! My favorite part of 60 Minutes was the quote (when asked about the decision to make it an even more expensive mega million dollar production during a recession) "No one wants to see the $25 million dollar Spider-Man". I turned to my boyfriend and said "well, no one really wants to see the $65 Million dollar one either!", to which he responded "well they WANT to see it…until they realized that THIS is what it is….then not-so-much!"

  • Kevin J. Raineri

    @carmen… the one and only… cuz, what can i say. you always have the perfect way of describing something, from comics to fine cheeses. I look forward to the rest of the week =)

  • Carmen

    @Kevin J. Raineri

    Awww shucks….thanx cuz. :):)

    Don't forget I have a comprehensive knowledge of beer and martini's as well. ;)

    So anyway, I had this great manchego the other day while playing Revenge of Shinobi…

  • Adam G

    Here's hoping you didn't have to pay to suffer through it…

  • Carmen

    @Adam G

    Well the tix were bought, and not cheap! I was treated, so I cannot complain about the monetary end…I can only complain by proxy. I know that I read somewhere that orchestra seats were close to $300….and considering that at one point Spidey was stuck in his rig, hovering above me for quite some time, providing an awesome spandex "Spidey Balls" close up, I guess that price is reasonable. lol

    You need to read the rest of this as it is posted. You really WILL NOT BELIEVE the epic and uber absurdity…and it wasn't even campy enough to be endearing.

  • CromsFury

    @Adam The show was worth EVERY penny Carmen spent!

    @Kev Much like the review, the cheese and Shinobi comment is 100% true!

  • Kevin J. Raineri

    @croms… i did not doubt it for a second!

  • Steve

    I know you'll never believe this but…6 weeks and 42 previews from now, this show is going to be a hit. And not just a hit–it's going to be good AND a hit. Anyone who tries to judge a show (especially one as technically complicated as this) from the first preview is an idiot. I've made the same mistake you're making before (the first preview of The Producers was 4 hours long and didn't have one laugh.) That's why, before the internet, the idea of reviewing a show in previews was verboten.

  • LaryOly

    In reading this first chapter of your review, I am reminded of six words, then two more:

    "Lord of the Rings – the Musical"

    and

    "The Bandwagon"

    Also, such a hugely bloated budget makes me wonder if there isn't some sort of ulterior motive here, a la "Springtime For Hitler".

  • Carmen

    @Steve

    Ok. Respectfully heard and noted. Although I am sorry to point out you make the same "idiot mistake" in not hearing out the rest of the plot. Once stiletto shoes became a plot point….in a show….about SPIDER-MAN….well heck, forgive me, silly philly that I am…. I guess I'm way off base then. I guess I missed the Prada story arch. Did Bendis write that one? Was it in Ultimate? How long did they have to fix this mess? How many postponed and cancelled shows? It should have been postponed again. It should never have played in that state. People seem to think that "previews" means it can be woefully unfinished… well there was an audience…paying full price, and it is unfortunate that some felt that the first impression was a bad one….but you only get one chance to make it, as they say…and it was their choice to stage an unfinished, confusing and poorly structured show…and people will react, in both directions. I say many nice things where it is deserved, but I am not a "give a trophy just for participating" kind of gal. I appreciate your counter point! If you have seen it I appreciate it even more…if you haven't please practice what you preach and reserve judgement in my direction as well, as I am not speaking from a place of ignorance. :)

  • Carmen

    @Steve

    Lol I meant silly "filly"….just goes to show how cream cheese snacks late at night can be too influential….althought I could have tried to pass it off as a Bil Keane reference. There go those pesky standards again…*sigh*