skygiants: Koizumi Kyoko from Twentieth Century Boys making her signature SHOCKED AND HORRIFIED face (wtf is this)
[personal profile] skygiants
As [ profile] wickedtrue, [ profile] innerbrat and I set off Saturday night to go see SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK (this title will forever be rendered in allcaps), this conversation was one that recurred a lot:

BECCA, THE EASILY ENTERTAINED: I still can't believe it's REAL. I still can't believe that SPIDER-MAN ON BROADWAY, DESIGNED BY JULIE TAYMOR, MUSIC BY BONO AND THE EDGE, is a thing that really exists!
FEATHER, THE ACTUALLY TRAINED IN THEATER: I'm warning you in advance that I am going to froth with rage a lot, and attempt to dive down to rescue the actors and stage managers from themselves, and you are going to have to restrain me. Okay? Okay.
DEBI, THE BLOODTHIRSTY: Guys? We're going to see a musical in which SOMEONE MIGHT DIE.

Well . . . nobody died! This is one thing at least that we can say for the show. The short version: the story made little sense, the music itself was often very pretty but not Broadway-ish, the lyrics were terrible, the aesthetics were spectacular but incoherent, and second act can be summed up as JULIE TAYMOR'S ID SAYS HELLO.

So the show, hilariously, begins with one of the producers shuffling awkwardly up, clearing his throat, and warning us that the show is still in previews, the show MAY have to stop in the event of UNSPECIFIED THINGS GOING WRONG, and we are not to attempt to hitch rides on any of the stunt people. We all decide that they should just hire Stan Lee to read this little blurb. "Hello, I'm Stan Lee, and the union has cracked down hard on this show. EXCELSIOR!"

The show begins! Mary Jane falls off a bridge, Spiderman does a hilarious slow-mo run to compensate for the fact that he's not allowed to jump off the bridge anymore due to people's NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES, and then we flash onto a meta-narrative of a bunch of geeks attempting to write a story about Spiderman.

At first, I am very excited about the Geek Chorus! I think meta-narrative is cool, and it seems at the beginning like Julie Taymor is trying to make some kind of statement about the way people like to pretend girl-geeks don't exist and shove them out of the narrative process, which interests me so much that I am even willing to forgive her for the fact that the girl geek doesn't geek about comic books (because GIRLS don't read those!) but instead delivers a lecture on Arachne. (Spoiler: my feelings about this will change as the show goes on.)

We pause for SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK'S version of the Arachne myth.

Stunt people: *perform a really gorgeous stunt that involves using ribbon-dancing to weave a giant tapestry*
BECCA: The aesthetics of this stunt really seem to belong in Cirque du Soleil rather than this musical, but I don't care!
GEEK GIRL: And then Athena destroyed Arachne's tapestry, and Arachne was so depressed she tried to HANG HERSELF, and Athena took pity on her and turned her into a spider to save her life!
BECCA: . . .

So I am still boggling about this by the time that we dive straight into a musical version of the Sam Raimi film. Geeky Peter - you can tell he is geeky because he wears glasses and plaid pants - gets beaten up! The bullies sing a song called "Bullying By Numbers!" It seems mostly to consist of the lyrics "Bullying By Numbers" repeated ad infinitum, but it's hard to tell.

Then Peter walks home and sings a sad song while the producers throw money all over the place. Is there a reason Peter needs to be walking on a treadmill? Is there a reason we needed to spend billions of dollars on giant mechanized rotating flats that shift to show IDENTICAL HOUSES in different colors as Peter walks by them? Do either of these add anything to the production at all? A QUESTION FOR THE AGES, but it does give us something to ponder while Peter and Mary Jane sing another sad song about their home lives that mostly just makes Peter come off like a whiner for complaining about his aunt and uncle being concerned for him while Mary Jane is abused by her dad next door.

By this point we are beginning to realize that we have spent half an hour on Peter's angst and are all kind of bored by it, so it is exciting when we are suddenly in Norman Osborn's lab, where everyone is wearing shiny silver Jetsons suits!

OSBORN: Howdy, y'all! Ah'm Norman Osborn, and this is mah wife Emily. Ah'll be chewin' all your scenery today!
EMILY: Howdy! Y'all know I wouldn't even exist if I wasn't going to be refrigerated during Osborn's dramatic transformation sequence to give him some extra fodder for the crazy, right?
BECCA: . . . is it a rule about NYC theater that all villains must be inexplicably Southern?

Then Osborn leads his shiny silver scientists in a performance of the Robot while Peter's classmates breakdance. Again we cannot understand the lyrics at all. We are gradually realizing that this will be a chronic problem. Peter is bitten by a puppet spider that drops from the ceiling and then launches into a song called "Bouncing Off the Walls" that involves him - you guessed it - bouncing off cardboard walls! (Debi noticed that each wall was actually controlled by a stuntperson. PUPPET WALLS.)

The rest of the act consists of the Sam Raimi movie flying by AT LIGHTSPEED. Peter wrestles!

(GEEK CHORUS BOYS: So he makes his costume -
GEEK CHORUS GIRL: Dude, do you really think Peter Parker has enough sewing skills to make Spiderman's costume? That is professional-level work!
BECCA: Oh my god, thank you, Geek Chorus Girl, I have been saying that FOR YEARS.)

Uncle Ben dies, which leads Peter to . . . sing a song about how everyone in power is corrupt? Then in the middle of this Arachne descends from the astral plane and drops a costume on Peter's head. Peter is going to fight crime! Yay!

J.J. Jameson appears with a Rosalind Russel knockoff and a line of secretaries who appear to have been stolen from the neighboring production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, which is puzzling given that all the teenagers dress like they're from the 80s.

Speaking of puzzling costume choices, Norman Osborn's office is invaded by Nazis in parachute pants. They goose-step and sing at him about . . . something.

(BECCA, later: I thought they were trying to get him to make them super-weapons?
FEATHER: No, I am pretty sure they were singing about losing his funding?
DEBI: Seriously, guys, I couldn't understand anything.)

Then Peter and Mary Jane sing a song about Mary Jane's ~DREAMS~ which is intercut with Osborn and Mrs. Osborn singing about their funding problems and trying out the Green Goblin suit, because Bono and the Edge have just learned that in musicals you can DO this thing with intercutting songs and are VERY EXCITED about it.

In a twist that is shocking to everyone, MRS. OSBORN DIES.

Peter proceeds to fight a bunch of stylized Muppet villains (seriously, all the villains are wearing giant Muppet heads, which is actually kind of an interesting aesthetic in a stylized-comic-sort-of-way) in a sequence that ends with GIANT CARDBOARD PETER capturing a GIANT CARDBOARD BABY that falls from the sky. Every so often the GIANT CARDBOARD GREEN GOBLIN sticks his head out from the other side of the stage and waggles his tongue. Occasionally stuntmen in Spidermen outfits zoom around the sky, slap hands with the audience and pose. We are all very impressed by them, especially since each Spider-stuntperson emanates about twice the charisma of the poor kid playing Peter.

The Goblin steals a piano, apparently for the sole purpose of chewing the scenery on it and singing a song about how he will DESTROY MANHATTAN. He seems to have such fun chewing the scenery that we don't mind at all; besides, it is the clearest and most explicable song in the musical so far! Then there is a fight involves some really impressive stunts - Spiderman is riding through the Green Goblin's back in midair at one point - and also a giant upside-down cutout of the Chrysler building for reasons that are inexplicable to us, but hey, it's dramatic. Less dramatic is the tiny doll-figure of Spiderman that gets dangled down in the middle of the stage for a while as the scenery rotates before some of the stunt-people thankfully take up the slack.

Spiderman wins! Mary Jane is saved! The Geek Chorus high-five, pleased with their own genius storytelling! Arachne appears in a giant plastic thorax and sings a song! She has only four legs; we are pretty sure some of them fell off.


So far, we are actually cautiously pleased. Many things are inexplicable and the pacing is terrible, but the stunt work really is impressive, a lot of the aesthetics are cool, and they seem to have cut the most dangerous stunts.

We have NO IDEA what is in store for us in Act II, otherwise known as JULIE TAYMOR'S ID GONE WILD.

GEEK CHORUS GIRL: So now, Spiderman must face the ultimate enemy -
GEEK CHORUS BOY: YES! A Nazi scientist made out of MUTANT BEES.
GEEK CHORUS OTHER BOY: What about the Lizard -

Reader, I will confess, I cracked up. The Geek Chorus all set to squabbling about Spiderman villains, which culminates in A LITERAL VILLAIN FASHION SHOW. The Sinister Six, some of whom are actually Spiderman villains and some of whom are just made up because Julie Taymor enjoys giant cardboard costumes, parade down the catwalk and strut their stuff. The best costume is probably the Lizard, who has the standard giant Muppet head and then sprouts an inflatable lizard head from his stomach a la Alien. Spiderman stylistically defeats them all and then stars in a sad montage, again stolen straight from the Raimi film, about how he can't have a normal life or make it in time for Mary Jane's play because of all the Spider-stuff he has to do.

This is the point at which Arachne descends from the astral plane and they have some midair sex.


Sadly, having astral sex with Arachne makes Peter late for MJ's play! He rejects the offer of eternal spider-sex and dashes off, Mary Jane sings a song about being disappointed, and Peter throws away his costume. The Geek Chorus appears once more:

GEEK CHORUS GIRL: So you see, Peter's ultimate enemy is -
FEATHER, BECCA AND DEBI, IN THE BALCONY: Himself! You're going to talk about how the ultimate enemy is himself, right?
EVERYBODY ELSE: . . . . ??????????

Arachne sings a song that can be summed up essentially as: SON, I AM DISAPPOINT.

Peter takes MJ out dancing! He is a new man! He's not doing that stupid hero stuff anymore! Then there is a BLACKOUT and the GREEN GOBLIN is back and SO ARE THE SINISTER SIX and there are giant videoscreens everywhere on which all of the villains, including my homeboy the Nazi scientist made out of mutant bees, are doing GIANT SHIMMYING DANCE STEPS, and PARIS IS BURNING, THE EIFFEL TOWER IS FALLING DOWN, TIMES SQUARE IS COVERED IN BLOOD, J.J. JAMESON'S 1950'S SECRETARIES ARE FREAKING OUT, ALL THE VILLAINS WANT SPIDERMAN TO COME OUT AND PLAY. Etc., etc. (Strangely, despite talking a lot about global carnage, they don't show any cities being destroyed except for New York and Paris. Perhaps Julie Taymor just really has it in for the Eiffel Tower?)

Meanwhile Peter Parker sits in his apartment with MJ and whines.

I am getting very bored by him, but then we are distracted again by a lot of noise from the balcony where we are sitting, as the poor woman playing Arachne, in her giant plastic thorax with giant dangling legs, gets carefully shuffled down the aisle by stunt people and loaded up into the aerial harness, and I am too busy feeling so sorry for that poor woman to be bored by anything.

Arachne flies down from the sky, legs a-flailing - by this point she has six, so, you know, getting closer - and summons her Furies and a whole ton of shoes.

BECCA: . . . I don't think the word 'furies' means what you think it means.

Arachne and the Furies-okay-well-whatever then sing a song about shoes, because GOD FORBID a supervillainness have more important concerns.

(FEATHER, later: Okay, I love shoes passionately and I was offended by that.)

The Furies do some very troubling sexy stripper dances with their eight plastic-but-sexy legs in high heels and sing "Can you resist a spider kiss?" ad infinitum. Arachne goes to seduce J.J. Jameson!

J.J.: How did you get in here?
ARACHNE: I descended from the astral plane with the help of human shoes, don't ask stupid questions.

BECCA, DEBI, AND FEATHER: Ohhh, is that what that song was about . . . wait, what?

Arachne forces J.J. to print an apology begging Spiderman to come back and presumably returns to the astral plane. There is no actual impact from this; Peter continues to sit in his apartment and whine while supervillains rampage all around. He and Mary Jane sing a love song!

MARY JANE: In a world stranger than fiction . . . ours is no fictional love!
BECCA: Really? Of all the lyrics in this whole production, those are the ones I could understand?

Then Mary Jane DISAPPEARS and finally Peter gets off his ass and goes to do something, despite the fact that his powers are gone. (We don't know when they vanished! Maybe it was revealed in a lyric that we couldn't hear.) He punch-clocks a bunch of villains and gets to the astral plane, which is FULL OF STARS. (He is also wearing a Spiderman hoodie instead of his Spiderman costume, despite the fact that we just saw a stuntperson steal it back like twenty seconds ago.)

ARACHNE: The world ending and the supervillains etc. were an illusion to get you to join me and embrace your potential, and also end my eternal loneliness!
MARY JANE: *languishes in a cocoon in the background, failing to have any agency to the end*
PETER: Mary Jane!
ARACHNE: Forget her!
DEBI: . . . oh my god, it's Phantom of the Opera. Peter is Christine! And MJ is Raoul!
BECCA: Well, I don't know -
PETER: Just let her go and I'll stay with you! *kisses Arachne*
ARACHNE: Take her and leave me! Now I can die in peace!
BECCA: Oh my god, it is Phantom of the Opera!

So Arachne is allowed to finish her interrupted suicide, which is apparently what she wanted the whole time, and all she needed was Peter to love her for redemption to equal death, or something. I spend some time puzzling the fact that the genderswapped Phantom of the Opera is apparently even more problematic in terms of gender than the original! WHO KNEW.

And . . . then the musical is over! The Geek Chorus has not been seen since Geek Girl brought in Arachne as THE FINAL SEXY VILLAIN, which means that in the end we have no idea what Julie Taymor was trying to say about creativity and metanarrative, but we're pretty sure we are not impressed with her take on girls in geekdom. We all turn and blink at each other and then turn back and cheer wildly for the stunt-Spiderpeople, who were clearly the stars of the show.

Then we go to a bar and get drunk.

(CODA -- BECCA: And have we even learned what the phrase 'Turn Off the Dark' actually MEANS?
FEATHER: I'm pretty sure there was a song in there somewhere called 'Turn Off the Dark' . . .

ETA: And Feather has now written her commentary from an actual trained theater perspective!
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Date: 2011-01-31 04:55 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-31 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Then we go to a bar and get drunk.

It sounds that this was the only sensible reaction!

Regardless, I wish I had been there. o_0 If only for the lulz.

Date: 2011-01-31 05:09 pm (UTC)
ext_41157: My sense of humor:  do you know it yet? ([Blondie] Thinkin' of a hard day's night)
From: [identity profile]

I am still writing mine. It is six pages long! I am not half done! OMG, THIS SHOOOOOW.

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Date: 2011-01-31 05:11 pm (UTC)
gramarye1971: a lone figure in silhouette against a blaze of white light (Spanish Inquisition: Diabolical Laughter)
From: [personal profile] gramarye1971
*makes obligatory pun involving Kiss of the Spider Woman (the trippy musical version, not the more overtly political/anti-PerĂ³nist book it was based on)*

I eagerly await [ profile] wickedtrue's review, but this one is a thing of beauty! (I may have shed a single perfect crystalline tear, for your descriptions of the three of you are priceless.)

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Date: 2011-01-31 05:14 pm (UTC)
newredshoes: radio tower on top of the world (Default)
From: [personal profile] newredshoes
I. Wait. Are you making this up? I mean, this is definitely Becca-caliber crack, but. This is on Broadway? For real? WHAT.


Date: 2011-01-31 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*the initial reaction from reading the first few lines of this post*: Oh you didn't...

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Date: 2011-01-31 05:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It sounds like someone took One More Day as inspiration! I love reading your account of it though.

Date: 2011-01-31 05:35 pm (UTC)
ext_21680: Blocky drawing of me (Default)
From: [identity profile]
ARACHNE: Take her and leave me! Now I can die in peace!

Thank god nobody else is home. Because they would be looking at me very strangely and asking why I was cracking up so loudly.

And all of your three's reactions are PRICELESS AND PERFECT.

Date: 2011-01-31 05:42 pm (UTC)
silveraspen: charlotte's spiderweb showing 'SOME PLOT' written (charlotte's web of plot)
From: [personal profile] silveraspen
I cannot stop laughing. Also, I have read sections of this review out loud to my sister and brother-in-law, and we are unanimous in our wide-eyed "... WHAT?" reactions.

Date: 2011-01-31 05:55 pm (UTC)
ext_901: (Default)
From: [identity profile] This review is a thing of beauty.

Date: 2011-01-31 06:06 pm (UTC)
ceitfianna: (Hatter is bemused)
From: [personal profile] ceitfianna
I"m so glad you guys went and saw this so the rest of us didn't have to. It sounds so over the top.

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Date: 2011-01-31 06:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is the point at which Arachne descends from the astral plane and they have some midair sex.

This review is possibly the funniest thing I have read online ever. The show sounds ghastly but weirdly entertaining. Probably you should have gotten drunk before, not after.

Date: 2011-01-31 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yakko expresses my reaction to this musical. Your descriptions are amazingly hysterical, and I wish I had the money to visit something this amazingly bad in person.

Vicariously, I shall enjoy it through you.

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Date: 2011-01-31 07:12 pm (UTC)
phoenixchilde: A drawing of a phoenix (the tango: ....roger and collins?)
From: [personal profile] phoenixchilde

Many people in the House cafeteria probably now think I'm nuts for laughing so hard, but I do not care because OMG I LOVE YOU GUYS. I still cannot believe this musical exists, and I kind of want to carefully bottle up this perfect, exquisite pearl of crazy and treasure it forever.

Man I wish I could've been there. But this review is the next best thing! :D

Date: 2011-01-31 07:14 pm (UTC)
ext_6428: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
... why did I not know about this before I asked my sister to get me theater tickets for my birthday? I am just not sure Ibsen performed by Lindsey Duncan, Fiona Shaw, and Alan Rickman can compare.

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Date: 2011-01-31 07:23 pm (UTC)
genarti: ([ultraman] PRIME MINISTER KING)
From: [personal profile] genarti

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Date: 2011-01-31 07:26 pm (UTC)
ext_21673: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
.........I think you might have put the drinking at the wrong end of the show.

Date: 2011-01-31 07:33 pm (UTC)
agonistes: (nests in my chimney)
From: [personal profile] agonistes
This was breathtaking. I just wanted you to know that.

(The thing about the villains is too easy, so I will leave that alone. :D)

Date: 2011-01-31 07:49 pm (UTC)
bansidhe: Black and white image of a female obscuring her face with her palm. (Bad Influence)
From: [personal profile] bansidhe
Perhaps Julie Taymor just really has it in for the Eiffel Tower?

Or perhaps it's the only city Julie Taymore could think of with a phallic icon! (Thank God she forgot the Space Needle, or Seattle would've gotten it too!)

That production sounds like a hot mess that I would have hated to see unless in the company of people like you folks. :D I was curious about the Spiderman musical, though, so I think you've sated it!
Edited Date: 2011-01-31 07:49 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2011-01-31 08:00 pm (UTC)
kindness_says: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kindness_says
I couldn't wait/didn't know that was happening. I creeped over to her journal before reading your entry.


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Date: 2011-01-31 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
HOLY BATSHIT, BATMAN. I... knew it was awful, but...

Date: 2011-01-31 08:07 pm (UTC)
innerbrat: (go baby go)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat


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Date: 2011-01-31 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Guh. I really can't decide if I want to see this musical or not. After reading this, I'm leaning more towards the not. It sounds very nonsensical and somehow the concept of a comic book hero on stage just doesn't make sense to me. Guh.

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Date: 2011-01-31 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh god, thank you. Just...thank you.

Date: 2011-01-31 09:52 pm (UTC)
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
From: [personal profile] rydra_wong
Um. Wow.

(Here via [personal profile] rachelmanija.)
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