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"I think that love stands out when set against struggle. That's probably the power of [War] in a nutshell." — Bono

Column: off the record...,vol. 9-438


off the record, from @U2

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark played to a sold-out audience of 1,932 this evening, and the stars were out to see what all the buzz was about. Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, and Sean Hayes joined Reeve Carney's mom as we packed the Foxwoods Theater. Michael Cohl began the evening by greeting the audience and saying that he was "hellishly excited" about finally getting to the opening night of previews. He expressed his enthusiasm when telling us all that all of the acrobatic stunts were approved by the authorities and that the cast and crew were just as excited as he was. He then read a statement instructing us that there would be some high-flying acrobatics and that we were not to touch any of the actors and join them for a ride.

But you're not reading OTR to find out about any of this, are you? Get to the good parts, right? Well, that's how we felt too ... how long will it take to get to the good parts of the play?

I'll start with some highlights. The music is solid. You'd expect that from Bono and The Edge. It was good to finally see them in the context of the play. "Boy Falls From the Sky" is the musical thread that begins the play and is craftily woven throughout, taking slight diversions with "Girl Falls From the Sky" to indicate the role the song has with Mary Jane's storyline. This may be the breakout song from the play, but "Rise Above" has to be one of the most beautiful ones Bono has ever written as well as one of the most inspirational. It's a tear-jerker of a ballad and you can't help but want to rise above whatever is troubling you. It was refreshing to hear proper duets and ensemble songs written by Bono and Edge as it shows their strengths as songwriters. The conflict, tension, and heartache were well executed through the music.

For me, the real star of the show was Patrick Page. His Green Goblin was like MacPhisto on steroids. There were elements of Zoo TV all over the play with subtle Bono nods hidden through it. For example, the play Mary Jane was starring in was "The Fly." The album version of "Vertigo" was also featured in a disco scene.  

That said, it's hard for me encourage people from out of town to spend serious money to travel to New York City and pay upwards of $300 for a pair of tickets for this show. I understand that what we witnessed this evening was a preview -- a dress rehearsal, if you will. The play itself was very disjointed with a very ambitious plot. I can appreciate that Julie Taymor wanted to educate theater goers on the mythology of Arachne and the Fates, but it did not have to take up more time than the introduction of the "sinister six." It left me feeling that she wasn't sure what way she wanted to go with the storyline: educate the audience or entertain them. After all of the press about the special effects, over 30 set changes, and most importantly, the acrobatics, the audience had to wait quite a while for the first "wow" or the first real action scene. This is what we were expecting to see, and we had to wait almost a full 40 minutes into the first act before the action really began.

I can appreciate the desire to pay homage to the comic book form, but after seeing live actors performing, it seemed out of place to have Peter Parker wrestling an inflatable man. It was hokey. I don't believe that is what people are paying their money to see. There was also a scene where what appeared to be a plush Spider-Man toy was climbing through the sky, which I believe was to show depth or perspective. After seeing about six different actors playing the role, to see a stuffy being hoisted to the rafters felt a bit off. I also didn't feel that a musical number starring a mutant female spider and her posse singing about the shoes they just ransacked from a shoe store was progressing the story any. It didn't help matters that the song resembled "Get On Your Boots" to a degree.

For the eight year-old sitting behind me, he thought it was "awesome." The six year-old in front of me thought it was "cool." Reeve Carney's mom thought it was wonderful. For many other adults sitting around me, the general thought was "We love U2, but ... this wasn't quite what we thought it would be." The show needs to be tightened to feel more cohesive. They still have another six weeks or so before proper opening night, and I believe they will use this time wisely. I am looking forward to purchasing the cast recording when it becomes available. But, would I want to get on my boots and go and see this again ... probably not. If the music wasn't done by Bono and the Edge, I certainly wouldn't have gone to see it. I'd rather spend the money and see U2 next year on tour.

Thank you to all who followed my tweets from the theater. I will post to the atu2 blog a bit more about the merchandise and additional thoughts after going through my notes in the morning. It's a late night with another three hours of driving ahead to get home.

Have a great week!

© @U2/Lawrence, 2010.