Friday, August 24, 2012

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Music Review

Bono is the creative force behind Spider-Man's music
The music to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was, of course, famously composed by Bono and The Edge, and U2 also gets credit for some of the songs. This is one of the things that first attracted a lot of attention to this production.

So when the curtains rose, I was keenly anticipating the music. Whatever you do, don't expect to go to this show to hear music done in the style of U2. Not to say the music is bad, but Bono gave the tunes their own style for this musical.

The songs carry a lot of emotional weight. Sometimes, such as in the first "Rise Above" and "No More," we feel how alone and trapped Mary Jane and Peter feel. The lyrics not only paint a picture of the daily lives of the main characters but also give you great insight into their thinking such as when, in "No More," Mary Jane sings, "Dad'll yell, tune him out, he's drunk by now, he has to shout... Let me disappear, or just be anywhere but here." "If the World Should End" shows us that this is no casual teenage romance - Peter and Mary Jane are rescuing each other. When Peter sings, "Everyday I feel the walls are closing in..." in "No More" it shows the brilliance of the lyrical arrangement because this not only reveals his mental state but also strikes a literal contrast to the later song, "Bouncing Off the Walls," when the walls to Peter's room literally move apart as he explores his new-found powers and leaps from wall to wall.

Arachne in full costume
At other times, the music soars high and is filled with frantic energy such as "Bouncing Off the Walls," and the soaring orchestra number that is played when Peter suits up and exuberantly swings around the theater for the first time, "NY Debut." Even

"DIY World," is inspirational with its grand vision of a future uptopia fueled by genetic modification.

Songs that highlight the villains have their own tone to them as well. "Sinistereo," slinks and slithers its way through enchanting, droning lyrics that seem more intent on using the sound of a syllable than the actual words the syllables make... until you listen carefully to the lyrics. "Pull the Trigger," has a aggressive military tone as goons cajole Norman Osborne into cooperation.

But without a shadow of a doubt, the best songs in the show belong to the Arachne character, played by Katrina Lenk. Ms. Lenk's voice is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard in my entire life. To add to that, she sings while suspended from wires dressed in a full body spider costume with moving mechanical legs. To add to the difficulty, she doesn't just hang their passively but rather does flips and twists at the same time she's belting out high notes. She sings the song that gives the show it's name, "Turn Off the Dark," and my skin broke out in goosebumps. The accompanying music isn't sonorous or grandiose but, instead, simply and understated - at times, just a rhythmic tapping on a xylophone. She also sings "Behond and Wonder" and "Rise Above." I'm not a judge on American Idol or anything so forgive my poor description. She is above to "warble" and stretch her voice, carrying a single word or syllable like a thread across a long range of notes. Since she appears only in Peter's mind and dreams, the effect is perfect - nearly hypnotic, yet strangely stirring.

The music is used for much more than just convey emotion, give background, and give us insights into the thoughts of the characters. It is also used to advance the plot in significant ways. "Picture This" leads to Osborne deciding to experiment on himself and "Venom" is sung as Peter receives the fateful bite from that special spider.

But that's not all - the theme of the show - rising above adversity - is carried almost entirely in the music. Two different versions of "Rise Above" are sung during the musical and the single most memorable lyric of the show is when Matthew James Thomas sang, in a soaring voice, "And you said, 'Rise above... yourself.'"

There are times, however, when the music feels uneven. There will be a moment where a lyric will deliver a profound, almost philosophical thought such as Mary Jane singing, "There's no time for sorrow, when there's no such thing as time," in the number "If the World Should End." " But at other times, the lyrics come off as being uninspired, such as, in the song "No More," when Peter sings, "And why do I need these stupid glasses?" The line leaves you wondering why Peter is whining about his glasses when Mary Jane is afraid for her life from her alcoholic abusive father.

Overall, the voices of the main cast were good but, with the exception of Ms. Lenk, not fantastic. The music doesn't disappoint and is has great depth. At times I would say some of the songs could have been a bit shorter but each song is unique and does a great job of setting and carrying the mood and tone of each scene.

1LR REVIEW - 17 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

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