Various Artists

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

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Broadway productions rarely come as troubled as Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the Great White Way musical adaptation of Marvel’s silver-age comics classic. Much of the initial hubbub surrounded injuries cast members sustained when swinging over the stage or struck by stray equipment and the dismissal of celebrated director Julie Taymor, who departed from the production during the disastrous previews, each piece of gossip obscuring one key problem with the musical: the songs written by Bono and the Edge are dreadful. Relying on shopworn tropes of modern Broadway and arena rock U2, the songs are overblown yet hidebound, constricted by narrative and reined in by the melodies’ attempts to soar to the rafters. This isn’t even taking into account the silliness of the lyrics -- an inevitability in the musicalization of Spider-Man but always at its worst whenever the Green Goblin (Patrick Page) sings about his sinister plans, his slyly cynical schemes bringing to mind unfortunate memories of Bono’s Zoo TV creation MacPhisto; it’s the pure sound of these songs that is such a drag. All the verses are muddled melodic exposition, burdened by the weight of the words, leaving the choruses to flail at a hook, the two halves never adding up to a song that could stand outside the context of the show. But even within the framework of a musical these songs are a murky, turgid mess, too concerned with atmosphere and narrative to reel in a listener and ironically not offering ambience or story enough to suggest that the musical would entertain.

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