Mike Fleming

The saga of Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark continues to spin a web of intrigue that has little to do with building positive momentum toward its February opening. The saddest development is that Natalie Mendoza, poised to make her Broadway debut with a showy villain role created especially for the musical, has officially exited. These tough breaks happen occasionally for all kinds of reasons both onstage and onscreen–imagine how Emily Blunt feels now, locking up the Black Widow role in Iron Man 2 and subsequent sequels and spinoffs, only to bow out when Fox enforced an option and dropped her into Gulliver’s Travels, for instance–but losing a lead in a big Broadway show to a concussion suffered during the first preview performance is particularly unfortunate. Besides safety issues that have dominated the headlines, the show’s new crisis is the prospect that reviewers won’t wait for opening night to pan the musical. Bloomberg’s Jeremy Gerard did just that on December 27 after paying $292 for an orchestra seat. Gerard, a seasoned critic and theater writer for New York Newsday and The New York Times among other places, expresses sentiments that don’t flatter the show. While beginning his critical assessment by revealing that Broadway’s most expensive show was “hardly the worst show of all time,” Gerard declared that “It is, however, an unfocused hodge-podge of story-telling, myth making and spectacle that comes up short in every department.” As for the hope that songs by U2′s Bono and The Edge will save the day, Gerard wrote, “Bono and The Edge haven’t a clue about writing for the theater.” Today, the New York Post columnist Michael Riedel writes about being moved just short of forcibly from an orchestra seat he’d purchased, and deposited into a crappy seat for murky reasons (like it’s a good idea to piss him off). At least preview performances are selling out, with a volume of journalists paying full freight for tickets. Some might be hard pressed to wait more than a month as the show’s creators work feverishly to improve in time for the opening night curtain.