Saturday 26 February 2011
Dylan Jones: 'Reviewing a preview of the Spiderman musical is a bit like reviewing a newspaper at 3.30pm'
If you believe the critics who have rounded on Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, you'll believe not only that a man cannot fly, he can't sing or dance either. Tired of waiting for the musical to open, a few weeks ago reviewers broke with protocol and reviewed the preview, which – frankly – is a bit like reviewing a newspaper at 3.30 in the afternoon on the day before publication.
I saw the show in New York last week, and, having read all the reviews, wasn't at all sure what to expect (Icarus, or Mr Bojangles masquerading as Bono?). Would I walk away comparing it to The Capeman, Paul Simon's ill-conceived Broadway debut, or would I run down 42nd Street, kicking my heels and flinging my po'boy cap into the air?
Well, the answer is a lot closer to the latter. Sure, the first 20 minutes are way too slow, and yes the show could do with another killer tune up front, but it soon begins to take off, vertically almost, with pretty much every scene being better than the one before. All the Mary Poppins-style flying around is great, too, and has some of the best staging I've ever seen on Broadway.
I can understand why some critics have been underwhelmed by the music, as it's rare that you hear a decent cover version of a U2 song. But there are some good songs here, and while you know that they will resonate more when you eventually hear U2 performing them (and you will), I'm sure by the time the show has been tightened up, they'll seem far more hummable ("Bouncing Off The Walls", "Rise Above" and "If The World Should End" sound particularly strong).
I saw the matinee performance on a cold and snowy Saturday, but the audience left the theatre with the sort of smiles I haven't since seeing Mamma Mia! five years ago (and this after giving the players a standing ovation). One wonders whether, having been so vociferous in their disapproval, the critics would dare to attempt anything approaching a volte-face – although the negative reviews appeared to have little influence on the audience.
And the merch? Let me tell you – like Spidey himself – it was flying.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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