Partner and I try to follow what's new on Broadway. We watched the “60 Minutes” piece on Sunday night about the new Spider-Man musical with interest; it looks lavish and fun, and Julie Taymor – well, if you've seen The Lion King, you know what she can pull off. Partner still talks about the time we saw Lion King here in Providence: during the big opening number, with the animals slowly entering the theater through the aisles around us, rhinos and elephants and giraffes, after a while he wasn't watching the show anymore; he was watching the kids around us, who were completely open-mouthed and mesmerized by the spectacle.
But Sunday night's preview performance of Spider-Man was not good, according to the Times. There were lots of problems with the aerial stuff (which is what they're hanging most of their publicity on). At one point on Sunday night, Spider-Man had a sudden mid-air breakdown and had to be pulled down from his harness by stagehands.
And after hearing some of the score on TV on Sunday night, I will say that the music is terrific – but the lyrics are cheesy. “I sleep with my clothes on”?
But, man, I'm wary of criticizing anything without due review. I remember E. B. White's story about Walter Kerr refusing to see “Oklahoma!,” because he thought it was stupid, and he was afraid he'd like it if he saw it in person. How's that for perverse?
I used to work with somebody who was a Theatah Snob. He was a sometime actor, and he had more than the usual number of likes, dislikes, and prejudices . I remember describing “Avenue Q” to him (which Partner and I had just seen on B'way), and he wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Puppets?” he said with disdain. “That sounds stupid.”
Oh, mama, that sent me livid. “You want stupid?” I said. “How about a musical about a killer barber and his girlfriend the baker? How about a singing Austrian governess? How about the members of the Continental Congress – all men, by the way – dancing a minuet? How about Che Guevara dancing with Eva Peron? Musicals are all about stupid.”
I remember my own words now. I remember the other night, when I saw the Spider-Man stuff on TV, the comic-book sets and the villains and the swoopy choreography and the loopy lyrics, and I thought: This looks stupid.
So I hope they keep up the tradition. I hope they break through the barrier, and work out the kinks in the aerial stuff.
I hope it turns out to be a triumph.