'Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark' Deserved More Credit

Patrick Connolly

  • OnStage Columnist

A Spider-Man musical.

Let me repeat that again: A Spider-Man musical. 

Do you honestly attempt to find anything good to come out of it?

Well, the majority of the theatergoing public didn’t seem to think so. Even after the news reports regarding all of those infamous near-fatal injuries, the show was not well-received critically.

Not only were the songs panned for their lack of imagination and wit, but the show’s atmosphere was panned as well, with critics saying that the show belongs more to a theme park than the Great White Way.

Not that those criticisms were wrong. The songs are not Sondheim-level quality in the slightest, and the show plays out like a fast-food spectacle than something that provides food for thought.

But sometimes, I need a little fast food in my life. More of the Wendy’s kind, if anything.

Yes, readers, I seem to be one of the few souls on the planet that actually enjoyed Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark for what it was. And what was it exactly? A darn good time, if you ask me.  

Call me a sucker for spectacle, but there was just something magical about seeing Spider-Man fly over the heads of the audience in the Orchestra section of the theater. When moments like that occurred throughout the show, I felt as if I was eight years old again, watching the Sam Raimi adaptation of Spider-Man in theaters for the first time. It was also especially thrilling when Spider-Man was fighting the Green Goblin (PATRICK PAGE!!!!) during the climax of the show; there were stunt people who dressed up as “Spider-Mans”, and they would pop out of nowhere in the theater, as if the famous superhero was using his Spidey-senses to great effect. It was a ton of fun to watch. 

But somehow, the spectacle wasn’t just there to provide the thrills. Just seeing Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson have a conversation in a Spider-like web at night was a gorgeous sight to see. There’s also one scene where Peter Parker has a dream sequence that involved the actor floating as if he was in outer space. So not only did the spectacle manage to provide a ton of spellbinding thrills, but it also was sometimes beautiful to watch, and was proof that care and effort can be given to even the silliest concept.

And as much as I openly admit that the songs aren’t Sondheim-quality, there are actually a few that stand out to me. One song I specifically enjoy listening to is “Rise Above”, which takes place after the death of Uncle Ben, and I must say that it’s quite the earworm. My favorite part is hearing T.V. Carpio’s voice a minute and a half into the song; she has a voice that I could listen to for hours, and I would never get bored (I also found out she was responsible for singing a rendition of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” in Across The Universe. Extra bonus points right there).

I’m not going to claim that this was a masterpiece of musical theater; the first half-hour of the show has a few problems in the story department that somehow couldn’t be fixed in previews. But other than that, the only other disappointment I could think of was not seeing Jennifer Damiano as the original Mary Jane, though that’s because I’m one of the biggest fans of Next to Normal you could ever meet. I was thoroughly surprised by Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark; it was a highly enjoyable time at the theater that managed to make me feel like a kid again for a couple of hours. 

Now that’s something I never thought I’d say about a Spider-Man musical.