spider-man-carney

Reeve Carney, centre, portrays Peter Parker in a scene from the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Critics say there's too much flying and too little attention to the storyline in the expensive production. ((Jacob Cohl/The O and M Co./Associated Press))

The lead producer of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is railing against critics who've panned the Broadway musical in reviews this week, posted before the show's opening night.

Canadian Michael Cohl was smarting from the negative appraisals, including a New York Times review that asked "How can $65 million look so cheap?" and the barb "Dead on Arrival" from the New York Daily Post.

"Any of the people who review the show and say that it has no redeeming value are just not legitimate reviewers, period," Cohl told Entertainment Weekly.

"It's hard to have people that don't get pop culture reviewing a pop culture event, isn't it?"

How critics usually work

It is unusual for critics to review a show before its official opening, though it has happened in the past. What usually happens:

  • A show announces an opening date.
  • The show is in preview for a few weeks to work out kinks.
  •  A few days before opening, the production is "frozen" meaning no more changes.
  • Critics are invited to attend in this period.
  • Reviews don't run until after opening night.

--AP

Cohl previously worked with U2 before being asked by band frontman Bono to help get Spider-Man to the stage. Directed by musical theatre veteran Julie Taymor, the show features music by Bono and U2 bandmate The Edge.

Former concert promoter Cohl said he was still intent on putting on a good show.

"I woke up this morning more determined and more positive than ever. I said, 'Here we go,'" Cohl said.

Media breaks with tradition

A host of prominent news outlets, including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, broke with Broadway tradition on Tuesday by running reviews of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark based on the Feb. 7 performance. It marked one of the previous dates producers had set as an opening night.

Previews began in November, but the show's official opening night has been pushed back five times.

The troubled show has faced a series of delays following technical mishaps and two serious accidents that injured cast members.

Some critics have argued that they are trying to inform potential theatre-goers. Audiences are packing into the Broadway show amid the high-profile news stories about its technical complexity and many woes.

These audience members are paying full price for a production organizers admit is still being perfected, according to the critics.

'Spirit-snuffing,' 'Unfixable'

"What's apparent after 170 spirit-snuffing minutes in the Foxwoods Theatre — interrupted by the occasional burst of aerial distraction — is that director Julie Taymor of The Lion King fame left a few essential items off her lavish shopping list: 1. Coherent plot 2. Tolerable music 3. Workable sets," Peter Marks of the Washington Post said in his review.

"Spider-Man is probably unfixable because too much has gone into making humans fly, which is not what they are good at. It imitates poorly what the Spider-Man movies do brilliantly with computer graphics and without putting live actors in jeopardy," Jeremy Gerard wrote for Bloomberg news service.

Variety's Steve Suskin was less damning.

"It's a work-in-progress, and creator Julie Taymor has been making changes through the preview period, and is reportedly planning to continue to rework the musical numbers (within the framework of the existing music and lyrics). Weaknesses lie with the book, music and lyrics, a kiss of death for most musicals," Suskin wrote.

Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for the show, called the negative assessments "uncalled for" and a "pile-on by the critics." 

"Their actions are unprecedented and uncool," he said.

Spider-Man continues in previews on Broadway with its official opening now set for March 15.

With files from The Associated Press