Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark does not officially open on Broadway until March 15th – but most major theater critics have delivered their reviews of the production. Simply put, the notices have been brutal.
According to the New York Times‘ Ben Brantley, who weighed in with one of the most deliciously nasty reviews,“Spider-Man” is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst.” Brantley described the troubled show as “grievously broken in every respect” and suggested that the producers should “play up regularly and resonantly the promise that things could go wrong” because the possibility for disaster is the only entertaining thing about the show.
Here are some bits from other reviews, presented from the most savage to the almost-kinda-nice.
Peter Marks, Washington Post: “Story-wise, ‘Spider-Man’ is a shrill, insipid mess, a musical aimed squarely at a Cub Scout demographic.”
Jason Zinoman, Slate: “Imagine the gall it takes to have Spider-Man wrestle a cheap-looking blow-up doll in the most expensive musical in history. Or to have an almost incoherent book so witless that what passes for a joke is a character misunderstanding the difference between “free will” and Free Willy.”
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “The songs by Bono and The Edge display minimal grasp of music’s function in goosing narrative or illuminating character. And despite all the wailing-guitar attitude, they only squeak by as atmospheric enhancement. Aside from one or two stirring anthems in familiar messianic U2 mode, this is strictly album filler, with echoes of everyone from T. Rex to Alice Cooper, plus an occasional nod to The Who’s Tommy. The lyrics – when you can decipher them – are either too vague or too literal.”
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: “The show reportedly cost $65 million and that’s clearly gone into mechanics, hydraulics and aerial rigging. It seems only 10 cents has gone into the confusing story and humorless dialogue.”
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: “Delayed openings, physical changes, fresh flying sequences, the toil of dedicated performers and even new musical numbers from U2’s Bono and The Edge, no less, cannot fix what should have been solved long before any human performer left the safety of the ground.”
Elizabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: “An inconsistent, maddening show that’s equal parts exciting and atrocious.”
Chris McNulty, Los Angeles Times: “The biggest shame in all of this is that the leads — Reeve Carney, who plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and Jennifer Damiano, who plays Peter’s love interest, Mary Jane — are utterly captivating. Their appealing sensitivity, however, is no match for the machine they’re trapped in.”
Scott Brown, New York Magazine: “Conceptually speaking, it’s closer to a theme-park stunt spectacular than ‘circus art,’ closer to a comic than a musical, closer to The Cremaster Cycle than a rock concert. But ‘closer’ implies proximity to some fixed point, and Spider-Man is faaaar out, man. It’s by turns hyperstimulated, vivid, lurid, overeducated, underbaked, terrifying, confusing, distracted, ridiculously slick, shockingly clumsy, unmistakably monomaniacal and clinically bipolar.”