Early in Act 2 of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the genetically altered villain Green Goblin (Patrick Page) sings, ”I’m a $65 million circus tragedy — actually, more like 75.” Yes, that’s a wink-wink nod to the show’s notorious crawl to opening night after months of delays, budget overruns, cast injuries, and the exit of original director Julie Taymor. So how does the retooled Broadway production (which bowed June 14) fare? It gets full marks for spectacle — the aerial choreography and George Tsypin‘s sets deserve a curtain call all their own — but only partial credit as musical theater.
As good as Turn Off the Dark looks, you can’t hum the sets. Sadly, Bono and The Edge‘s score is a mostly lackluster collection of forgettable tunes that play like U2 B sides. The plotting has been streamlined and sharpened since previews began — the so-called Geek Chorus is gone and spider goddess Arachne (T.V. Carpio) is mostly sidelined. But nothing flows. Scenes (and songs) still end abruptly, and the show lurches from anticlimax to anticlimax. It’s an admirable work of revision, but an unsatisfying meal, like one of Mom’s end-of-the-week casseroles made of leftovers she couldn’t bear to toss.
As Peter Parker/Spidey, the adorkable newcomer Reeve Carney belts out rock ballads like ”Rise Above” with passion. Jennifer Damiano shines as girl next door Mary Jane Watson. And Page, in full hammy baddie mode, gets big laughs for the lone non-Bono number, an update of the Rodgers and Hart classic ”I’ll Take Manhattan.” A lot of talent and money has gone into Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. But with great promise comes the great responsibility of delivering. Though it’s undeniably cool to see costumed heroes zip overhead, this Spidey just can’t get off the ground. The final verdict: C+