“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” is flying high over Broadway as New Yorkers and tourists line up to get into the Foxwoods Theatre at 213 W. 42nd St. in Times Square to see this summer’s family-centered stage blockbuster. And what a unique spectacle for children as well as grownups whose inner children remain eternally young at heart.
A big buzz heralded the highly anticipated June 14 opening of this musical that features the creative consultation of Philip William McKinley and original direction by the Tony Award-winning Julie Taymor, who, along with Glen Berger and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, co-wrote the book. The music and lyrics are by the 22-time Grammy Award winners Bono and the Edge.
Inspired by the Marvel comic books, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” spins a tight, tangled web. It is the story of Peter Parker (Reeve Carney), a nerdy science whiz whose humdrum teen life changes like magic when he is transformed into Spider-Man after being bitten by a genetically engineered spider.
Guided by the spirit of the queen mother spider, Arachne (T.V. Carpio), a mythical human character who was at the top of her game as a weaver before she was turned into a spider for outshining the jealous Pallas Athena, the Grecian goddess of wisdom and crafts, Parker embraces his new role as superhero as a way to make up for the murder of his Uncle Ben (Ken Marks), who raised him. Embracing the motto “With great power comes great responsibility,” Parker/Spider-Man begins his work as a superhero while simultaneously working as a photographer at the Daily Bugle, documenting who else? His alter-ego, Spider-Man! (Talk about a tangled web.)
And there is certainly a lot about Spider-Man to document! For starters, there is the captivating aerial choreography by Daniel Ezralow that had the audience craning their necks as they temporarily turned away from the stage to stare up at the high ceiling, gazing to their right, left or behind them to take in the fantastic aerial feats of the various twirling, whirling, stuntmen in their red and blue webbed Spider-Man costumes as they flew across the Foxwoods Theatre.
Back on stage, the clever scenic design by George Tsypin glorified various New York landmarks such as the Chrysler building and the Brooklyn Bridge, the latter complete with a moving vehicle. Another attention-getter was the transitory set of main streets that converted to side streets and an upscale neighborhood, which, after a few blocks turned into the less affluent area where Parker lives with his Aunt May (Isabel Keating) and Uncle Ben (Ken Marks). Next door to them, in a very dilapidated house, Parker’s dream girl Mary Jane Watson (Jennifer Damiano) resides with her dejected, unemployed, alcoholic father (Jeb Brown).
The cross-pollination of reality and fantasy characters artfully weave in and out of the thick-spun yet singularly formed thread of these two worlds. Here, with a flick of a switch, the once honorable scientist Norman Osborn (Patrick Page) transforms into the Green Goblin, the villainous arch-enemy of Spider-Man. He also mutates his former employees, turning them into his evil peons, the Sinister Six.
Award-winning costume designer Eiko Ishioka also brilliantly crosses the lines with fashions from various periods that help give a wonderfully multigenerational feel to the show.
The Daily Bugle boss J. Jonah Jameson’s (Michael Muheren) pin-striped suit and garments worn by the reporters are reminiscent of the ’40s, while Aunt May and Uncle Ben’s conservative, muted earth hues and lines connote the ’60s. Ishioka’s contemporary trendy, preppy and colorful hip-hop gear serves to differentiate between the various social classes of the students as well as depict the diversity of New York City.
Just like the varying array of costumes, there is something for everyone to goggle at in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” presented by lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris. Also producing are Land Line Productions, Hello Entertainment/David Garfinkle/Tony Adams, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Norton Herrick and Herrick Entertainment, Billy and Fernando Rovzar, Stephen Bronfman, Jeffrey B.
Hecktman, Omneity Entertainment/Richard G. Weinberg, James L. Nederlander, Terry Allen Kramer, S2BN Entertainment, Jam Theatricals, the Mayerson/Gould/Hauser/Tysoe Group, Patricia Lambrecht and Paul McGuinness, by arrangement with Marvel Entertainment. And as always, the wonderful casting by Telsey + Co. is totally on point.
And with the close of the curtain we are pleased to present a Casting Pearls Award (CPA) to the entire cast of “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.” Bravo! Bravo!
P.S. You get to meet the nicest people at “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”-Casting Pearls certainly did. Sitting in the same row as me and my guest, the acclaimed director/educator, Clinton Turner Davis, were Dr. Joseph Webb, an anesthesiologist from Dallas, and Dennis M. Day, an attorney from Detroit.
With a twinkle, their inner children turned on the light as they posed for a photo in the lobby of the Foxwoods Theatre before returning to their respective cities to tell everyone about the high-flying, groundbreaking $65 million Broadway baby “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”
The Casting Pearls series pays tribute to the brilliant professional talent of stage and screen.