Is the Spider-man Musical Cursed?

Reports of another accident during the previews of Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark led me to joke that the Broadway musical was cursed. I suspected the show would have problems ever since I heard its terrible title, and it has had a string of financial, casting, and technical setbacks, not to mention highly publicized delays and scathing initial (though unofficial) reviews. 

But calling the show "cursed" might be too much, even in the superstitious world of theater.  The reality is, if you have a show with extravagant sets and special effects, you are raising the odds that things will go wrong.  There is a reason that William Shakespeare's Macbeth is considered bad luck -- tell a live, staged story that involves sword fights, smoke and fire, trapdoors, etc. and accidents will happen.

My friend Kevin Clancy perfectly summed up the real curse of the Spider-man production: "Another technical miscue. Another injury. Another performance that had to be stopped before reaching the end. When will they learn? When will the producers of this Hall Of Fame Bad Idea get it? Who is going to shell out over a hundred dollars to see a show that might stop at some point because of tech problems? Yet they need 3 years of sellouts just to break even. They need to understand that the 60 million dollars they've already spent is gone. They'll never get it back. They need to close this Money Pit before The Green Goblin flies off with every last cent they have. But they continue to be in denial. So it goes on, like the iconic Sarava which ran in endless previews and never officially opened. Don't they know that, when people want great special effects and action sequences, they go to the movies? We go to the theater for intimacy. A personal connection. This show is not 'theater' any more than Cirque De Soleil is 'theater'. It's more like a circus, a carnival. More suited for Madison Square Garden than a Broadway house, even one sporting the name of a Connecticut casino. Spider-Man, Turn Off the Lights."

Although I have no problem with staged epics (I do love Phantom of the Opera, for example), I do think Broadway producers need to remember that audiences do not always want big, flashy spectacles -- they still need a solid story above all else.  Special effects and eye candy can carry you only so far.  The biggest curse for a Broadway show might not be anything supernatural -- it might just be an over-reliance on flash instead of substance. 

Let's be fair to Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, it is still only in previews, they are still tinkering with it, it hasn't even officially opened yet.  Let's hope they identify and fix its problems by February when the run of the show is officially set to begin -- if the cast survives that long.

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