Last week, we reported on the reopening of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, the Broadway musical that’s tortured actors and audiences alike. While the first performance of the reworked show is tonight, The New York Times got to sit on rehearsals and find out just how much has changed. The answer? Not nearly enough.
Despite having a new director, musical director, sound designer and a playwright that’s actually written for Marvel Comics, a lot of former director’s Julie Taymor’s original ideas are apparently still in the show.
Several of her concepts remain, especially in Act I, including the bullies who torment Peter Parker and the concerns about global warming that motivate Norman Osborn (who becomes the Goblin) and his wife, Emily, also a bigger character now. (The Goblin did make an appearance in Ms. Taymor’s Act II as an illusion.)
Taymor’s character Arachne, the Greek goddess of spiders, is also still there, but has been changed to a “guardian angel” instead of the villain (and gone is her much criticized song about shoe shopping). This is despite the fact that just about everyone, including Bono and Taymor herself, blames the show sucking on that character:
“In ‘Turn Off the Dark’ 2.0, the myth of Arachne does not overpower the reason people are there,” Bono wrote, “to discover what makes Peter Parker a superhero, which in the end turns out not to be his spider senses, but his personal integrity and especially his humility — something I hope all of us in this process have learned from.”
Ms. Taymor, in a rare comment, responded by e-mail on Monday night: “The story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man as it was originally presented during previews is exactly what Bono said. It was about self-discovery, self-sacrifice, humility, personal integrity, and love. Arachne should not have overpowered that story but only enhanced it. That is precisely what we were continuing to work on, that balance.”
You’d think they could easily fix that balance by removing a completely unnecessary character and basing the show entirely on the comics, but apparently not. And speaking of which, is the reworked show still missing “With great power comes great responsibility?” Apparently so.
Asked if a famous phrase usually attributed to Uncle Ben in the comic books — “with great power comes great responsibility” — was now in the show, Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa declined to comment.