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Critics slam 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark'

Posted by Don Aucoin  February 8, 2011 10:58 AM

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     Spider-Man has more to fear than the Green Goblin.

     Namely, the barbs of theater critics. A raft of prominent critics weighed in today on "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark,'' the much-ballyhooed, much-troubled $65 million Broadway musical. The verdict was generally withering.

      Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote: "The sheer ineptitude of this show, inspired by the Spider-Man comic books, loses its shock value early. After 15 or 20 minutes, the central question you keep asking yourself is likely to change from 'How can $65 million look so cheap?' to 'How long before I'm out of here?' '' 

      The Washington Post's Peter Marks described "Spider-Man'' as "170 spirit-snuffing minutes,'' adding that director Julie Taymor, a native of Newton, "left a few items off her lavish shopping list: 1: Coherent plot. 2: Tolerable music. 3: Workable sets.'' Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times called the show "a teetering colossus that can't find its bearings as a circus spectacle or as a rock musical.'' The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney called it "an ungainly mess of a show that smacks of out-of-control auteurial arrogance.''

     Other reviews were more mixed. Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post called it "an inconsistent, maddening show that's equally parts exciting and atrocious.''  Scott Brown of New York magazine wrote that "Spider-Man'' is "by turns hyperstimulated, vivid, lurid, overeducated, underbaked, terrifying, confusing, distracted, ridiculously slick, shockingly clumsy, unmistakably monomaniacal and clinically bipolar. But never, ever boring.''

     In his review, the New York Times' Brantley acknowledged that the show is still in previews, which are traditionally considered works-in-progress, and doesn't officially open until March 15. The opening date has been repeatedly pushed back as Taymor and the show's producers have struggled to cope with technical problems that have resulted in several injuries to cast members. But the delays have ignited controversy because audiences have been paying top dollar to see "Spider-Man'' in its still-evolving form and without the benefit of reviews.

    Expressing the apparent view of other critics who chose to weigh in now, Brantley wrote that "since this show was looking as if it might settle into being an unending work in progress,'' he opted to review it "around Monday, the night it was supposed to have opened before its latest postponement.'' From what he saw, Brantley wrote, "Spider-Man'' is "so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair.''

        Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for "Spider-Man,'' told the Associated Press that: "This pile-on by the critics is a huge disappointment. Changes are still being made and any review that runs before the show is frozen is totally invalid.''  

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Culture Desk is a blog that serves to highlight both local and national stories of interest in the worlds of art, music, movies, TV, theater and more. Most items are written by writers and editors from The Boston Globe arts and culture staff.

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