4 Corners - Himanshu Sitlani catches 'Spiderman - Turn Off the Dark' in New York


Last month, I mentioned that I along with the likes of Sid Kumar saw Spiderman The Musical on Broadway. A play which wasn’t on our 'must watch' list. But Q really wanted to see it and because he couldn't he requested us to see it. We managed to get a 35% discount on tickets courtesy TKTS and seats in the 6th row from stage, and so on our second last day in New York, we saw ‘Spiderman – Turn Off the Dark’.

The production playing at Foxwood Theatre has been four years in the making and is touted as the most expensive stage show ever. It has already created a record for the most number of preview performances before a show actually opens, which according to reports is still a while away. The delays have been because of the failure to sort out technical issues and injuries to multiple cast members.

The play started promisingly. Four teenagers are argue about the origin story of Spiderman. The only girl of the group, Miss Arrow, draws upon the Greek myth of Arachne – the most gifted of weavers, Arachne's bragging angered the goddess Athena, who challenged her to a duel at the loom. Arachne won, and out of spite, Athena destroyed her work, leading Arachne to hang herself. Athena, though, took pity on her and, as Arachne hung dying, transformed her into the world's first spider, who would live and weave forever. The rest of plot follows the pattern as seen in the Spiderman films. Geeky Peter Parker who’s in love with Mary Jane, gets bitten by the radioactive spider at Prof. Osborn’s lab and gets superhero powers. After the death of Uncle Ben in a car accident, Peter Parker decided to become Spiderman. Few things were modified to weave Arachne’s character into the play like Arachne being the one to give Peter Parker his Spiderman costume. Other departures from the plot were when Prof. Osborn (who believes Spiderman was a product of someone stealing his research), conducts an experiment on himself, which goes wrong, accidently killing his wife and thus becomes The Green Goblin. Good vs Bad scene happens and the Goblin is killed. This was Act 1. Decent fun.

Act 2 - Spidey defeats the Sinister 6 (which included a made up super villain called Swiss Miss who was made of metal…don’t ask!!). At this point Arachne keeps appearing in Peter's dreams. In order to free her from her curse, Spiderman must defeat and kill her. But Parker, facing losing Mary Jane and also suffering economic hardships can't balance his life and being Spiderman and decides to stop being the superhero. Arachne thus creates the illusion of a returning Green Goblin and Sinister 6 and forces Peter to return as Spiderman. After Arachne kidnaps Mary Jane, Peter returns as Spiderman defeats Arachne but does not kill her. Arachne commends Spidey on not doing so but still receives her break from the curse (still figuring out how and why!) and the play ends happily.

While Act 1 was fun, Act 2 was quite a disappointment. Sid Kumar struggled to keep awake during Act 2 until THE INCIDENT! During the fight sequence between Arachne and Spiderman, there was a technical problem where the actor playing Spiderman’s cable had some issues and he was stranded in mid air. There was a pause and an announcement about a mechanical problem and we will be back shortly. But was heart warming was that the 1000 odd audience members were very supportive of the entire thing and cheered for the actors. The actors too, not breaking character took it in their stride and passed some snide remarks to each other and resumed exactly where the scene broke off. Truly one of the moments you were glad to be in the theatre.

Oh yes, the flying aspect of the show was quite fun. Using the spidercam technology we see in cricket matches, the actors flew around quite a number of times to the screams of children and amusement of adults. I must say its quite something too see actors flying over your head and across the theatre and to and fro from balcony to stage.

Two particular scenes stood out. The origin story of Arachne, the creation of a weave as a backdrop, a suspended woman who hangs herself and out of nowhere gets these spider legs was really really beautiful. The other happened after Arachne kidnaps Mary Jane, the montage of Spiderman trying to get his powers back, was a dance sequence where 7-8 actors were in Spiderman costumes.

Some scenes however were just, for a lack of a better term, appalling. Peter after getting his powers goes to the wrestling match to earn some quick bucks. The wrestler was nothing more than an 8 feet blow up doll. Even some of the sets were nothing more than cardboard cutouts. The costumes overall went from good to out right bad. While Spiderman and Green Goblin were good, I cant even explain how weak the Sinister 6 costumes were.

The music of the show was disappointing. Which is more surprising considering it was done by Bono and The Edge from U2. The theme song of the play ‘Rise Above’ was the only song that we remembered from the evening.

I know I've been nothing but negative about most aspects of the show. But I would still suggest that if you do get a chance to watch this show please do, because it is still a decent evening and yes you do expect a lot more considering its Spiderman on stage. But if you were like me and Sid who did see it but weren’t expecting to be blown away, it was fun. Spiderman and Green Goblin flying around and fighting in the aisles. Its your traditional comic book with all the ‘POW’S’ and ‘SPLAT’ coming to life. And whatever its worth, it will be talked about in years to come and I can say, I saw ‘that’ play.