Taped to the back of my seat at this past Friday’s performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark was a survey soliciting audience opinions of the still-in-progress musical.
Survey cards are common in the film industry, but this was the first I’d seen used for a Broadway show. The front side of the form was designed to be filled out before the show began. It asked questions about demographics (age, income, education, whether you lived in NYC) and why you chose to see the show. It was more detailed than I’m used to seeing for movie test screenings.
The reverse side was for after the show, asking questions about scenes, songs and characters. I didn’t fill it out very thoroughly, because there’s not much I can offer as criticism of the show that hasn’t been said at length in last week’s excoriating reviews. Piling now on feels like schadenfreude.
I did make a point to highlight two things I thought worked. I’ll share those here.
“If The World Should End”
This is the song MJ (Jennifer Damiano) sings in act two. It’s lovely, spare, haunting — and nicely on-story. This and Peter’s song (“The Boy Falls From The Sky”) that comes right after it felt like they snuck from a much different, much more compelling musical.
How do you translate an idea that centers on a vertical cityscape to the stage? In this case, really well. The forced-perspective Fritz Lang-ish skyscrapers are constantly in motion, culminating in a a fold-out Chrysler Building that juts overhead like a plane taking off. In general, talking about how pretty the sets are is damning, like complimenting a writer on his punctuation. But in this case, the skyscrapers really are something worth seeing.
I have no idea what’s going to happen with this musical. On one hand, it’s selling well, so maybe it’s review-proof. On the other hand, the producers are publicly and privately acknowledging it needs work.
I’m pointing out these two bright spots because (a) if it keeps running in its current form, they’d be the two reasons to consider buying a ticket, and (b) if it closes, these were Things That Were Cool.
It’s too easy to file things away as “success” or “failure.” Almost every creative work is a mix of both.