Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So, I went to a big, splashy Broadway musical (Wicked)

I don't remember not liking The Wizard of Oz.  The movie, anyway.  I've never read the book.  I don't know that we watched it every year when it came on TV as kids, but I've seen it often enough, including in film school and then several times afterward.  We've got it floating around on DVD here somewhere.

That said, I didn't make it through the Fairuza Balk starring Return to Oz, nor a recent SyFy Channel attempt at an update.  

And while I don't talk about it much, I more or less grew up going to the theater all the time, going to see musicals, drama, comedy, what-have-you, in venues from college campuses to community playhouses to the bigger venues in Houston (no, we didn't fly to New York to see shows).  In addition, I did a bit of my own "acting" back in high school, but wasn't actually any good.  In general, though, all that left me with a soft spot for live performance.  

Here's the deal:  going to see plays is @#$%ing expensive.  I tip my hat to my folks, because I only understood in the abstract what a big deal it was to include their stupid kid in outings to what had to have been pretty pricey shows.  Most of which I very much enjoyed, but, still.  Now that I'm paying for it, I better see a flying monkey or two for my dollar, and I'm not going to wind up going all that often.

I was a bit torn about going to see Wicked as I'm never really sure what I'm getting with a touring Broadway Show in the era where Lion King is a big draw (I am the one person in America who was sort of non-plussed with the magic of Julie Taymor's puppets when I saw the show in Arizona) and Spider-Man with a soundtrack by U2 seemed like a good way to fill seats.  Basically, I sort of think of musicals as a showy stage production more than I think of them as a particularly powerful way to communicate a narrative.  There's a hell of a lot of difference between a revival of The Music Man and By the Skin of Our Teeth.  But it can work.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Spidey is on Broadway

Things I think are an okay idea:

1)  Broadway musicals
2)  The music of U2 up to Zooropa (but, really, not much since then.  Sorry, Bono)
3)  Spider-Man
4)  Magic tricks on stage

The combination of these things...?

I cannot say if this is either really great or really terrible

In the case of the soon-to-premiere Spider-Man themed live-action stage musical Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, we're getting a singing, dancing Wall Crawler and Mary Jane Watson led by a director with what seems like an increasingly Ahab-esque desire to recreate special effects usually seen only in movies (and thanks to CG, at that), and who, apparently, is figuring out that in order to do the things Spider-Man does in the comics and movies, one would need the proportionate strength, speed and agility of a spider.  Us mere mortals tend to break.

Our own Horus Kemwer suggested this NYT article as blog fodder, and its an interesting read.

I'll be honest:  I don't care if the Spider-Man musical succeeds of fails.  I do want it to succeed, because, hey...  I like for people to have jobs and whatnot.  But...  I don't really have a dog in this fight.

  • I like Spider-Man in general, but have been off the character since the 1-2 punch of Spider-Man 3 and One More Day.*  
  • I like movie musicals and the (better staged) musicals I've seen on stage**.  
  • I am not enamored of U2 in the way the producers seem to have bought into.  
  • And, frankly, I've found the early looks at the costumes of the villains that I've seen (they kept Spidey's classic reds and blues), pretty much exactly why comic fans cringe when they hear the phrase "re-imagining". But the fact that the Sinister Six seems to at least get alluded to in the commercial for the show wins me over a bit.
  • It would be sort of interesting to see Spidey beat back the doom-sayers

Here's that commercial:

As a side bar, after growing up reading Spidey, my first thought when I hear "lavish Broadway musical" is the inevitable jab they would have done in the comics showing Peter Parker unable to afford getting into see a musical based on a fictionalized version of his own story, and, should he get in, being fairly embarrassed of a singing, dancing version of himself.  I can almost see the "Oh, brother!" thought bubble now.

The play has had a widely publicized and troubled past, including cast injuries, a complete lack of money, dead producers, very public rehearsals that went supposedly pretty badly, reportedly complicated and oft-failing wire work, a spot on the Today Show that went over like a lead balloon, and costumes that left many scratching their heads (not Spidey, btw.  He looks like Spidey). 

Its not that the costumes are, as my officemate pointed out, any sillier than the original Green Goblin costume.  But as has always been the case with the movie and television adaptations, there's a certain...  irregard for the source material that's just part and parcel of people who aren't fans adapting the comics to other media. 

oh boy
And there's this:

“What I really wanted to do, and what the ‘Spider-Man’ movies and comics haven’t done, is go to this absolutely fantastical, mythic place that is out of time, somewhere between reality and the dream world,” she said.
(cough)  (crickets)


"Making it dreamlike", "mythic" and "fantastical" is (a) not what Spider-Man is about as a character -but, hey, its your show, (b) I assure you, they've gone there already dozens of times before in comics, cartoons, etc... and (c) be careful that "dreamlike" isn't a dodge for "wow, this is a muddled, goofy-looking mess". 

According to early reviews of the show from preview night, unfortunately,the show may tilt toward option C.  The notes suggest that the show is far from ready and that the vaunted flying FX?  Pretty much what you see at Cirque (which...  I saw one Cirque show but my memories are hazy).
At the end of the day, a DOA Spidey musical won't tank Julie Taymor or even really Spider-Man, in any meaningful way.  Its just the umpteenth non-invested creator deciding "I know better than the people who make the comics and movies, the fans of the material, and if this fails, its 'cause comics/superheroes are dumb".   And in a recent 60 Minutes story, Taymor and company come off as a bit defensive and its not too early to start seeing the finger pointing at an audience who will not "get" Taymor's vision.

What's funny about Broadway is that as much as comics have fanboys, so too does the Great White Way.  Surely they don't think of it as such, anymore than Fantasy Football fans think of themselves as playing Dungeons & Dragons with football stats, but there's also an appreciation for the specialties of the theater, a differing perspective, etc... and   I foresee a lot of rationalizing and posturing around the "magic" of the show and the uncultured masses who can't appreciate legitimate theater (which has varying levels of truth). 

Spider-Man is bigger than any single piece here in a way that's going to be treading into new territory for all involved (possibly even U2).  In some odd ways, its going to be two geek audiences going head-to-head.  Spidey fans and the general audience don't care if Julie Taymor made Lion King a puppet show or not, just as its not on the docket for theater-lovers to care about 40-odd years of Spider-Man comics. 
So, look...  I'm never going to get to Broadway to see this show.  Even if I were in NYC, there's nothing that says I can afford to see a show at $100 a ticket.  As of today, its unlikely the show can travel, given the technical challenges.  So let's call it a draw.

Frankly, I choose to invest my excitement in the Batman Live Arena Show.  Sure, its a show aimed at 5-year-olds and their parents, but its also most definitely going to be BATMAN, its likely to come to Texas, and nobody will care if I'm eating an enormous pretzel and drinking a Coke while watching Batman punch the Penguin in his smug little face***.  I can expect a Batmobile, explosions, Bat-villains and all other forms of Bat-Malarkey.  Not what Bono and Julie Taymor decided to do after seeing the movie poster for the 3rd movie and catching part of the first movie on an airplane.

But, you know, I also genuinely hope that this Spider-Man play will be good and make a fortune. Because, seriously, that would be the greatest stunt of all.

Bonus Link:  A Quick Look at Previous Attempts at Superhero Musicals

*and there's a whole other post in here somewhere about how Spider-Man has succeeded in reaching the cyclical state of icon-hood that DC deals with every day and how Marvel is fumbling that ball
**I have only seen one musical actually on Broadway, and only a handful of touring productions
*** this same scenario involves Jamie buying a glow necklace and a giant foam finger reading "Batman #1!"