U2’s ‘Spider-Man’ Caught In Tangled Web of Critical Backlash

Posted February 9, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in News

The $65 million Spider-Man: Turn Off the Lights, featuring music work from U2, faces its most powerful villain yet: the impatience of critics 

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

After suffering from a number of postponements resulting from several actors’ injuries and some mild last-minute tweaking from the producers, the Broadway production of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” which features a rock-influenced score composed by U2’s Bono and the Edge, is now facing its latest battle of survival.

An additional delay, forcing the show to open on March 15, disturbed a number of critics after already being anxious to post their review the show. This week, the critics decided to release their previews of the Julie Taymor-directed musical and universally panned it – mostly. The New York Times began their onslaught of the show – calling it “sheer ineptitude.” Others followed: The Washington Post (“a shrill, insipid mess”), the Los Angeles Times (“an artistic form of megalomania”), the Chicago Tribune (“incoherent”), New York Post (“erratic”), Variety (“sketchy and ill-formed”), New York Daily News (“in need of a lot of work”) and New York magazine (“underbaked, terrifying, confusing”).

Currently, the Broadway musical is running preliminary tests and states it isn’t fully complete, according to lead producer Michael Cohl. In the Feb. 5 issue of Billboard, he spoke about the early reviews from preview performances, “They didn’t review the ultimate show that we’ll be presenting to the public, so in that respect it’s unfair.”

“This pile-on by the critics is a huge disappointment,” said a spokesman for the show. “Changes are still being made and any review that runs before the show is frozen is totally invalid.”

The decision to post reviews before a show’s opening also violates the time-honored agreement between producers and journalists.

With groundbreaking technicalities, U2’s musical involvement and hours of aerial stunts, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Lights is being billed as the most expensive production in Broadway history; estimated around $65 million on production and weekly running costs of $1 million. If the show takes off, Cohl stated that it will take two or three years to break even. “If we sell out for a few years, we’ll be fine.”

Most of the writing press stated their reasons behind their impatience included the show’s record-breaking preview period and the high cost of tickets, which for a single seat can approach 300 dollars.

Of the glowing reviews, conservative pundit Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey had nothing but kind words for the show.

One thing’s for sure about the future of Spider-Man, Peter Parker knows a thing or two about the press. For God’s sake, he works for the stubborn skinflint J. Jonah Jamerson of the Daily Bugle. If he can handle Jamerson, he can probably handle the poor reviews.

Enclosed photos: Exclusive behind-the-scenes production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Lights

Enclosed video: Behind-the-scenes preview of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Light”, courtesy of Marvel Comics.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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