'Spider-Man' reboots on Broadway: What did they change?

Spider-Man

Image Credit: Jacob Cohl

Will the new Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark fly with Broadway crowds and critics? That was the question last night when the show swung back into the Foxwoods Theatre for its first preview performance after a three-week hiatus. (Opening night is now set for June 14.) Since its debut last fall, the $65 million-plus musical has become a pop culture punchline thanks to a series of cast injuries, technical malfunctions, and production delays — not to mention a some of the most scathing reviews in Broadway history. Then, in an unprecedented move last month, producers shut down the show for retooling following the departure of original director Julie Taymor. Composers Bono and the Edge remained on the creative team, bringing in director Philip McKinley and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to help reconfigure the production.

So what’s different about the show now? Plenty. Overall, the new Spider-Man is a far more traditional musical, having left behind most of Taymor’s more radical concepts. Gone are the guitar players on the stage wings, the Geek Chorus that narrated the action, and the story’s meta-narrative about the intersection of myth and reality. More strikingly, the second act has an entirely new storyline — a straightforward conflict between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin in lieu of a semi-mystical battle with the villainess Arachne. But that’s not all. Here’s a rundown of the show’s biggest changes.

More action: The new show includes a number of new “flying” sequences, plus more web-slinging and more scenes of Spidey bagging bad guys.

More exposition: The critically maligned Geek Chorus is indeed gone, so dialogue has been added to clarify major plot points and character motivation.

More Goblin, less Arachne: Arachne, a major character in the original show, has been reduced to a small supporting role. She’s now a guardian angel figure who appears only a handful of times. Her Furies, the minions who performed the infamous “Deeply Furious” number, have been removed entirely. Taking Arachne’s place as the show’s main evildoer is the Green Goblin, whose climactic fight with Spider-Man — which used to conclude the first act — is now the show’s finale.

New jokes: The new script takes plenty of tongue-in-cheek jabs at the media — inspired, no doubt, by the show’s spiky relationship with news outlets that have covered its troubles. J. Jonah Jameson, the fiery Daily Bugle editor, denounces bloggers and defends his newspaper by saying it’s “not the [New York] Post.” Later, the Goblin winkingly refers to himself as a “65 million dollar circus tragedy.”

Expanded characters: With Arachne out of the picture, supporting characters like Emily Osborn (the Green Goblin’s wife) and Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May have been beefed up.

A new song: While most of the musical numbers have been reworked, the only brand new song is “Freak Like Me,” a hard-edged anthem sung by the Green Goblin.

Still, not everything in the show was different. Most of Taymor’s set pieces remain intact, and the first act — which shows Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man — follows a trajectory similar to its initial version. Also back: the show’s infamous onstage malfunctions. Stage hands were frequently visible in the wings, and Patrick Page, who plays the Goblin, appeared to improvise an extended version of his ballad “I’ll Take Manhattan” at one point when Spider-Man failed to appear on cue.

For those wondering if the revamped show is better than the old one, critics aren’t expected to weigh in until June. But the new production already has at least one group of vocal supporters: After beaming through a standing ovation, the cast could be heard cheering wildly behind the curtain as the audience filed out.

Read more:
Another ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ actor sidelined due to injury
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’: Director Julie Taymor leaving day-to-day duties
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ faces sixth delay and possible exit of director Julie Taymor: Report
Julie Taymor breaks silence on ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ cast performs on Letterman
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’: Which review is the harshest?
‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ actress says ‘major changes’ are under way — EXCLUSIVE

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • bluebonnetbelle

    I have always wondered why they never had someone from Cirque involed since several of thier shows have some high flying stunts.
    I am glad to see the show moving in the right direction…Question is now what is any thing from the show are we going to see at the Tonys.

    • Brad

      Nothing will be on the Tonys this year. Expect plenty on the Tonys in 2012 when the show will be eligible for nominations.

      • bluebonnetbelle

        I know they aren’t eligible, but I am curious to see if they do a number to shut down the rumor mill in New York and to try an get some fans outside of the city excited about the show again.

      • Marcy Runkle

        It costs a lot of money to perform at the Tonys. I can’t imagine they’d do it, but they’re used to spending money at this point, so…

      • ewgirl

        Saw it. WOW DID IT SUCK – SO MUCH MORE THAN BEFORE.

    • hc

      I saw it for a second time and they did improve upon it. Sure, you can see the stage hand, the plot leaves a lot to be desired and the music is flat- but the actors/actresses are all talented, the scenery is breathtaking, and the flying is great. The show would be great for people to bring their children to because the Spidey stunt doubles tend to interact with the audience while they are setting up for their stunts when they jump to/from the different floors. Die Hard Spidey fans should avoid this unless they want a good laugh.

  • sakara

    hick tourists and pizza faced nerds will love this crapfest on broadway.

    • squareonenyc

      Pizza-faced nerds will not like this, because it does not completely stay true to the original comic book.

  • My son is also named Bort

    Well when half the cast gets injured & then other half runs for the hills, the logical thing would be to make changes.

  • LadyInque

    Closing a show to fix it isn’t really an unprecedented move. I remember “The Scarlet Pimpernel” was originally a mess on Broadway. They closed it for three nights to revamp it, and brought it back largely improved.

  • Julie Anderton

    Glad to hear that Green Goblin is the headlining villain again. Having Arachne as the main adversary was a dumb and unnecessary move: the character is far too campy, and Spider-Man already has one of the best rogues galleries in all of comicdom. Making up a new foe for the purposes of this play didn’t make any sense.

    • Bobby’s Robot

      The scene with Arachne’s minions coming to New York to buy shoes was one of the worst numbers I have seen on a Broadway stage in 30+ years of theatre-going.

  • Jon

    All this proves is that you can’t take a somewhat-known director and an iconic musician (neither of whom have Broadway-musical experience), give them all the money they want, and expect it to just simply work out because you hope it does. It’s pretty obvious Julie Taymor had a blank check and complete creative control. No one told her no, even when it literally put the lives of her actors at risk. They needed to give these people some serious guidance but egos got in the way.

    • jeffster

      In Julie Taymor’s defense, she directed the critically acclaimed, Tony Award winning musical, The Lion King, in which her inspired vision added much to the otherwise conventional Disney show. To say she has no Broadway musical experience is simply not true. She has also directed many operas.

  • Super Laundry Bag

    Kudos to “Spiderman Turn Off the Dark”!!!

  • David

    I am proud of everyone who is or has been involved with this production. From Taymor’s vision to McKinley’s passion and critical eye, to the multi-talented cast and tireless crew… audiences never lie. Standing ovations speak volumes. Break a leg (figurately speaking, of course)!

    • Michael

      Standing ovations mean nothing. The worst piece of crap gets a standing O just because the audience wants to feel they saw something worthy of their time.

  • Molly

    Awesome! I really want this musical to succeed. I hope to see it soon!

  • Jonathan Caren

    So can they re-review a show that’s already been reviewed?

  • Chris

    I suffered a concussion and a fractured elbow just reading about the show.

  • Avie

    They should’ve hired Conan to re-tool it.

  • Katie

    Saw it Friday night & LOVED it! Sure, a few miscues (seeing hands in the background, and I think that more web was to be sprayed in the final flying routes) but overall, we loved it! Don’t get the typical seats up front. Front row balcony are the best seats for this one!

  • Kim

    Wow, one of the worst shows I have ever seen. I’m a little scared of what it was like before they “fixed” it.

  • Peter

    We enjoyed the show, special effects and flying over the top. A must see it is not all things, but there is no show other than the circus that is anything like it.

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