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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 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 

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. Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man and, after losing his Uncle Ben, uses his newfound powers to fight crime under the guidance of the mythical Arachne. Meanwhile, the genetic scientist Norman Osborn becomes the Green Goblin after an experiment gone wrong, creating a supervillain "family" who must be stopped. The first version had a heavy focus on Arachne in Act II, making her the main villain who wove illusions into Peter's mind in a bid to either win his love or have him kill her.


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. The 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, though nothing has come of it yet.


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.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: Norman Osborne is depicted with grey hair here, as part of his Mad Scientist design. In the comics, he typically has red hair.
  • 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.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change:
    • Since the show is partly based on the Sam Raimi films, this version of Peter uses organic webs just like the Tobey Maguire version.
    • The Green Goblin doesn't use a glider in this continuity. Instead, he's able to sprout a large pair of wings whenever he needs to go airborne. Funnily enough, the character would later sport wings in both Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • The Kingpin of the comics is a powerful crime lord, as well as one of Spider-Man's most formidable opponents. The musical portrays him as a mere bank robber who's webbed up by Spidey in a matter of seconds.
    • Downplayed with the Sinister Six. "Sinistereo" shows that they are incredibly dangerous villains who nearly destroy all of New York City. Once they face Spider-Man in battle, however, they each go down relatively quickly (Carnage in particular doesn't put up much of a fight here, despite his comic counterpart being a Symbiote who can easily go toe-to-toe with Venom).
  • 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.
  • Adapted Out: Harry Osborn doesn't exist in this continuity, as Norman and Emily are childless. 1.0 has the Goblin mention they always wanted a son and attempt to use this line of reasoning to get Spider-Man to join him.
  • 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 to lure Spider-Man out.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Peter even has a song about how everyone else picks on him.
  • 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".
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: After Spider-Man defeats the Sinister Six, the Goblin vows revenge on his family for vanquishing them.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Bullying By Numbers" is a slightly less vitriolic version of one, about how much fun beating up Peter is.
  • Apocalyptic Montage: The Sinister Six gets one in Act 2 (albeit through pre-recorded video), set to the song "Sinistereo".
  • 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 2.0 version of the story, and clearly only exist because Julie Taymor had already paid for the costumes and props (Arachne was originally the Big Bad in the 1.0 version).
    • In Version 1.0, Swiss Miss was thrown in by Miss Arrow because said "Geek Chorus" member thought she sounded cool, and is a member of the Sinister Six in 2.0 to fill out the villain quota.
    • The initial design for the Green Goblin costume included a large green mohawk, though it was later replaced with a shorter, pointier hairstyle that resembled the comic iteration's hat. Despite the redesign, footage of the mohawk Goblin was still used for the show's projection scenes.
  • Author Avatar: Of the four Geeks, Miss Arrow is the only female one, is smarter than the boys around her, and introduces several of Julie Taymor's original creations and concepts 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.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Norman becomes completely aware of the audience's existence once he becomes the Goblin. He speaks directly to them at the top of Act II, and even croons to them with a sadistic lounge song right before the climax.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Peter, in Version 1.0, ends up losing his spider powers for the majority of Act 2, only regaining them for the final confrontation with Arachne.
  • The Cameo: The villains Kingpin and Hammerhead briefly appear as bank robbers during Spider-Man's introduction.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • Arachne's character and general plotline was created for the show; in 1.0 she was the mythological Arachne who served as Peter's Spirit Advisor and became the Big Bad in Act 2, while in 2.0 she was simply his mythological guardian.
    • 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, while in 2.0 she's one of Osborn's scientists and is experimented on.
    • In this continuity, OsCorp is funded by a Nebulous Evil Organization called Viper Worldwide, which plans on using Osborn's experiments to create an army of super soldiers. No such organization exists in the comic continuity.
    • Several minor characters, such as Buttons McBride, Mrs. Gribrock, and Maxie have no comic counterparts.
  • Cartoon Bug-Sprayer: Spider-Man uses one to defeat Swarm.
  • 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.
    • The Green Goblin was also the result of a physical mutation, much like the Ultimate version of the character.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: In 1.0, the Geek Chorus spent half the time narrating and half the time commentating on the story, characters' motivations, and whether fate or something else led the spider to bite Peter when it did.
  • Creator Cameo: A few U2 snippets appear in the soundtrack. And "Bouncing Off the Walls" is very similar to their hit "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 Advisor-turned-Big Bad. In 2.0 her role as Peter's Spirit Advisor 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.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In both the comic and the 2002 film, the Green Goblin does himself in by accidentally ramming the Goblin Glider into his torso (though he does come Back from the Dead in the former). In the show, he suffers a Disney Villain Death, and is sent tumbling off the Chrysler Building while webbed to his piano.
  • 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 pushes it off the Chrysler Building out of spite towards the people below, 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, as voice by Patrick Page, 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, and in 1.0 it was even more blatant with a number called the "Ugly Pageant."
  • Foreshadowing: The reps of Viper Worldwide, the organization that pushes Norman to use his science for evil, wear entirely green suits. This, of course, foreshadows Norman's tragic transformation into the Green Goblin.
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": In 2.0, the Goblin trying to leave a message for Jameson is interrupted when the receptionist puts him on hold, he has to navigate the recorded menu options, and finally gets the answering machine.
  • 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 and commenting on character motivations, known as the "Geek Chorus." They were eventually scrapped.
  • Hearing Voices: One of the side effects of becoming the Green Goblin is hallucinations, with Norman hearing Emily egging his villainy on and students from "Freaktown High" coming to see the Sinister Six.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Spider-Man defeats both Electro and Swiss Miss by tricking them into attacking each other; since Electro has electric powers and Swiss Miss is made entirely of metal, it doesn't bode well for either of them.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: Towards the end of 1.0, Arachne's Furies chase the Geeks out and take over story-writing duties.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: In 1.0, due to Arachne's suicide being interrupted she's unable to die unless someone else kills her.
  • I Have Your Wife: Mary Jane, as usual, gets kidnapped by the villain to rile up Spider-Man — twice in Version 1.0.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Spider-Man reasons with Goblin on the Chrysler Building. He says Norman Osborn was a good man and was better than this. Goblin derisively says that Norman Osborn is no more.
  • 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) and have only the names in common with them.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The wrestling announcer says Peter is making Bonesaw look like an inflatable doll, which he is.
  • LEGO Genetics: This seems to be the cornerstone of Osborn's research, and is the basis for the Crowd Song "DIY World," which is all about mutating your DNA to shapeshift and take on animal traits to survive catastrophes. Osborn later uses the same research to create supervillains, which is particularly weird when it comes to Swiss Miss. Do knives have DNA in this world?
  • Lighter and Softer: The revised production toned down a lot of the darker aspects of the first version. Mary Jane's father abusing her, female bullies sexually harassing Peter, and Arachne's whole plot about wanting to mate with and/or kill Peter were all toned down or cut out completely.
  • 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.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Subverted in 2.0, where the Goblin claims Spider-Man is his son. Peter knows this is false for obvious reasons, though Jameson doesn't and runs headlines about their supposed connection.
  • Mad Scientist: Osborn is a scientist bent on improving 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.
  • Mocking Music: 1.0 featured a scene where Peter and MJ spend the night together during a blackout. The latter tries to ease their worries of the city falling apart, due to the Sinister Six's rampage, by putting on some music. Unfortunately, the first song that plays when she turns on the radio is "Sinistereo".
  • Mood Whiplash: Peter winning the wrestling match and excitedly counting his money, to a reprise of "Bouncing off the Walls," is cut short with the sound of a gunshot and Aunt May screaming for Uncle Ben.
  • Morality Chain: After the death of his wife, Norman grows progressively more insane and violent. (The severe mutations could also be a factor, though.)
  • Mythology Gag: The classic Spider-Man theme from the 1967 cartoon is subtly alluded to at the beginning of "Pull the Trigger".
    Norman: Spider-Man, Spider-Man....
    Viper Executives: Enhanced genetics...
    Norman: Spider-Man!
  • Never My Fault: The Green Goblin. "Emily... died... because of you [Spider-Man]!"
  • Oh, Crap!: Peter has this reaction when the Goblin calls him by his name in Spider-Man garb.
  • 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. Norman refuses, but the pressure leads him to accelerate his project.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Norman decides to test his genetically-modified enhancements on himself.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Sinister Six, whom the Goblin creates to wreak havoc on the streets of New York. This iteration of the Six consists of Electro, Kraven the Hunter, The Lizard, Swarm, Carnage, and a new villain named Swiss Miss.
  • Reality Ensues: Something the Goblin points out to Peter. He figured out that Spider-Man was Peter Parker because on the Daily Bugle's newspaper pages, Peter was the only guy taking Spider-Man's photos. It doesn't take long for anyone to put two and two together. Goblin had the added bonus of remembering Peter was in his lab when the Oscorp spider got loose.
  • Redemption Equals Death: After tormenting Peter, the city, and Mary Jane for the entirety of Act 2, Arachne regretted her villainous ways and ascended to heaven at the very end of 1.0.
  • 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.
    • In version 1.0, five of the scientists that leave Oscorp are named Quesada, Loeb, Lee, Romita, and Straczynski, as in Joe Quesada, Jeph Loeb, Stan Lee, John Romita Sr., and J. Michael Straczynski. This reference was omitted in version 2.0, and the scientists were rewritten to be the future members of the Sinister Six instead (though the nod to Stan Lee remained, with "Lee" being the implied surname of Swiss Miss).
  • 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.
  • Standard Snippet: Swarm's theme samples the classical piece "Flight of the Bumblebee."
  • Superhero Movie Villains Die: In 1.0 Peter killed every supervillain except Arachne, while in 2.0 the others are merely imprisoned and the Green Goblin accidentally kills himself.
  • Take a Third Option: In 1.0, Arachne has two major plans: One is to have Peter be with her and leave the human world behind, and the other is to force him to kill her, either of which would free her of her spider's curse. Peter fights and then spares her, and the show of humanity leads to Arachne releasing him and Mary Jane and ascending to heaven instead.
  • 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.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Spider-Man and the Green Goblin's fight, as well as additional moments in the show, take place within and above the stalls of the theatre.
  • 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, Critics!: 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.
  • Tempting Fate: In 2.0, after "If the World Should End", Peter agrees to take the night off to be with MJ, saying "It's just one night". Cue video of an Apocalyptic Montage, featuring the Sinister Six terrorizing the city overnight.
  • 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" for Flash and the other bullies.
    • "Think Again" and "Deeply Furious" in Version 1.0, by Arachne.
    • "Pull The Trigger" for Viper, the criminal organization trying to convince Osborn to use his genetic research for evil.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Goblin offers Spider-Man a place by his side. Spidey, naturally, refuses.
  • Wham Line: Goblin tells Spider-Man to take his mask off when they meet on the Chrysler. Spider-Man naturally refuses. Goblin then calls him "Peter". In a mix of Oh, Crap! and Death Glare, Peter takes off his mask and asks how Goblin found out.
  • 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.

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Example of:

Main / VillainSong

Media sources:

Main / VillainSong