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Theater review: 'Spider-Man' has improved, but still shallow

Spider-man

Spider-man Photo Credit: Jacob Cohl

"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"
2 stars

Anyone who sat through an early preview of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” before the show went on a three-week hiatus and Julie Taymor was forcibly removed as its director is sure to notice how substantially the show has been improved.

As newly conceived by circus director Philip William McKinley and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, “Spider-Man 2.0” is no longer an embarrassing train wreck, painful bore, utter laughingstock or source of serious physical injuries.

But at the same time, it remains little more than a kid-friendly stunt spectacular with glitzy superhero costumes, bad songs and a few cheesy laughs. It’s just an oversized, overpriced, longer version of what you’d find at a theme park.

Many of Taymor’s signature creations have been axed. Arachne, a spider-like villainess created by Taymor that essentially took over Act Two, has been turned into a guardian angel figure with far less stage time. Also cut are the annoying teenage geeks that used to narrate the show.

The Green Goblin is no longer killed off in the middle of the show. The epic aerial battle between him and Spider-Man works far better as the finale of Act Two and ends the show on a high note.

Greater emphasis has been placed on Peter Parker’s relationship with his family and crush Mary Jane. Uncle Ben’s famous line, “With great power comes great responsibility,” is now repeated at least twice.

But much of Taymor’s avant-garde theatricality still remains in the background, leaving the production with the schizophrenic impression of being the product of very different authors.

Bono and The Edge’s score remains the show’s weakest link. Their occasionally freaky, mostly generic rock songs have little theatrical flair, display no character development and just slow down the plot. Truth be told, the show would be a lot better without any of their songs.

Among the cast, Patrick Page makes the strongest impression as the Green Goblin. Even while looking like a mutant, his bits of light comedy and pandering to the audience are the show’s most genuinely human touches.

As Peter Parker, Reeve Carney is handsome but bland. On the other hand, Jennifer Damiano credibly emphasizes Mary Jane’s internal frustrations and troubled family life.

A few months ago, many people joked that they wanted to see
“Spider-Man” just to see how bad it was or whether anyone would get injured. Let’s see whether a mediocre and harmless “Spider-Man” can survive on Broadway.

By the way, why is the show still called “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”? What does it even mean to “Turn Off the Dark”?


If you go: “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” plays an open run at the Foxwoods Theatre. 213 W. 42nd St., 800-745-3000, SpidermanOnBroadway.com.

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