November 30, 2012

As though anyone asked them for the favor, Bono and the Edge have announced that they are writing new songs for the theatrical trainwreck that is Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. For those who stopped reading about the show once it transformed from a snakebitten disaster area to a regular bad Broadway play, Spider-Man is doing better than expected. It’s among the top grossing plays—picking up $1.7m just this week, for instance—but because its production costs are so high, its profit margins are actually quite slim, and it’s been estimated that the play could take as long as seven years to recoup its initial investment.

Its weekly totals have dipped since the summer tourist bonanza, and this injection of new songs seems like a desperate gambit to prop up the faltering show. In a way, it’s not a bad idea. The show was on the verge of complete collapse last year when Bono and the Edge, exercising their supreme rock godly power, stepped in to save the day. By exorcising everything remotely interesting about the show, they made it safely bland, and assured it some chance of making back the $75 million that had been poured into it.

On the other hand, this could be the worst non-Romney-related idea of 2012. Having already paid out well over $100 to see the show, I can’t imagine anyone coming back for the sake of one or two new songs. That Spider-Man congealed into anything remotely watchable is something of a miracle, and tinkering with it could undermine the fragile foundation that supports this utterly nonsensical play. If Bono and the Edge break the play, it could be bye-bye Spidey, hello Kong. (I really want to see that Australian King Kong.)

So, just how bad could this be? Here are some ideas for Bono and the Edge as they sharpen their pencils and get down to making theater magic. Note: if any of these appear in the show, I look forward to the protracted, life-shattering legal battle that will ensue. It’ll make me Broadway famous!

“Hello, Mary Jane” — Seeking to spice up the show’s romantic subplot—just in time for Valentine’s Day!—the creative monsters behind U2 shoehorn in a doo-wop dance number, sung to the tune of Ricky Nelson’s classic “Hello, Mary Lou“. As rollerskating, torpedo bra-wearing Spidergirls swirl around the stage, Spider-Man and his romantic rival, the hated greaser Green Lantern, race their hotrods for the sake of Peter Parker’s redheaded beauty.

“There’s Venom Inside Me (And I Want It Out)” — Because the one thing every musical needs is more subplots, Bono and his sharpened sidekick attempt to cram the entire Venom storyline into a seven-minute ballad. It starts on the moon, where a bit of the evil intergalactic venom-goop attaches itself to a moon rock, and goes straight through to the death of carnage. What would take dozens of issues of comics is, through the magic of incomprehensible storytelling, settled with one wide-ranging heavy metal ballet. It would probably sound a lot like Dream Theater. Which is awesome.

“Where Did The Doctor Touch Me?” — In an effort to flesh out the depths of a protagonist who is essentially nothing more than a high-flying cardboard cutout, the “creative” “team” responsible for Spider-Man decide to add a mournful, soul-searching ballad about what happened to Peter the first time he was alone with Doc Ock. Unfortunately, they write down the time signature wrong, and what was meant to be a torch song is turned into an utterly inappropriate up-tempo romp—as if “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” had the saddest lyrics in the universe. As a result, the choreography turns out completely muddled, and the injury rate among the ensemble spikes. Once the promise of watching actors hurt themselves returns to the production, the audience follows. The ensemble is doomed. The show is saved.

Bono, you can thank me later. Actually, no, thank me now. Thank me now!

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