There are few bombs quite like Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. It had the talent; it had the characters; it had Bono and the Edge (who hates those guys?). However, despite all the elements being in place, Broadway was the one area of New York that wasn’t welcoming to Spider-Man—probably J. Jonah Jameson’s doing. Strangely enough, considering what a massive cultural dumpster the show was in 2011, Turn Off The Dark hasn’t made a dent in the collective consciousness. It’s like the often-heard complaint about Avatar, except not successful and sans the five sequels.
Luckily, some Broadway bootleggers with nerves of steel are keeping the lights on for Turn Off The Dark. As chronicled by theater writer Joey Sims for Brian Feldman’s bnet newsletter, the YouTube channel “Turn Off The Dark Archives” is weaving a web (sorry) out of the show’s many failed versions. On the Archives, visitors won’t just find Green Goblin’s showstopping appearance on Letterman, but rather every piece of video evidence available.
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark was in constant flux as a production, and the YouTube channel reflects its many changes. In each video, the Archives’ editors show the transformations from one version of the show’s numbers to the next. But as Sims notes, “Dividing it into three versions doesn’t really cover the madness of Turn off the Dark’s long gestation. The show underwent constant revisions through its 182 preview performances (whereas most shows typically get 30-40). Actors cycled in and out as injuries, often related to the show’s elaborate web-swinging, sidelined many. Various technical snafus halted performances.” The show didn’t stop tinkering after previews. Turn Off The Dark continued to evolve (or devolve, depending on your perspective) over the next six months.
It’s tough to overstate a decade later how bizarre a show like this ever got made and how they seemed to keep making it worse. Sims writes:
The show itself — even without the many changes — was also insanity, as evidenced by the videos this archive has collected so far. That archive includes glimpses of the “Geek Chorus” that narrated 1.0 (audience members can be heard groaning at the dialogue); A compare/contrast video detailing changes to the stunning, incomprehensible opening number between 1.0 and 2.0; and a full look at 1.0’s most infamous number, “Deeply Furious,” described by the video’s uploader as: “The number that cost Julie Taymor her job, where Arachne and her giant eight-legged spider girlfriends sing about stealing shoes.”
Yeesh. Thankfully, the next superhero musical to hit theaters, or rather arenas, around this time was Batman Live, which surely pleased every 11-year-old that saw it.