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Theatre / Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

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Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a Broadway musical based on the Marvel Comics superhero. Directed by Julie Taymor (director of the Broadway version of The Lion King) with the score and lyrics by Bono and the Edge of U2. As of this writing, it is the single most expensive Broadway musical ever produced, costing about seventy-five million dollars. note 

The musical is best known for its very, very Troubled Production. Several actors were injured during rehearsals and the preview period, falling while performing the show's elaborate aerial stunts, causing many to joke that it should have been called Spider-Man: Notify Next of Kin. The script underwent Retooling more than once, and Julie Taymor was fired, during this time. The whopping one hundred and eighty-two performances, spanning 2010-2011, before the show officially debuted was the longest preview period in Broadway history. This production closed in January 2014; while it looks to be one of the biggest flops in Broadway history with its backers looking at losses of $60 million, the producers intend to stage it elsewhere in years to come. Las Vegas and a touring production were also considered.


Storywise, the final product is largely based on the first two Sam Raimi films, with the myth of Arachne and the Maximum Carnage story arc added into the mix.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Mary Jane's father, as implied in her part of "No More." This was more explicit in the first version, where he actually hit her with a beer bottle in the middle of the song.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Swarm, Kraven the Hunter, Carnage, Electro, and the Lizard, all villains with independent origins in the comics, were here mutants created by the Green Goblin to form the Sinister Six.
  • Adaptational Job Change: In the original comics, Electro was an electric lineman who gained powers in a freak accident, Kraven the Hunter was a hunter and Carnage was a serial killer. In this musical, they are all made scientists who used to work for OsCorp as part of the aforementioned Adaptation Origin Connection. At least one production even had the Green Goblin refer to Carnage as "Dr. Kasady, our blood guy" when introducing him in "A Freak Like Me Needs Company", implying this version of Cletus Kasady to be a hematologist.
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  • Adapted Out: Harry Osborn doesn't exist in this continuity, as Norman and Emily are apparently childless.
  • Affirmative Action Girl: Swiss Miss. In the first version, Miss Arrow even states that she added her into the story because the Six needed "a woman's touch".
  • All Just a Dream: Spider-Man's foes being resurrected and destroying the city in Act Two in Version 1.0 is all an illusion created by an angry Arachne up until its climax.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Norman may have been married, but the Green Goblin "said goodbye to [his] straight life ..." He also appears to be rather possessive of Spider-Man, considering him his "rightful property".
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Peter even has a song about how everyone else picks on him.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Bullying By Numbers" is a slightly less vitriolic version of one, about how much fun beating up Peter is.
  • Arc Words: "And the boy/girl falls from the sky."
  • The Artifact:
    • Several bits, most notably everything involving Arachne (including the title song!), have no impact on the story and clearly only exist because Julie Taymor had already paid for the costumes and props.
    • In Version 1.0, Swiss Miss was thrown in by Miss Arrow because said "Geek Chorus" member thought she sounded cool.
  • Author Avatar: Of the four Geeks, Miss Arrow is the only female one and introduces several of Julie Taymor's original creations to the show, such as Arachne being an unbeatable foe and adding Swiss Miss to the Sinister Six.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Goblin, as to be expected, is insane and has violent tendencies. Carnage is stated to have murdered his grandmother and tortured his mother's dog when introduced in "A Freak Like Me Needs Company".
  • Big Bad: Arachne in Version 1.0, the Green Goblin in 2.0.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Peter, in Version 1.0, ends up losing his spider powers.
  • The Cameo: The villains Kingpin and Hammerhead briefly appear as bank robbers during Spider-Man's introduction.
  • Canon Foreigner: Swiss Miss was created for the musical. In Version 1.0, the in-universe explanation for her presence is that Miss Arrow of the Geek Chorus wants a female villain in the Sinister Six.
  • Composite Character:
    • This Green Goblin is a cross between the Goblin (Norman Osborn driven insane by a lab accident) and Doctor Octopus (gains powers from a lab accident and has a wife who gets killed) from the Sam Raimi films. A trait shared with the comics incarnation of Doctor Octopus is that this version of the Green Goblin is the founder of the Sinister Six. To a lesser extent, he also sprouts a pair of large green wings (replacing the Goblin Glider) for a final battle with Spidey in the sky; this is a shtick that is often used by the Vulture.
    • Most likely unintentional, but his insanity as a result of severe mutations and sudden ability to break the fourth wall afterwards gives him shades of a certain other Marvel character
    • The Green Goblin was also the result of a physical mutation, much like the Ultimate version of the character.
  • Creator Cameo: A few U2 snippets appear in the soundtrack. And "Bouncing Off the Walls" is suspiciously similar to "Vertigo."
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Spidey has one with each of the Sinister Six that lasts just a few seconds. In the first version, he even did it without any of his powers.
  • Demoted to Extra: Arachne in Version 2.0. In Version 1.0, she serves as a Spirit Adviser-turned-Big Bad. In 2.0 her role as Peter's Spirit Adviser is left intact, but her stage time is reduced to only three scenes. The role of the Big Bad ultimately went to the Green Goblin.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Green Goblin in Version 1.0. The first act builds up to Norman's transformation, but he's dead by intermission and Act Two makes it clear that the true Big Bad is Arachne.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Peter blows off fighting crime for a night at home with Mary Jane. A night which he later said was spent with no TV or radio...
  • Disney Villain Death: This is how the Goblin dies. During the final confrontation, Spidey webs him to a piano he'd been using for a musical number, and when the Goblin unintentionally pulls it off the Chrysler Building, he's dragged down with it!
  • Dramatic Irony: Mary Jane gets on Broadway, playing the girlfriend of The Flynote .
  • Driven to Suicide: Arachne, as per her myth, tried to take her own life. Arguably Peter in Version 1.0, where he jumps off a bridge after Mary Jane — knowing he's powerless.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The Goblin doesn't do nuanced subtlety.
    • Matt Caplan, the actor who played Flash Thompson, sometimes put Bulk and Skull to shame.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: The Goblin refers to the Sinister Six as his family, and is understandably upset when Spider Man defeats them.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Green Goblin has a deep voice.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Osborn already believed that humanity needed to "mutate or die", and wanted to advance human evolution for its own good; after his transformation into the Green Goblin, he decides to force his mutations onto the world, and kill all who oppose him.
  • Famous Last Words: "With great power comes great responsibility" from Uncle Ben.
  • Fan Fic: Version 1.0's Framing Device presented the show as an in-universe fanfiction written by the Geek Chorus. Arachne's furies later took over from them, writing the story on their own.
  • Fashion Show: The Sinister Six are introduced as if the Green Goblin is hosting a fashion show.
  • Girl Next Door: Mary Jane is a nice girl and it is established that she and Peter knew each other since they were children.
  • Greek Chorus: The first version had a team of four Spider-Man fans narrating the story, known as the "Geek Chorus." They were eventually scrapped.
  • I Have Your Wife: Mary Jane, as usual, gets kidnapped by the villain to rile up Spider-Man — twice in Version 1.0.
  • Incoming Ham: This little gem from the top of Act Two...
    Green Goblin: Come on New York City! Let's get your freak on!
  • In Name Only: In Version 1.0, the members of the Geek Chorus were named after actual characters from the comics (Miss Arrow, Jimmy-6, Grim Hunter, and Professor Cobwell).
  • LEGO Genetics:
    • This seems to be the cornerstone of Osborn's research, and is the basis for the Crowd Song "DIY World".
    • Particularly weird when it comes to Swiss Miss. Do knives have DNA in this world?
  • Loophole Abuse: The long, long, preview run led some to speculate that the producers were deliberately avoiding ever debuting the show, in order to exploit a tradition that theater critics won't issue reviews until after opening night. This eventually failed them, as the critics decided that was what they were doing and reviewed the previews.
  • Love Triangle: Arachne-Peter-Mary Jane, in Version 1.0 only.
  • Mad Scientist: Osborn is a scientist bent on conquering the world through genetic experiments. His own wife even refers to him as such.
  • Master of Illusion: In 1.0 Arachne wove dreams and illusions in Peter's mind in an attempt to keep him being Spider-Man and sway him to her side.
  • Medium Awareness: The Green Goblin mocks one of Peter's songs in Version 1.0. He also directs a few comments at the audience in the current version.
  • Morality Chain: After the death of his wife, Norman grows progressively more insane and violent. (The severe mutations could also be a factor, though.)
  • Never My Fault: The Green Goblin. "Emily ... died... because of you [Spider-Man]!"
  • Original Generation: While most of the Sinister Six are from the comics, Swiss Miss was made up for the play. Lampshaded in Version 1.0, where Miss Arrow just makes her up on the spot.
  • Patriotic Fervor: The Viper execs try to invoke this in Osborn to get him to make them Super Soldiers.
    "Don't just think of you/think of God and country..."
  • Private Military Contractors: The Viper corporation, which offers to fund Osborn's research so he'll create Super Soldiers for them.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Sinister Six.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: The musical is loosely based on the first two films of the Sam Raimi trilogy.
  • Self-Deprecation: The Goblin at one point remarks "I'm a sixty-five million dollar circus tragedy...actually, more like seventy-five" in "A Freak Like Me Needs Company". The musical itself cost $75 million to mount.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: The Goblin ends up killing himself accidentally.
  • Shout-Out: Peter asks Mary Jane if The Fantasticks is a musical version of the Fantastic Four.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Goblin and Swiss Miss are both villains with spikes all over themselves.
  • Spirit Advisor: Arachne serves as a spirit advisor to Peter Parker.
  • Team Member in the Adaptation: Of the five members of the Sinister Six who actually originated from the comics, Swarm and Carnage were not included in any roster that existed prior to the musical's existence.
  • To the Tune of...: "Bouncing Off the Walls" sounds strikingly similar to U2's "Vertigo," at least according to Todd in the Shadows.
  • Take That!: J. Jonah Jameson on the Bugle: "This isn't The New York Times, it's not the Daily News, and it certainly isn't the Post." All three were papers that were skeptical of the show during previews.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: In 1.0 Arachne was prone to exclaiming how furious she was at Peter not taking her bait.
  • Villain Song: "A Freak Like Me Needs Company" (sung while creating the Sinister Six) and "I'll Take Manhattan" (a piano solo where he challenges Spider-Man to confront him), both by the Goblin.
    • "Bullying By Numbers" and "Venom", for Flash and the other bullies. Sadly, neither make it to the official album.
    • "Think Again" and "Deeply Furious" in Version 1.0, by Arachne.
    • "Pull The Trigger" for Viper, the criminal organization trying to convince Osborne to use his genetic research for evil.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Goblin offers Spider-Man a place by his side. Spidey, naturally, refuses.
  • Wing Pull: The Goblin sprouts a pair of wings for the final confrontation atop the Chrysler Building.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: From "No More": "I count the grass as it grows/I go to sleep in my clothes/But the shoes don't fit"...
  • Word Salad Title: There is no explanation given for the Turn Off the Dark subtitle. (It's a variation on the phrase "Turn on the light".)
  • Yandere: Arachne in Version 1.0 is obsessed with getting Spider-Man to love her and puts the city in peril several times to lure him out, with many of her songs having sexual overtones.
  • You Are Not Alone: Sung nearly word for word by Mary Jane and Arachne in the reprise of "Rise Above".


Video Example(s):


"A Freak Like Me Needs Company

"A Freak Like Me Needs Company" features the Green Goblin initing the Sinister Six.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / VillainSong

Media sources:

Main / VillainSong