Access Review: Past Problems Behind, 'Spider-Man' Soars On Broadway!

The cast of "Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark" during curtail call at the Broadway opening night at Foxwoods Theatre on June 14, 2011 in New York City The cast of "Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark" during curtail call at the Broadway opening night at Foxwoods Theatre on June 14, 2011 in New York City

Don’t fear the Spider!

“Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” — the often re-tooled, re-booted, re-cued and much maligned show, with music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge — has officially landed on Broadway. And even those with severe arachnophobia will find something to like.

After months of previews and postponed openings, the curtain finally came up for real on Tuesday night. Back in January, the show was a hopeless web of convuluted plot lines. The music was lost in a tangled mess. And the cast was struggling to make sense of a plot that wandered all over Manhattan.

But, after finally seeing the show (three times, in fact), it was clearly worth the wait.

In this latest version, Spidey has found his heart: the show now has as its center the romance between Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Lead actors Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano say it’s been a long haul, but it was worth it.

“We’re trying to bring more of the heart out in the show now and I think that’s what the creative team has done.The flying is still there, it’s still spectacular, but it really hits you on an emotional level now,” Carney told Access.

The score hits you too: it’s classic U2, chock full of The Edge’s signature guitar work. The soaring centerpiece, “Rise Above,” is a song that mixes a yearning for redemption with an underlying fear of failure. Can Spidey save the world from the Green Goblin? Will he get the girl? Other songs include the danceable “A Freak Like Me Needs Company” and “Bouncing Off the Walls,” a perfectly titled tune that describes the aftermath of the mysterious spider bite that sets the whole story in motion. I actually prefer the score to the band’s last studio album.

The production adds a visual element more often seen at a rock concert than on Broadway- mixing comic book rhetoric (Pow! Wham! Smash!) with a cleverly integrated video system that allows the Green Goblin to embrace his inner evil self and share it with the audience. Actor Patrick Page never disappoints as the dastardly doctor-turned-super villain. Each of the three times I saw the show, his part seemed to have been expanded and his musical moments clearly connected with the audience.

Tuesday night’s big Broadway premiere saw the show’s original director, Julie Taymor, join the cast and producers on stage for the curtain call. After a tumultuous tug of war between Taymor and U2, peace, it seems, is now at hand. Taymor embraced the Irish composers and expressed her happiness to reunite with the cast and crew.

“It’s been a long haul. I’ve spent a lot of my life on this show and I’m very happy to see it through,” she told Access.

As for all of the pre-opening jokes, Bono admits, “It’s been a humbling experience to realize how much we had to learn. But wow! What a sense of achievement tonight.”

Despite the pre-show injuries, there’s more flying than ever — but no one gets hurt, they seem to have finally gotten all of the wizardy under control. And you can’t help but feel a thrill as Spider-Man and the Goblin battle it out just a few dozen feet above your head!

Tuesday night’s opening show received an 11-minute standing ovation and The Edge was clearly pleased.

“We feel the show has come through the fire. It’s what we hoped to achieve - a show that will ulimately move people,” he told Access.

Still, Bono says don’t expect him or The Edge to slip into a pair of tights and go for a ride.

“We have a rule in our band. No golf or wearing tights,” he joked.

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