June 1st, 2013 I walk into the Foxwood Theater with my mother and grandmother, excited yet skeptical to witness the controversy that was Broadways Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Being a huge fan of the superhero myself, I truly was interested in how the fantastic comic books and movies would be transferred onto the stage. What I witnessed was truly incredible.
Apart from the rowdy people surrounding my third row seat complaining about how the cast kept bursting into song, Spider-Man remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and that’s really saying something! What I saw that night was every comic book and Broadway lovers dream come true, and actual, live comic book on stage in the flesh! The costumes, set, and dialogue were clearly inspired by the ingeniousness that was, in my opinion, Stan Lee’s greatest creation.
After talking with my mother and grandmother who attended the show with me, I was utterly astounded that they didn’t like the show. They complained about the quality of the set and how cheesy the dialogue was. It occurred to me that they completely missed the entire premise and theme of the show. So many people walked in expecting something that was identical to the trilogy starring Toby Maguire. What was really happening was a unique way of story telling that had never been accomplished.
When I say the costumes and sets were inspired by comic books, I really mean it. Looking at Peter Parker’s costume in detail from the opening scene, I was confused about what was on it. There was a strange pattern of black streaks running across the shirt diagonally in no particular order. I quickly realized what they were, wrinkles! Not real wrinkles, but “drawn” wrinkles like they have on, you guessed it! Comic book characters outfits! The same thing was going on with the set. They had shadows and cracks physically drawn onto the surfaces. They were also made at funny angles, as if they were drawn. They didn’t look 3-D and you didn’t realize they were until Peter was lying down on his bed.
Another aspect about the set that my family didn’t quite understand was Peter’s bedroom during the “Bouncing Off the Walls” scene where Peter literally does flips in the air, pushing off the walls. The walls were a sort of bouncy tarp, a bit like a trampoline, held by cast members. They shook and jumped up and down, making it look very un-wall like. But for the chaos of the scene in which Peter discovers his powers, it’s quite fantastic. Another thing they didn’t like about that scene was how obvious the cable and harnesses were. I think they had expectations a little too high where they thought Peter would be doing 360 flips without any form of visible cables. For a show this stunt heavy, it’s understandable that they’d go for some extremely sturdy and visible cables rather than flimsy, invisible belts. I’d certainly prefer safety over hidden magic.
All of this was completely amazing to see. That and the fact that at any given moment, whenever you saw the red and blue uniform of the Spider-Man, there was a possibility that he’d soar over your head and land in the balcony. No but seriously, there was an announcement pre-show that if you saw the actually Spider-Man costume, you HAD to be sitting down because that could very well mean that someone was about to take flight. You’d think sitting so close to the stage and having to do a complete 180 a few times to check out the fighting action would get annoying. Well I really didn’t mind! It was like an actual aerial light above NYC where if you wanted to see what was going on, you need to get your rubberneck ready to spin!
The details of the comic book and the costumes (as I mentioned in an early article of mine, the Spider-Man costume had a blue and red pattern that would be what human and spider DNA would look like combined. WOW!), the fight choreography, the music, the actors, the acting! EVERYTHING about this show was fantastic and utterly underrated. I’ll miss you Spider-Man! I’m so glad I got to see you before you went.
I’ll miss you Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark! I’m so glad I got to see you before you went.