When considering this new musical, which isn’t really being billed as a musical as much as a technical extravaganza with music, there seem to be two sides of the same coin. People think it will be one of the best and most revolutionary (technically speaking) shows to hit Broadway since Phantom of the Opera OR that it will be a complete flop in every sense of the word. My opinion? I not-so-secretly want it to reach opening night and be the biggest mess of a show because I think the idea is kind of absurd. Regardless of my desire to see it fail (its opening date being postponed by 10 months made my inner devil smile) I’m obviously still intrigued by it, and any show opening means hundreds of people being employed, which is good. The intrigue is step 1 to this shows financial success, something this show MUST have if it is to survive especially as it has Broadway’s most expensive budget (upwards of $48 million) and a rumored weekly running cost of well over $1 million.
A Broadway show about Spider-Man sounds like there’s no way it could be good but when Julie Taymor (the woman responsible for “The Lion King” on Broadway) is directing and the music is being done by U2‘s Bono and Edge, it appears that this show would HAVE to be good (I actually like the rock-feel the 20 or so seconds of music on the website has). So why does Broadway need this show? In my opinion, whether Turn Off the Dark is a good show or not won’t matter in the beginning. Yes this show needs to play to a sold-out house at the Hilton (one of, if not the biggest house on Broadway) for over a decade to even recoup its initial investment. And yes, the chance that all the bad press leading up to its supposed November 2010 opening may be creating an unfair negative bias against the show in the critics’ eyes and minds. The fact remains that Spider-Man on Broadway will be the “biggest” show to ever be on Broadway and that will draw people to the Box Office.
People who can afford to do so will snap up tickets quickly to this show because they want to confirm that the show is either amazing or awful. Even if word spreads that it is bad people will still want to know how they managed to create such an iconic comic-book universe live onstage. Not only will NYC residents who already see theatre purchase tickets but theatre-goer naysayers will go in the hopes that it is a mess of a show and they can say “see, I told you so.” Comic-book “nerds” will wait in line for tickets simply to see their hero fly through the theatre battling the Green Goblin. Tourists will pay to see it based on name recognition alone and, assuming the marketing/advertising team does their job well, families, specifically men and their sons, an often forgotten and underrepresented demographic for Broadway, will flock to it simply because they will finally have a show that they can enjoy apart from The Lion King.
Whether Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is a masterpiece or a piece of garbage remains to be seen. My own feelings aside, its presence alone on the Great White Way will revolutionize not only how theatre-goers see theatre but also who incorporates Broadway into their entertainment psyche. Furthermore it will change how producers and directors attack a show. This show is clearly a risk (hopefully not a costly one) but if it does pay off I believe we will definitely see a new type of Broadway musical; a bigger type of Broadway musical especially once the economy reaches pre-crash levels and people become comfortable in spending money again. If Spidey is successful, hopefully it will give creative teams the courage to helm shows (both adaptations and original works) that are truly dazzling and over the top while keeping the integrity of story-telling and originality. In a few months we shall see if this absurd idea (IMO) coupled with this incredible creative team can become the greatest show to come along in many a moon… Or perhaps the Hilton will sit empty until the next revival of Ragtime…