At this point, the upcoming Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
has been through so many mishaps and delays that it might as well have been produced by Bialystock & Bloom, but it seems like every week, we get a piece of news that shows it inching closer to actually coming out. This time around, it was a series of publicity photos
taken for Vogue
by Annie Leibovitz, and, well... They sure are something
But as excited as we all are about a singing, dancing Carnage, they're not the only pictures that have surfaced from Spider-Man's debut in the world of Musical Theater! Today, ComicsAlliance has acquired eight more exclusive
photos from the set and an incredible amount of information that we may or may not have definitely made up!
J. Jonah Jameson
To bring the majesty and grandeur of J. Jonah Jameson to the stage, the producers decided not to merely go with an actor, but rather a complex array of prosthetics and animatronics based around a body suit modeled after the Gorgs from Fraggle Rock
. As is right and proper, Jonah will tower over the rest of the cast, occasionally shooting actual steam from his ears and shooting flames out over the audience from his cigar.
While the actual motions of the face will be handled by offstage special effects operators, veteran actor Michael Mulheren will be inside the suit, lending his voice to songs like "Threat or Menace," "Bring Me My Coffee Miss Brant," "Bring Me My Coffee Miss Brant (Reprise)," "Bring Me My Coffee Miss Brant (Encore)" and of course, "Seriously Miss Brant Where Is My Coffee."
Betty Brant will be a puppet operated by Avenue Q's Stephanie D'Abruzzo.
Mary Jane Watson
Despite her somewhat controversial status across different outlets as Peter Parker's girlfriend / wife / former live-in girlfriend who broke up with him due to Satanic meddling
, Mary Jane Watson is featured prominently as Spider-Man's love interest.
There were plans at one time to follow the lead of the comics and try out one of Peter's other girlfriends, but the producers ended up settling back on MJ after after dismissing both Gwen Stacy
-- when construction of a to-scale replica of the George Washington Bridge proved prohibitively expensive even for this
show -- and the Black Cat
, who was even considered for billing in the title until musical theater icon Andrew Lloyd Webber
went "f***ing nuts
Kraven and Grim Hunter
Bono and Webber have traded a few good-natured potshots on each other in the press, but expect it to reach new heights when Spider-Man's foe Grim Hunter
takes the stage. As the son of Kraven the Hunter, Grim will no doubt have at least one song's worth of reminiscing about how he used to wrestle leopards with the old man back in the long-lost days of youth as contractually obligated by the Musical Theater Union by-laws.
So how does the long-rumored Bono/Weber feud impact his role? Well, in order to prove himself worthy of his father's legacy -- and his signature tiger-striped capri pants -- Vladimir Kravinoff will be spending the majority of the third act hunting down and killing the cast of CATS
before taking on Spider-Man through the magic of interpretive dance.
The "Geek Chorus"
In order to bolster the songs, Turn Off The Dark will feature what the producers refer to as -- sigh
-- the "Geek Chorus."
Seriously. That's not a joke. They're actually calling it that.
But rather than just a play on the term "Greek Chorus," the singers in question will actually live up to their names by being a singing, dancing represenation of Internet comics bloggers! Not only will they sing along with Spider-Man, Mary Jane and the villains, they'll also have rousing, metatextual numbers of their own, and we can't wait to tap our toes to "Um, Actually (You Forgot)" and "Worst. Number. Ever."
In what is without question the most inexplicable piece of information we've learned about the show, the cast list includes the character of Julia Carpenter
, the Jan Brady of the Spider-Woman legacy. Yes, really.
I have a hard enough time understanding the popularity of Jessica Drew, and she's the "good" Spider-Woman, but the reason for her appearance in the musical has become clear with the new set photos. Much like the way that Marvel's movies are overlapping and building towards an Avengers
feature, the musical is expanding into its own intertwining Marvel universe! The only difference is that instead of diluting the Avengers brand, the Broadway shows will be leading to a revival of the only license they didn't already have in development: the mid-'90s supergroup Force Works
! The next step: the Scarlet Witch deals with her overbearing father (who is also a super-powered terrorist) through the healing power of Swedish pop in 2013's "Wanda Mia!
" Avengers Abbassemble!
The standard Broadway ticket price is high enough that more casual Spider-Man fans might balk at the price -- especially since theater as an art form remains notoriously difficult to bag, board and sell on eBay -- but the producers have attempted to add value and lure fans in through the character of Peter Parker's doting Aunt May.
During the opening number, which recaps Spider-Man's tragic origin, Aunt May (musical veteran Isabel Keating) will actually cook wheatcakes for the entire audience. So if you were wondering how the play managed to run $25 million into debt without even opening, consider just how much batter they've been through already.
While his presence was blasted by some early critics as being an attempt to straight up bite the style of Walking With Dinosaurs
, the Lizard was included to take advantage of one of the features that sets live theater apart from any other form of media: the way it lends itself to audience participation! After all, who can forget that scene in Peter Pan where the crowd is invited to clap to save Tinkerbell's life? Say what you want about cheesiness, but it makes for a good memory.
Turn Off The Dark has a similar gimmick during Spider-Man's battle against the Lizard, when Spidey appeals to the crowd to clap in hopes that the rhythmic sounds will turn his foe back into scientist Curt Connors, only to enrage him further with a reminder that clapping is not really something Connors is all that into.
One of the pieces of news about Turn Off the Dark
that raised eyebrows back when it was originally announced was that in addtion to standards like the Green Goblin and Kraven, it'll feature an all-new villain named, of all things, Swiss Miss. We originally assumed that this was because Bono and the Edge were having a hard time finding rhymes for "Cardiac
" and "Spidercide
," but the real answer is a little more complex.
Production on Turn Off The Dark
started in earnest in 2007, but its roots actually go back to the rough times in the mid '90s, during the days when Marvel filed for bankruptcy. As an effort to get some cash flow to help turn things around, the company inked a deal with ConAgra Foods
where, in the event of a Marvel Broadway musical, the House of Ideas would be contractually obligated to feature a character tying into one of ConAgra's brands. It actually wasn't that uncommon -- any fan of musical theater is no doubt familiar with Rent
's moving "Five Hundred Twenty-Nine Thousand Six Hundred Slim Jims" -- but they never thought they'd actually have to do it.