Ryan loves musicals. The Lion King. Annie. Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Happily, I didn’t have to take him to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark to convince him that Broadway is awesome.
But it did take seeing Spiderman on Broadway to convince me that superheroes are awesome.
I kinda really liked it. I kinda want to see it again. I kinda want to take the backstage tour. And I kinda have a huge crush on Peter Parker.
The story was compelling enough; simple for kids and for non-superhero fan moms like me, with a romance you can’t help but root for and heroic struggles that add suspense and some moral grounding. I’ve never sat through the movie and I’ve ignored most of the superhero stuff brought into our home, so frankly the story was somewhat fresh for me. The music, written by U2′s Bono and The Edge, helped move the story along – it didn’t blow me away, but Ryan begged for the soundtrack, so we’ll see if it grows on me.
The scenes and sets are stunning, from the very first scene where the full stage, from floor to ceiling is turned into a loom where bright yellow strips are woven into cloth. Peter’s high school, the lab where he gets the spider-bite that gives him arachnid powers and New York’s bridges and skyscrapers are portrayed through traditional and untraditional sets, all uniquely angled, and in enormous bold and bright video displays.
And when Spider-Man soared through the theatre, landing just steps from our seats a few rows back on the balcony (close enough for him to give Ryan a thumbs-up before launching again), I understood why the show was so ridiculously costly to produce (both in dollars – some $65M – and in cast injuries). Check out the show’s website which smartly shows the three viewing angles of the acrobatics from different seating sections, not to mention the catchy leitmotif (or string of musical notes) that plays each time Spider-Man takes flight. If you come only for the flying, you will not be disappointed. I was sitting on the edge of my seat during the second-half flying scenes, maybe even more like a little kid than the little kid I brought along.
Impressively (and gratefully), the production tamed down potentially frightening and violent scenes with comedic props. Bank robbers are scarecrow-like dopey bodies with stuffed heads. The ultimate fighter Peter Parker takes on in the ring in his debut night as Spider-Man is a larger-than-life man shaped inflatable. I’m much more comfortable with Spiderman pummeling a big balloon in front of my five year old than a real person. When a woman shrieks, “Help! My baby…” its an oversize cardboard baby dangling off a building that is scooped up by giant cardboard Spider-man hands. The lead villain, Green Goblin, is funny enough to not be totally terrifying, though his team The Sinister Six might have given me nightmares had Spider-Man not gotten rid of them so quickly and easily.
So what’s with the subtitle, “Turn off the Dark”? I still don’t really know, but with often repeated messages like “Rise Above” and “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility,” here’s my guess: Spiderman and Green Goblin start off as regular people with regular challenges, then become mutants with bug powers. When things go wrong, they each have a choice: go to the dark side and create havoc and conflict in the world, or turn off the dark, and be good! When my sleep-deprived wannabe-Manhattanite whined or started getting testy the rest of the weekend, I just reminded him to Turn Off the Dark. I like the metaphor and think it will work on my superhero (and I bet I’ll try the Great Power/Responsibility line too).
Gotta love Broadway for finding the five-year old boy superhero worship in me.
The show is appropriately recommended for ages six and up; attendance by kids under 4 is strongly discouraged.