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February 8, 2011

Critical silence ends: NY Times pans expensive, unlucky 'Spider-Man' musical

In the no-big-surprise department, the New York Times finally decided enough already with the postponed openings and reviewed "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," even though the costly musical remains officially in previews. I doubt he'll be the only mainstream critic to break the 'rule.'

Also in the no-big-surprise department, Ben Brantley dismissed this ill-fated show as "not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway," but one that "may also rank among the worst."

I can already hear Glenn Beck, an ardent champion of the production, sharpening his claws for use against the elite press. But, really, was it ever possible that a $65 million musical could turn out to be fabulous when it couldn't open remotely on time, when it kept being plagued by accidents, and when the only real buzz it generated was about those two attributes?

Hey, maybe Brantley 

is way off base. Maybe other critics will swear that this is a great, noble, hugely entertaining effort. But I've always suspected that "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" was destined to take its place of dishonor on the walls of Joe Allen Restaurant on W. 46th St., where failed Broadway shows are immortalized. I guess my skepticism comes from reading about too many other things that were just too grand for their own good -- unsinkable ships, banks too big to fail.

I also think our obsession with techno gadgetry has gone way overboard. A musical that needs so much visual stuff crammed into it is bound to prove hollow on the inside. As Brantley points out, even the flying stuff isn't so special in "Spider-Man" -- "Aren't they doing that just across the street in 'Mary Poppins'?"

It will be interesting to see what happens next with this unlucky production.

Posted by Tim Smith at 8:49 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drama Queens


Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune blogged his review here, harsh in its own way separate from Ben Brantley's NYT review.

Re: 'could it turn out to be fabulous' - yes, very much so. The movie Titanic had two years of negative press - 'they can't get the ship to sink', 'it's been dubbed the new Waterworld', 'will have to get the biggest gross ever, just to turn a profit' - and lo and behold, it did. Spider-Man's still enjoying buoyant ticket sales, even despite the bad press, which goes to show there's no such thing as bad publicity. Besides, the producers know very well that the money's going to roll in from touring, not from the Broadway run.

I’ve read Spider-man off and on and for the past few years everytime I hear about Spider-man, i get depressed. Anyone whose read it knows what I’m talking about. I was shocked about the horrible stuff they put in the books, which can’t be undone. I was depressed at the quickie movie reboot that will be a disaster. Now, I’m depressed about this horrible thing. I want the old Spider-man b ack in the books. Not Heroic Age Brand New One More Day magic amnesica idiot boy!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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