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Revamped 'Spider-Man' flying higher

"Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" previews reopened in Manhattan at the Foxwoods Theater on 42nd St. (May 12, 2011) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" redux came through with flying colors -- red and blue -- in an early look at the revamped Broadway musical's first preview performance at the Foxwoods Theatre in Times Square Thursday night. The show opens officially June 14.

The two "Spider-Man" aerial sequences flew flawlessly before intermission, with the stunt performers avoiding the technical woes that troubled the much-maligned original version that previewed from Nov. 28 through mid-April.

Gone is the much-maligned "Geek Chorus" of four teens who ruminated on the superhero. Gone is the overarching reliance on the spider-goddess Arachne, whose incomprehensible machinations bewildered audiences. And gone is the accidental death of Peter Parker's Uncle Ben, who in the classic comic-book telling died as the inadvertent result of Peter's selfishness and irresponsibility, creating the guilt that motivates his superherodom -- although his offstage death by a burglar still isn't Peter's fault in any way.

"I'm happy to hear that they got rid of the Geek Chorus," said Dan Slott, the writer of Marvel Comics' flagship series, "The Amazing Spider-Man," who was outside the theater before curtain time. "It had kind of felt like a slam, making fun of the comic-reading audience."

Retaining the original's spectacular set designs and acrobatic aerial sequences, and offering a tightened and more cohesive plot, a sharper focus on Spider-Man's archnemesis the Green Goblin, and five new songs that replace three others, the ambitious show, by far Broadway's most expensive production ever, earned respectful though not thunderous applause, and a fair number of laughs in appropriate places.

Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, director Philip William McKinley and creative consultant Paul Bogaev were brought in to revamp the show at the producers' request. In early March, original director Julie Taymor agreed to step aside.

Aside from the near-unanimous brickbats "Spider-Man" suffered when critics reviewed the preview of Feb. 7 -- the fourth announced and delayed opening night -- enough performers suffered injuries that the show became a punch line. Stunt Spider-Man Christopher Tierney was hospitalized after falling at least 20 feet, and Natalie Mendoza, the first to play the spider-goddess Arachne, suffered a concussion during the first preview. Her replacement, T.V. Carpio, was later injured and had to sit out the show for two weeks.


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