The Geek Life: The Spidey Project (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Thursday, April 19, 2012
The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life sees a different Spider-Man musical.
When I first heard a musical about Spider-Man was in works I was all for it. I am a huge fan of the character in any medium. I love the comics. I am a huge fan of the first two movies. I can hum the cartoon’s theme song all day long and never get tired of it. See, I’ve always identified with the character and consider Peter Parker to be one of my closest friends. Many of you have already heard about Turn off the Dark. However this musical about Spider-Man isn’t Turn off the Dark which, as it turns out, hasn’t been the only Spider-Man musical in the works.
The Spidey Project: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility was an off Broadway Musical that was produced for no money. It ran for two shows before Turn of the Dark ever became the nightmare it is now. The show found it’s way west and was produced in Los Angeles at the The Theatre Unleashed and received a full run. What concerned me was this show was actually a parody on Spider-Man.
There are a lot of things I hold sacred. The origins of Peter Parker is one of them. He is not only my hero, but my friend. Peter’s always been there for me and I will always be there for him. I wanted to see this musical about his alter ego but was concerned that they would make Uncle Ben’s death a joke; that the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker would become comedy. Would they even show the character the proper respect?
The theatre was decorated in the simplest of fashion and featured ushers wearing Spider-Man t-shirts. Art work was hanging up in the lobby of old web head, drawn by children. It was a light and fun atmosphere. The stage was set with no curtains and the orchestra was off to the left of the stage. There were Steve Ditko homages on the three main walls. The back wall featured a full color Spider-Man on yellow, complete with webs. Stage right had black and white sketches (again Ditko) of his origin. Stage left featured the villains that were later to appear in the show.
The show opens with a news reporter singing about the crime wave hitting the city. Peter Parker (Ryan J. Hill) is still just your average high schooler with a crush on Gwen Stacy (Krista Taylor). Of course Peter has to dodge a very full of himself Flash Thompson (Kyle Cooper), but his biggest concern is getting Gwen to notice him. The first full musical number is “Peter Who”. It allows the audience into Peter’s world and sets the tone of this particular Spider-Man origin.
Peter finds himself on a choice assignment, working as an intern for the Daily Bugle, and meets Dr. Spiderman (Gregory Craft). Just the say the name really fast and you won’t even hear Spider-Man in it. This sets up our last villain perfectly, but it more importantly gets Peter bitten by that radioactive spider.
What may be the problem with the big Broadway production of Turn of the Dark is the scale. Broadway audiences witness magic every night as the cast of the Lion King comes to life, the Phantom brings down the chandelier, and witches fly through the theatre. Spider-Man as a movie was hard enough. Imagine doing practical effects in the real world. Top that off with an audience watching. Where The Spidey Project: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility gains so much of its momentum in its low budget effects. There is a Spidey swing zone, a pole with one rope on it. Curved walls allow Ryan J. Hill to appear in a variety of classic Spider-Man poses. Even the use of a singular box frame creates iconic moments of Spidey punching out villains. It was perfect to have Ryan J. Hill “jump” from building to building which are being held up by stage hands. Spider-Man has never been about the awesomeness of what he can do. The heart of the character and the story has always been about what is the right thing to do. Here in The Spidey Project: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility the cast tells that story perfectly, all the while making you laugh and enjoy yourself. After all, a musical about a guy who has the powers of spider and features a song called “Chipotle” should be funny.
The show featured all your Spider-Man regulars. J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Betty Brant, the Scorpion, the Rhino, Electro, and even the Chameleon. The take on the villains was definitely different. One was even played by a woman. All in all its Ryan J. Hill’s performance that makes the show. His Peter Parker is at first quiet and shy. Then, after he is bitten, he is arrogant and selfish. He learns his lesson and becomes the man we all know he should be.
The run of The Spidey Project: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility is now over. There was an initial hope that the show would play at Comic Con. Sadly the people who decide such things never took in a performance. I believe that it would have played fairly well to the Geek Community at Comic Con. They would seen that those involved had a great respect and love for the character. The character we all hold so dear.
Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.