Broadway Review: SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark

There’s nothing like seeing a live performance on Broadway, and, fortunately, for many families there are quite a few kid-friendly options.  Does your family have young boys obsessed with super heroes, then SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark at the Foxwoods Theatre may be a show you’re considering.  George Gensler provides a spoiler-free review of “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark” below.  Keep in mind, you may want to order tickets in advance through a tour operator or Telecharge.com to guarantee the show you want to see, the day you want to see it, is available.  Also, if you come to NYC as part of a group, or with multiple families, you can book Broadway shows at group rates (some as low as 8 people); making Broadway shows much more affordable.  Now you just need to decide which Broadway show to see.  Continue reading for our spoiler-free review of Broadway’s “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark” – a production with amazing action and sets with music U2 fans will love.

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, photo by Jacob Cohl, © 2010 8 Legged Productions, LLC.

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark Spoiler-Free Broadway Review

A quick heads-up to those parents who have dark- or noise-sensitive kids: “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark” is very loud and has quite dark moments, though it is not completely dark (as in lack of light – we’ll get to the theme in a bit – see The Stand-Outs section at the end of the review before deciding whether or not to see the show with young children).  If the children in your party aren’t bothered by the dark or loud noises, they’ll have a great time.  The show is action-packed, the music is current (similar to everything else put out by U2), and the sets are phenomenal.  The theater was full of kids (day camps, tour groups, families) and they all seemed to have a great time.  There was the now-standard (and, therefore, somewhat meaningless) standing ovation at the end of the show, but the early risers, seemed to genuinely enjoy the show, applauding enthusiastically as they stood for the performers.

THE SETS are very well done.   There are comic book elements and styling to the pieces, most or all of which move and change throughout their scenes, creating a sense of time and movement and, on occasion, perspective, for the characters and the story.  What the production team did here is incredible, with an eye to keeping the audience in the thick of the action, and to representing the elements necessary to the story without getting bogged down in the heaviness that can come of cityscape sets.   Overall, I think the sets are the highlight of the show, and you can get a small sense of them in the above video.

THE MUSIC is hit-or-miss.  Some pieces truly set the tone, but others are cacophonous and barely intelligible.  The lack of coherence could be caused by the acoustics, but other songs, including some of the duets (most notable, to me, was “I Just Can’t Walk Away”), are so touching and beautiful, that it’s probably the music itself that’s the problem.  There were also a few U2 songs thrown in, which seemed a bit self-indulgent on the part of the Bono and the Edge, who wrote the music and lyrics.  Mary Jane (“MJ”) Watson and Arachne have beautiful voices and their duets with Peter Parker elevate his performance, which sounded as if he were trying to force his voice into a rock style of singing.

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark

(L-R) Bono and the Edge at the 1,000th performance of SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, photo from https://www.facebook.com/SpiderManOnBroadway

 

THE COSTUMES are reminiscent of comic book drawings, matching the background and the sets and set in the style of 1940s clothing and uniforms.  The villains, even the minor villains, like the newspaper editor, are all slightly exaggerated, some wearing masks with distorted features and fantastical costumes.  My favorite villains were Swarm and Swiss Miss (I didn’t understand her name at first, but it was cleared up, cleverly, by an explanation from one of the minor characters on stage – very clever!) – their costumes were truly evocative of the images they represented.

THE CHOREOGRAPHY is hit-or-miss, too.  There are strange slow-motion pieces that detract from the lyrics (which are in real time, of course) and some pieces which just seem beyond the skills of the dancers, appearing awkward and rehearsed, rather than natural and elemental.  The fight scene between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin was very impressive, as much for the choreography of it as its place in the show and how it was staged.  The highlights of the show are very stunt-driven and kids will love it.

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, photo by Jacob Cohl, © 2010 8 Legged Productions, LLC.

 

THE STORY reminded me of the 2002 Spider-Man movie.  In this version, the themes are bullying, global warming, evolution, super armies, yellow journalism, the death of print by pixels, and various other modern-day issues.  Our hero isn’t entirely super – he has flaws and confidence problems, making him more human and relatable.  Our villain (the main one, anyway) isn’t entirely evil – he had a heart and a conscience, at one point, but became evil because of sorrow, disappointment, jealousy, ambition and ego.  Redemption is touched upon, but does not have a big impact on the show.  The rising and falling love stories add melodrama, as well as humanizing touches to the not-quite-real characters on stage.  If you’re a Disney fan and have seen the Aladdin show, either at the parks or on a Disney cruise ship, you’ll recognize Genie as the Green Goblin, playing to the audience and making modern-day references as jokes.

THE STAND-OUTS:  First of all, the opening scene blew me away.  Not the Peter Parker as a school boy bit, but the depiction of the myth of Arachne.  The weaving scene was breathtaking and the minor key of the Greek chorus (I think it was minor – it certainly sounded like a minor key) was haunting . . . and then it turned very dark.  If you don’t know the myth of Arachne, you might want to check it out before you take your youngsters; however, if your kids can take it in the Haunted Mansion, they’ll probably be okay here.

Arachne in SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark

Arachne in SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, photo by Jacob Cohl, © 2010 8 Legged Productions, LLC.

 

It all seemed anachronistic to me, with the fashion of the 40s and the talk of the internet and cell-phones during the film (even while characters “type” on “typewriters” on stage), though that is somewhat addressed by using the Peter Parker who became a photographer.  If you aren’t a Spider-Man comic aficionado (and I am not), I can tell you that the Peter Parker as photographer storyline didn’t appear until the 2000s, but that doesn’t really explain the fashion throw-back.  There must be something I’m missing.   There are a lot of loose threads that are never tied off, including MJ’s dad, who appears once and never again, and Viper World Wide, which was apparently only brought in to give the Green Goblin a reason for being and to have the dancers perform in ridiculous costumes (although the men danced in 40s-era military uniforms, in keeping with the fashion-styling of the show, the women’s “uniforms” consisted of military blouses over military drab shorts and leg warmers).

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, photo by Jacob Cohl, © 2010 8 Legged Productions, LLC.

 

So, if you want to “Turn Off the Dark,” turn off your thinking cap and let yourself be distracted by the action and the amazing stunts.  If you’re a U2 or Bono and the Edge fan, you’ll probably love the music, and I think everyone will watch with wonder the amazing sets and backdrops for the show.

DISCLOSURE: George Gensler received two complimentary tickets to “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark” for the purposes of this review.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.  Have you seen “Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark?”  If so, leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the Broadway production.  For more family entertainment news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.