Five days after posting my review on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, in which I lay the brunt of my negative criticism on the musical’s unfathomable second half, the New York Times reports that the show is getting pushed back once again. In a Friday, December 17 article, entitled “Broadway Opening for Spider-Man Delayed Again, This Time to February,” by Patrick Healy… “Reflecting the view of some audience members who have criticized the show on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, Ms. Taymor and the producers have concluded that Act II has storytelling problems that need to be fixed.”
Now, far be for me to accept complete responsibility for Taymor and co.’s wise decision—humility prevents me from doing so—but how could the visionary not take into serious consideration the comments of one who spent a decade portraying the iconic Web-Slinging Idol of Millions?
And since I have her ear, I have a few suggestions for Ms. Taymor and her team as they work toward creating a Spider-Man musical worthy of the character:
- Stop trying to reinvent the wheel—In a mere handful of pages, Stan Lee created a hero that has become an internationally adored icon for nearly 50 years. Suck it up and accept that fact, instead of thinking you can do it better. Use the incredible talents you displayed in adapting The Lion King to the stage on the Spider-Man mythos. The excellent Act I is a perfect example, and Act II begins promisingly, but then gets sabotaged by your forced re-imagining of the Web-Slinger. Throw out your misplaced ideas and go back to the source material
- Live theater should be LIVE—No one spent a hundred-plus dollars a ticket to watch what amounts to a bad videogame. Excise the endless projected sequences of Act II and use your formidable skills in creating live action sequences worthy of a comic book hero. That’s what people expect from a live Spider-Man show. For that matter…
- Develop more web-swinging scenes—They are breathtaking and elevate the show to heights (no pun intended) never before attempted in a Broadway show. Yet, there are none… NONE… in Act II, discounting the pathetic channeling of Mary Poppins by Arachne in a throwaway moment. Plus, not once does Spidey shoot his webbing. Figure out and incorporate that into a new battle royale with the Sinister Six and you’d bang Act II up a notch from Act I and leave the audience standing. Speaking of the Dirty Half-Dozen…
- Make The Green Goblin and a slightly revised Sinister Six the main antagonists—I hadn’t mentioned Gobby’s Act II return in my review, because he only appeared on screen, a pathetic misuse of your great vision of the character, wonderfully portrayed by Patrick Page. Dump the ill-advised Swiss Miss and have the Goblin return as the leader of the Sinister Six. Currently, Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis and cabal of evildoers prove to be nothing more than illusions conjured up by Arachne. Make ’em real and stage a clever final showdown pitting our intrepid arachnid against the combined forces of evil.
- Keep Arachne a spiritual manipulator—I like the use of the Arachne mythos as you juxtapose it with Spider-Man’s. But the character loses her integrity when you make her a physical threat. Cut the insulting, campy “shoe” number and make Arachne more of an observer in the same vein as the gods in the classic Ray Harryhausen film, Jason and the Argonauts. Spidey’s ultimate triumph can also serve to finally teach Arachne humility after thousands of years in limbo and her attempt at regaining a mortal foothold through Peter Parker. This result would further elevate the Web-Slinger as hero.
I want nothing more than for Ms. Taymor and co. to succeed. After all, there is nothing more heroic than turning seeming defeat into triumph.