Saturday, September 11, 2010

A JKTS Rant: Spider-Man Debuts

Perhaps the biggest Broadway news of the week was the Good Morning, America debut of both star and song from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Yes, Reeve Carney with his band debuted a new song, "Boy Falling from the Sky," from the forthcoming musical. A few comments, if you please.

The Performer and the Performance
    Carney on Good Morning, America
  • I can definitely see Carney as angst ridden, conflicted Peter Parker. He gives off an interesting combo vibe of sexy rock star and nebbish geek. (I know there are some who are excited by this alone.) Without seeing or reading a single minute of the show or script, I can see why they picked him. With a U2 score to sing, and the necessity of believability that he can be both nerd and super hero is a hard combo to find, and I think, outwardly, at least, he fits the bill.
  • I've already heard Broadway people grousing over the style of the song... anyone who thought this would have a Jerry Herman-esque score is, well, not thinking. Those days appear to be slipping away faster and faster. They are clearly going for dark and edgy, not cartoonish and campy. You can't have it both ways. And if you do, the show will be a complete mess.
  • I think it foolish to judge one performance of one song out of context of the show and in the context of a rock singer and band performing a gig.
  • All of that said, I sincerely hope that Mr. Carney will be made to enunciate better than he did today. That could be a huge problem.

Already in Trouble?  Give us all a break!
I've already read where people have written off the show based on less than 4 minutes and zero theatrical context. And I've read about the people that "refuse to see it" because it is a "disgusting waste of money during a time of global economic crisis." You could say that about money spent on anything other than food, clothing and medicine. It isn't your money that's footing the bill. Sure, you contribute to returning that money to investors when you purchase a ticket, and it is certainly your choice not to go. But let's not condemn the entire enterprise because you have issue with its budget. Think about that the next time you order at Starbucks. Couldn't that $5 be better spent rebuilding New Orleans or building a new homeless shelter? Free medicine for the elderly?  Research to cure cancer, AIDS, and any other troubling disease?  Sure it can.

Peter and MJ:
Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano

The show's pre-opening troubles are a matter of public record.  From notorious trouble raising money, coupled with casting issues due to timing, publicly changing advertising agencies, and design delays, getting the ball even rolling has been a problem.  Hundreds of Broadway shows have gone through this and worse, but none in this age of Tweets, email blasts, Facebook and even blogs like mine.  But stop and think about it: how does anyone who isn't actually in the rehearsal hall know if the show is "in trouble"? Really. I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that rehearsals for this show are so open that anyone not directly involved could really know. The "I heard from my best friend who once sat across the aisle from Jennifer Damiano on the A Train and is now her best friend on Twitter" mentality of truth is destructive and unnecessary.

How about we let it start previewing, fix itself up and open before we already decide we hate it, huh?   How about we focus our energy on celebrating the fact that even in these tough times, new, exciting and daring shows are still opening and filling our hearts and souls with artistic nourishment?

I have always said that even if I personally hate a show, I wish everyone involved nothing but the best and long runs and happiness.  You all know my general disdain for Jersey Boys and Million Dollar Quartet, but I am thrilled that they are enjoying some success and are keeping hundreds of talented people employed.  How it turns out as far as Spider-Man goes remains to be seen.  But whether I like it or not, I wish all of them nothing but the best.

Comments?  Let me have it!  You know where.  (Only coherent, well-explained comments will be posted for this particular blog.)


  1. Yeah, I agree that you tell anything from one song out of context. When I saw La Cage aux Folles and Fela! this summer, they had a much bigger impact than seeing snippets on the Tony Awards or other shows.

    Obviously, this appearance on national television was timed for the weekend tickets go on sale. If I'm sitting at home and I'm a Spider-Man fan or I love Bono's music or I want to see a spectacle on par with The Lion King, I don't think I would have been sold.

    I just wish there'd been more of a "wow" factor, something to get me really pumped about seeing an amazing piece of theatre. If I'm planning a vacation to New York, is this something I think the whole family might enjoy? Is this the show the kids are going to clamor that they want to see? I'm just not sure it succeeded in building buzz.

    I did have trouble understanding the lyrics and I don't feel like Reeve Carney really commanded the stage. Although I realize he was singing, not acting. I dunno - the slender twentysomething with hair falling in his eyes just struck me as a little too much dreamy teen idol. He's definitely not your comic book star. I don't know how an angst-ridden, conflicted Peter Parker will play.

    I still want to see it. I'm still interested in anything Julie Taymor and Bono come up with. And I always wish every show the best. I think there ought to be as many different styles of music on Broadway as possible.

    But from a purely marketing standpoint, I have to wonder whether the segment a) got people talking about Spider-Man the musical or b) led many people to buy tickets.

  2. Couldn't have said it better, myself!

  3. Esther -

    Always glad to have you weigh-in on a topic! And you are also very correct about the opportunity not being taken full advantage of. It is a shame. Of course, we both have a much different vantage point than the powers that be at the show, so who knows why they did what they did or didn't do?

    The difference with your opinion and many others I've read is that 1) it is balanced - you say what you like and dislike; and 2) you back your opinions with rational reasons. I guess my main reason for this rant is that I get so tired of wholesale dismissal of shows and moody gossip mongering. I hate it and expect to be called on it should I ever do it myself.



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