Early reviews of Julie Taymor's beleagured Broadway show are out, and they aren't pretty

It’s not as if Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark needed publicity. The $65 million-plus musical at New York City’s Foxwoods Theatre is the most talked-about, written-about, and joked-about show in years. Directed by Julie Taymor (a Tony winner for The Lion King) with songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge, it’s the most expensive show in Broadway history. Four performers have been injured since last fall, felled by the production’s elaborate sets and high-flying stunts. The oft-delayed opening night was recently pushed back to March 15. Still, audience curiosity and the indestructible appeal of Spider-Man (played by newcomer Reeve Carney at most performances) have been generating strong sales (nearly $1.3 million for the week ending Feb. 6, with a top ticket price of $275). Finally, many major critics could hold their tongues — and their knives — no longer. On Feb. 7, the last previously announced opening date, reviews came rolling in. The verdict? It’s even worse than you thought. Ben Brantley of The New York Times called Spider-Man ”so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair.” Needless to say, the show’s creators are not pleased — particularly since they say they are still tweaking the show before its official premiere. ”I can stand up and say that there are things that need fixing and there are things that we are working on,” says lead producer Michael Cohl. ”But someone who stands up and says the whole show is crap, as some of the reviewers did, is a crap reviewer.”

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: ”The sheer ineptitude of this show, inspired by the Spider-Man comic books, loses its shock value early. After 15 or 20 minutes, the central question you keep asking yourself is likely to change from ‘How can $65 million look so cheap?’ to ‘How long before I’m out of here?’…. Spider-Man is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst.”

Steven Suskin, Variety: ”The music and lyrics are less of a score than an endless and repetitive soundtrack; it is something of a surprise when the second act suddenly provides two effective songs (‘Turn Off the Dark,’ ‘If the World Should End’). Two lead guitarists stand on the stage-right apron throughout the performance, often looking bored. Presumably the changes will include intensive surgery on ‘Deeply Furious,’ the spiders-in-high-heels number which is fast developing into musical-theater legend.”

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: ”What’s apparent after 170 spirit-snuffing minutes…is that director Julie Taymor, of The Lion King fame, left a few essential items off her lavish shopping list: 1. Coherent plot 2. Tolerable music 3. Workable sets. To be sure, Taymor has found a way to send her superhero soaring above the audience. And yet, the creature that most often spreads its wings in the Foxwoods is a turkey.”

Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: ”[Spider-Man] is a teetering colossus that can’t find its bearings as a circus spectacle or as a rock musical…. Much as I enjoyed the clever shifts in perspective during the skyscraper scenes, it was hard for me to picture adults or young people yearning for a second visit, never mind critics who may feel obliged to check back in with the production when (or should I say if?) it officially opens. Nothing cures the curiosity about Spider-Man quite like seeing it.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: ”An underwhelming score is the least of the show’s worries. What really sinks it is the borderline incoherence of its storytelling…. The show really jumps the shark, however, in a number titled ‘Deeply Furious,’ in which Arachne and her Furies go shoe-shopping before entering the human world. Seriously.”

  • Movie