I’m going to start off this article by admitting a bias: I love musicals.
I love ‘em. Everything about them. The music, the theatricality, the stories, just everything.
But that’s not to say I love every musical. When they’re bad, they’re really bad.
Recently, we’ve come to learn that stories centered around vampires make terrible, terrible musicals. Dracula, Lestat, and Dance of the Vampires have proven to us that while bloodsuckers are fun to watch on the screen, they don’t necessarily translate to semi-operatic theatrics.
Don’t sing, Lestat. Just kill people.
But what of the superhero genre? Does that stand a chance?
A lot of people are hoping the answer is yes, including director Julie Taymor, who found Broadway triumph with her radical adaptation of The Lion King, and Bono and The Edge of U2, who wrote the score.
So far, there has been only one other mounting of a superhero musical, at least to my knowledge. The show in question was called It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … it’s Superman, which originally ran for a mere 129 performances in 1966.
And while there have been rumors in the past few years of a Broadway version of Batman, they remain just that: rumors.
Nonetheless, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is set to open on Broadway on December 21st, after being delayed numerous times and suffering major cast changes — which once, but no longer, included Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming.
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess whether the show will be a hit or a flop. Taymor is a visionary director, and she certainly knows her way around big special effects. What’s more, the director seems to have a true respect for the material. In an article for the New York Times, Taymor said, “The singing and the drama and the emotionality, that comes from Peter Parker’s conflicts — how does he have a regular life, a girlfriend. Those are the traumas that cause the songs to happen. When it’s Spider-Man flying, it’s action.”
But then there’s the music. While I think few can argue that Bono and The Edge know how to write a hit song every now and then, the one song that has premiered so far was met with a tepid response from the fan community. A few weeks ago, the band Carney, fronted by Reeve Carney (the man set to play Peter Parker) debuted the song, titled “Boy Falls from the Sky,” on Good Morning America.
While the song does admittedly have a catchy hook, Carney sings like the rock musician he is, as opposed to a Broadway singer. Right now he’s untested as to whether he can handle belting out songs for two hours eight times a week with little time for his voice and throat to recuperate.
And let’s be honest — Carney reads a little too emo, doesn’t he?
There’s no doubt the production values will be impressive, as Taymor has never shied away from spectacle. And who knows? Bono and The Edge may surprise us with their versatility when we hear the final score. But the best part of the Spider-man mythos is Peter Parker himself, which means the entire production rests on Carney’s shoulders.
I’m reserving judgment until I see the finished product. Hey, it can’t be any worse than Spider-man 3, right?