All $65 million of the new Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” took flight on Sunday night at its first preview performance, but not without bumps. The show stopped five times, mostly to fix technical problems, and Act I ended prematurely, with Spider-Man stuck dangling 10 feet above audience members, while Act II was marred by a nasty catcall during one of the midperformance pauses.
Rarely is the very first public run-through of a new musical perfect, and indeed, the creators of this “Spider-Man” — the most expensive and technically ambitious production ever on Broadway — used news media interviews recently to lower expectations that work on the musical was anywhere near done. But after a two-week delay in performances already this month, which sucked up about $4 million, the producers decided that on Sunday night the show would go on.
Costing more than twice as much as the previous record-holder for a big-budget show, “Shrek the Musical,” “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” took a bit of time revealing some of the reasons for its high expense. After beginning at 6:54 p.m. — 24 minutes late, mostly because of 1,900 people taking their seats — the show unfolded for 30 minutes with few of the special effects that have been the talk of Broadway this fall.
At 7:23 p.m., an aerial scene began in Peter Parker’s bedroom to the delight of some audience members — yet it was halted two minutes later with the first of four pauses in Act I, apparently to free the lead actor, Reeve Carney (who plays Peter Parker and is one of those playing Spider-Man), from an aerial harness.
Most of the night’s major flying sequences — which make up a relative fraction of the show — went off without a hitch, with children and some adults squealing in delight. And there were no signs of injuries, which had been a point of concern after two performers were hurt during an aerial sequence this fall.
The fourth and final pause at the end of Act I was the worst glitch of the night by far. Spider-Man had just flown and landed onstage with the musical’s heroine, Mary Jane Watson (played by Jennifer Damiano), in his arms. He was then supposed to zoom off toward the balcony seating area, a few hundred feet away. Instead, a harness and cables lifted Spider-Man several yards up and over the audience, then stopped. A production stage manager, C. Randall White, called for a halt to the show over the sound system, apparently in hopes of fixing and re-doing the stunt.
Crew members, standing on the stage, spent 45 seconds trying to grab Spider-Man by the foot, as the audience laughed and oohed. When they finally caught him, Mr. White announced intermission, and the house lights came on.