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Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark
U2 hit broadway – with average results
Olaf Tyaransen, 15 Jul 2011
Sometimes it’s not the tangled webs we weave ourselves, it’s the sticky ones we get trapped in. When Bono and Edge initially agreed to write the score for the Spider-Man musical in 2005, the enthused U2 pair resolved that they would only work on the songs when they were in good form.
Tragically, the planned fun and games stopped almost before they’d begun. At the very moment Edge inked the contract, the show’s original producer, Tony Adams, collapsed and died of a stroke right in front of the shocked guitarist and his manager Paul McGuinness.
Since that catastrophic moment, it’s been one highly publicised mishap after another, involving technical glitches, injured actors, fired directors, lawsuits, rewrites, critical schadenfreude, and talk-show ridicule.
Stuck in a musical they couldn’t get out of, things got so messy that the U2 duo reluctantly wound up becoming executive producers in an attempt to rescue the seemingly cursed production. By their own admission, they’d never have gotten involved if they’d realised just how convoluted and messy it was all going to become.
But the show must go on. Following a record number of previews, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark finally opened earlier this month, having earned itself the dubious distinction of being the most expensive Broadway production in history. As Patrick Page – who plays the Green Goblin – sings on ‘A Freak Like Me Needs Company’, “If you’re looking for a night out on the town you just found me/ I’m a $65 million dollar circus tragedy.” At least Bono hasn’t lost his sense of humour.
To the soundtrack: while certainly not nearly as bad as some critics have suggested, it isn’t Bono and Edge’s finest moment. Despite its authors, and the fact that it was produced by Steve Lillywhite, this is the original cast recording of a stage musical, with guest appearances and has to be approached as such. A U2 album it ain’t.
It works when when it rocks out – which isn’t quite often enough. It might be different if you’ve seen the show, but of the 14 tracks, less than a third are immediately memorable. Although Bono contributes some vocals (on the excellent ‘Picture This’), most of the songs are performed by cast members Reeve Carney, Peter Page and Jennifer Damiano. The result is a mixed bag. It opens promisingly with ‘NY Debut’ – an electrically charged, guitar-driven instrumental, reminiscent of their last tangle with a superhero, 1995’s ‘Hold Me, Kill Me, Kiss, Me, Thrill Me’ from the Batman Forever soundtrack.