Hey folks, Harry here... This did it. It is imperative that I get to New York and see this. I can imagine watching this with a state of wonder. Like looking at an Alex Ross painting alive. That's what I'm imagining now. As someone that loves the Merry Marvel Marching Society song and all those other funky 70s songs. I can totally imagine loving the shit out of this. And I don't think I'm alone.
Hey man, I know you don’t really cover theater here, but there’s never been such a geeky cool show like this in history, and I felt I had to tell my fellow readers just how badass it actually is:
When I first heard that they were seriously making a Spider-Man musical on Broadway, my first instinct, like everyone else in the world’s, was to laugh. It sounded like an SNL sketch. Just … no. Then it became Julie Taymor writing/directing with Bono and The Edge writing the music and lyrics and I thought shit, Julie Taymor? I’m not her biggest fan but she has serious visual flair and she’s smart. What did she see in Spider-Man? I found an interview with her and found out she’s a true fan, and she challenged herself to create a show that would not just be one Spider-Man story but encompass the whole “experience” of 40 years of rich history. And she said that once Peter Parker became Spider-Man he would not be singing, so that was assuring.
I was given tickets to last night’s preview as a Christmas gift. The Spider-Man previews have become a big story in New York, there’s been stories in the paper almost daily about the technical problems, overinflated budget, previews being extended and extended, actors injuring themselves; one guy broke like seven bones, seriously. I’d read some bad early reviews, but also read that Taymor had been furiously re-writing the script day by day to fix story problems, and even the music was being re-written constantly.
A producer came out and explained to the audience that normally they’d do very early previews in another, smaller city before coming to the big stage in New York but that there is no other theater that this show can be performed on so we get to be guinea pigs. He warned us that there was a possibility things could be stopped at any time and a voice might direct actors over loudspeakers, but this was I think the 30-something’th preview so all should go smooth (there were no stops).
As he left and the lights dimmed, the biggest question still looming in my mind was do we really need this? We have the movies, a still-in-print comic, shows, video games, etc. … is a Broadway musical necessary for me to see?
About thirty minutes later, Spider-Man was swinging over the audience’s heads, having a chicken fight with the Green Goblin, punching and throwing each other in the air. Suddenly Spider-Man flew down to the ground and landed with a thud 3 feet away from where I was sitting. He tapped a guy on the shoulder and asked if he had any change, then shot back up into the air and jumped on TOP of the flying Green Goblin. And my question was answered, yes this is completely necessary.
If nothing else at all about the show was good, then watching the flying action scenes would still be worth the price of admission. The stunt work is breathtaking. Spidey shoots off the ground and flies through the air with grace, landing on balconies, onto the first floor aisles, swinging across the theater. He bounces off the walls and ceiling of his bedroom. He fights people in the air. All right in front (or above) you. And it’s fucking legit.
The show begins with four teenage geeks (3 boys and 1 Asian chick) geeking out over Spider-Man and they fantasize about writing the greatest Spider-Man story ever. This leads them to discussing what makes Spidey so great in the first place, and then we’re introduced to Peter Parker. Parker was played by Reeve Carney, who is also the lead in Taymor’s new film, The Tempest. He actually looked almost identical to that new picture of Andrew Garfield as Parker, and he played the character with classic nerdiness. In a huge sequence he gets beat on by bullies then has an awkward walk home with Mary Jane. The set turns into their two houses side-by-side and they simultaneously enter and get into fights with their families, Mary Jane because her father doesn’t care about her, Peter because his grandparents care too much about him. The dialogue goes back and forth between the two scenes simultaneously, perfectly timed with the music and ends with an epic ballad of both wishing they were someone else. It’s powerful stuff.
The rest of the first act is basically the origin story with the Green Goblin, sans Harry (he does not appear in the show), broken up by the four geeks from the beginning coming out every so often and discussing the philosophies of Spider-Man. Was the spider-bite fate or chance? Is Peter really special or not? It’s actually really good dialogue and shows real love for the character. Every scene from the origin, from Peter getting bitten to him waking up in his bedroom with super powers to the wrestling match and Uncle Ben’s death, working for the Bugle, becoming Spider-Man and the rise of the Green Goblin is told in epically choreographed symphony. The sets are beautiful and enormous and always changing, and feel like a living comic book. J. Johan Jameson is captured perfectly. Peter fights bullies and nabs bank robbers.
In the first act’s finale, the set transforms into an enormous bird’s eye view of the city. And when I say bird’s eye, I mean a huge Chrysler building stretches out from the very back of the stage towards the audience on a 90 degree angle, with the back of the stage becoming the street far below, complete with tiny cars in traffic. It is the most amazing fucking set I have ever seen in my life. Spider-Man and Green Goblin have an insane aerial fight over this backdrop, fighting over top the audience, springing all over the theater. Holy shit, I just can’t even explain how awesome it was. The first act is basically perfect.
The second act was a little shakier. Peter can’t make time for Aunt May or more specifically, Mary Jane, which drives him to throw away his costume and give up being Spider-Man. Meanwhile, a massive blackout hits New York City, and the Sinister Six are introduced, comprised of Carnage, Electro, Kraven, The Lizard, a sweet supervillain the Asian chick creates called Swiss Miss (think a human swiss army knife), Swarm, who comes out after one of the geeks proclaims that you could make a supervillain out of anything, even a Nazi Sympathizer entirely composed of bees (who is also an actual spider-man villain), plus a revived Green Goblin, all led by another new female villain called Arachne. Sound a little overstuffed? It is, but they are mostly just shown terrorizing the city in the background while Peter, happy even living in the dark as long as its with Mary Jane, comes to accept the responsibility of his powers. It’s all a huge glorious montage, done in epic tribute to the rich history of Spider-Man.
My biggest complaint was that the final battle of the second act was a little anti-climatic and not nearly as exciting as the Green Goblin fight in act 1, but it does have some cool wall-climbing by Peter with his mask off (so you knew it was really Reeve Carney. At the end about 8 Spider-Man’s in suit came out to take a bow, the real stars of the show). Also, the four geeks get a little lost towards the end of the show and I would have liked to have seen more of their discussion as the story progressed. Overall though, I actually really loved the story and the grandeur with which it was told.
Bono and The Edge were actually sitting behind two of my friends at the show, constantly taking notes throughout it. The songs ar en’t the most memorable, but almost all are actually quite good, mostly heavy rock ballads, and a theme that I still have stuck in my head (I think it’s actually a more iconic theme than Elfman’s). The lyrics definitely feel a little U2 at times, but it kinda works, never gets too corny like I was afraid of.
The sets are simply unbelievable, beautiful and flowing and epic and totally comic-book. Julie Taymor’s greatest skill as a director is the way she integrates the characters and scenes into these sets, even making the entire theater part of it.
The show has the most inflated budget in Broadway history (over $65 million now) and I’ve heard that so far pre-sales are not doing so hot, so who knows how long this will even last, but I’m telling you, if your a Spider-Man fan, even remotely, and you can make it to New York, don’t miss this shit. Everyone in the theater walked out with huge grins slapped across their faces. All I could keep thinking was, this fucking blows 3D out of the water. I’ve never ever seen a Broadway show anything like this, and probably never will again (until I see this a second time once previews are over and the final show comes out)
If you use this, you could call me Guy Who Saw The Spider-Man Musical