Turn Off The Dark,' the most expensive Broadway musical ever. Producers delayed the official opening of the play three times because of safety issues
It takes a good deal for a theater production to make a splash in entertainment, as it has to compete with all the movies and music in the headlines. “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” has the potential.
First, it’s the most expensive production in Broadway history, at $65 million (The budget of “Jurassic Park” was $63 million). Second, it’s got Bono and The Edge of U2 composing the music, and Broadway mainstay Julie Taymor directing (she also directed “The Lion King” musical and the film “Across The Universe”). Third, it’s about Spider-Man.
Unfortunately, its splash is turning out to be a splat.
The New York Times reported technical difficulties and injuries involving the musical’s aerial sequences have caused the opening date to be moved back three times. A stunt double broke both of his wrists, the actress playing new villain Arachne suffered a concussion and was forced to pull out, and another cast member fell more than 20 feet into the orchestra pit when his harness came unattached.
All the hype coupled with the following bad news has made critics skeptical already. I’m one to agree with the cynics. One way all of these problems could have been avoided was to think about the subject matter. Sure, superheroes are big right now, but Spider-Man wasn’t the best choice for a Broadway musical. Here are some heroes that might have been a better choice.
This one is obvious. Batman’s lack of actual powers means you don’t need the technical shenanigans of “Turn Off The Dark.” He might swoop in on a zipline, but he’s not going to have any aerial battles.
Batman’s villains are relatively simple in comparison to Spider-Man’s enemies. The Joker has face paint. The Green Goblin flies on a hovercraft. Two-Face has one side of his face mutilated. Dr. Octopus has a bionic suit with robotic arms. You get the point.
Batman’s story gives him a solid emotional background as well. Peter Parker did lose his uncle, but Batman lost both of his parents. That’s tough.
The only downside to a Batman theater production would be the constant comparisons to the Christopher Nolan movie series, which sets a pretty high standard. Critics and fans both love the films. If the play doesn’t live up to the film, critics would exaggerate any shortcomings to the nth degree.
A regular joe who transforms into a monster when he gets angry. As Bruce Banner would tell you, turning into a 10-foot green guy with a temper causes all sorts of social issues, especially on the romantic front. That’s the stuff that dramas thrive on. Plus, the same play has already proven a success; it’s called “Jekyll and Hyde.”
I’ll grant you that The Hulk requires more special effects to pull off than Batman, but it’s totally possible. If you’ve seen Lady Gaga live, you know that she’s accompanied onstage by a “fame monster,” a 20-foot-tall animatronic entity. Use strobe lights and fog machines to give the actor Banner a chance to get off stage and replace him with The Hulk.
OK, maybe not X-Men per se. I envision this one as one of those plays in which there are only two characters who have extremely deep and poetic conversations throughout the course of a two-hour performance, such as Arthur Miller’s “I Can’t Remember Anything.” I had Professor Xavier and Magneto in mind.
The elder statesmen of the two mutant sides could discuss racism and prejudice in modern society, a common theme in the comics and movies. And, for added effect, the two could make the props fly around so their chats never get too boring.
Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, the duo who play the characters onscreen, are already seasoned stage actors, so it’s not that far of a stretch.
Admittedly, the idea of a Spider-Man musical is appealing. But a $65 million production for a show that won’t be able to adapt to stages outside of New York (if it can ever get off the ground on Broadway, no pun intended) leaves something to be desired.