I'm fascinated by the amount of attention that "Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark" is generated. I'm not surprised, just fascinated. When was the last time a Broadway show was the subject of national press–and a joke on late-night talk shows?
The reasons for the attention are pretty clear:
1. It's the most expensive show ever produced on Broadway, doubling the cost of the one it surpassed ("Shrek: The Musical").
2. It's director Julie Taymor's first family-friendly, high-profile B'way show since "The Lion King" in 1997.
3. It's a high-tech production, which means its glitches are big and obvious.
4. We live in a time of endless internet chatter, turning reports of those first preview glitches into gossip fodder.
5. Bono and the Edge wrote the music.
6. It seems to have smart PR people behind it.
7: It's about Spider-man. Duh. (Trivia note: This isn't the first superhero musical on Broadway. Anyone remember "It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's Superman!" or, for that matter, "Starmites"?)
What frustrates me is that, at the same time, Broadway's "The Scottsboro Boys," with music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb, has announced that it is closing after only about six weeks.
No, I haven't seen it, but this is one of the few musicals currently on Broadway that isn't a revival or based on a film, familiar pop culture characters, or a song catalogue. The others on that short list? "Memphis," "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," "In the Heights" and "Next to Normal."
I understand completely that those shows have less story value for today’s media than "Spider-man." But here's hoping that the web-slinging guy, successful or not (financially or artistically), doesn't push truly original musicals further to the fringe.
(Oh, and if you can't afford tickets to "Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark," you can at least enjoy, for free, "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" starring Neil Patrick Harris. Find the first episode here.)
If you were in New York City and had the means, would "Spider-man" be your first musical choice?