Much has been said about the new Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark — based on the popular Marvel comic book super-hero — directed by stage and film veteran Julie Taymor, and featuring original songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge. And it’s definitely not positive, given the negative reviews that it’s already gotten — even though the musical won’t open on Broadway until next month — brought about in part by its already-ballooning budget and various mishaps. As a long-time comic book fan hoping to become a comic book writer someday, here’s what I already think of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark‘s chances of becoming a success: it ain’t gonna happen.
Successful stage musicals based on popular newspaper comic strips like Peanuts and Little Orphan Annie are one thing — but trying to do a stage musical based on a popular comic book super-hero is nothing more (and nothing less) than a crap shoot, with disastrous results. The 1966 Broadway musical It’s A Bird … It’s A Plane … It’s Superman ultimately failed because the character and its concept were not suited to the stage — unlike other forms of media, like motion pictures and TV. Also, the fact that it was a musical comedy only chapened and insulted the more serious aspects of the Superman mythos — a slap in the face to what Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster established when they created the Man of Steel in 1938. (The 1975 TV special based on the musical certainly didn’t help matters much, in terms of quality.) I guess we should be grateful that a proposed Batman musical never made it on stage –and it’s best not to imagine how it would have turned out if it had been produced.
I could give you several other reasons why Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark won’t succeed — including the fact that doing the same show several times a day will no doubt put a lot of physical and mental stress on everybody involved in the production, including the stunt people who take part in the action sequences (including Christopher Tierney, who was seriously injured while rehearsing a scene this past December) — but I’ll let other media historians explain them better than yours truly. Instead, I’ll explain why super-hero properties are better suited to film and TV than live theater — for example, one reason why the three previous Spider-Man feature films succeeded at the box office was the fact that its producers were wise enough to employ the latest in SFX technology when it came to planning the action sequences, thus preventing the possible risk of human injury when filming actually began. (The same fact holds true for the majority of the four Superman feature films starring Christopher Reeve — and to a certain degree, Superman Returns.) But what works on-screen (and on TV) doesn’t always work on-stage — unless you’ve got deep pockets and several health insurance plans that’ll help pay the more serious medical bills.
If Julie Taymor’s the talented and intelligent director that she is, she’ll probably have the common sense to actually shut down production of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark for good, before it actually opens on Broadway next month — and realize that some media properties like comic book super-heroes don’t work well on stage, especially when, in the end, the price proves to be too high, in more ways than one.
John Lavernoich is the author of the novels Code Name: Chameleons and Chameleons To The Rescue, as well as close to three dozen articles and short stories that have been published in print and on the Internet — to learn more about Mr. Lavernoich and his writing achievements, please visit his official website (http://jlavernoich2008.web.officelive.com/default.aspx), as well as his pages on Windows Live Spaces (http://cid-ef88d131988ab38f.profile.live.com), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/john.lavernoich?ref=name), MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/jlavernoich), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/JLav65).
©2011 John Lavernoich.