ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
To Broadway now, where there is an unwritten rule of the theater: Critics do not publish reviews until opening night. But the troubled production "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," has already broken plenty of rules. For one, it's had more previews than any musical in Broadway history.
So when the much-delayed February 7th opening was postponed again to March, critics balked. Last night and this morning, 11 reviews, from all the major New York newspapers and several national publications, came out.
And as Jeff Lunden reports, every one of them was negative.
JEFF LUNDEN: "Spider-Man" has been dissected on blogs and Internet postings, parodied on "Saturday Night Live" and the "Colbert Report" and praised by Oprah Winfrey and Glenn Beck.
Mr. GLENN BECK: It's being panned right now. Nobody's saying good stuff about it. I'm telling you: You go buy your ticket.
LUNDEN: With all that noise and over 60 preview performances, New York Times drama critic Ben Brantley decided it was time to break convention and review the show.
Mr. BEN BRANTLEY (Drama Critic, New York Times): It seemed unfair to readers not to try to give an accurate appraisal of what was actually happening on the stage that people were continuing to spend hundreds of dollars on for tickets. And you reach a point where you say, enough.
LUNDEN: But the show's producer, Michael Cohl, insists that the $65 million musical, written and directed by Julie Taymor, with a score by U2's Bono and the Edge, is still a work in progress.
Mr. MICHAEL COHL (Producer, "Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark"): Were going to fix the show, improve it, change it, do what we think the show needs. And when Bono and Edge and Julie and myself believes that it's ready, we will say to the world: Its ready and come and judge it as you would.
LUNDEN: Washington Post Critic Peter Marks called "Spider-Man" one of the worst musicals of all time.
Mr. PETER MARKS (Critic, Washington Post): I think it clearly makes you a little uncomfortable to be reviewing something before the production claims it's quote-unquote "ready." But the other side of that is this show decided that, you know, it was okay to charge Broadway prices while they screwed in the nuts and bolts.
LUNDEN: And it's those nuts and bolts that have been plaguing the show with technical glitches and injuries to actors. And even if critics like Ben Brantley say the storytelling is inept, "Spider-Man" seems to be pulling in sold-out crowds.
Mr. BRANTLEY: New Yorkers and tourists love to be in on the scene of a disaster. You know, you stop to look at the car crash. You stop to look at the burning building.
LUNDEN: But producer Michael Cohl, who's sitting on one of the top-grossing musicals on Broadway, thinks otherwise.
Mr. COHL: We think we have a great show. And our sales are still strong. So we're doing this for the people. We're not doing this for the reviewers or the critics.
LUNDEN: For NPR News, Im Jeff Lunden in New York.
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