The official lights go up for "Spider-Man - Turn off the Dark" today (June 14) as the show finally opens and the soundtrack from Island/Interscope/Universal is released.
As the composers, Bono and the Edge are the constant as this show has piled up the gaudy numbers: Six delayed openings, one replacement writer, one replacement director, a record number of previews (183) and an unheard-of budget (up to $75 million).
Bono and the Edge say the album, billed as "Music From Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" with no reference to Broadway or U2, "is a kind of sampler of what we've been up to with 'Spider-man.'" In a short essay in the CD booklet, they say they chose from 18 songs and 20 pieces of score to create this 14-song album and included two of their demos "for the fun of it."
One has to wonder what musicals Bono and the Edge saw when they were looking to write a score. The manner in which Stephen Sondheim captures a character's emotion and uses that to move a story forward is present here, but not in the varied way that Sondheim does in "Into the Woods," "Company" or "Sweeney Todd." The U2 guys have glommed onto those second act numbers that are so full of encouragement -- "Wicked" anyone? -- that have the emotional draw of U2's "One." By concentrating on having characters deliver pearls of wisdom to each other, they have forgotten to build an arc for the music. In this collection, nothing sounds like an act 1 closer, an act 2 show-stopper or even a theme to hum on your way out of the theater.
Here's our track-by-track review of each song as we also track the "words of wisdom" passed between characters on each tune.
1. "NY Debut (Instrumental)": Chiming guitar rises in volume. Trademark U2 until it flattens out in a curious mish-mosh of themes.
2. "Boy Falls From The Sky": A generic version of U2 circa "All That You Can't Leave Behind." Reeve Carney has the necessary vocal chops. Word of inspiration: "Believe."
3. "Rise Above 1": Heavy on atmosphere, a beat-box-generated rhythm and a Bono-esque swagger most actors do not project. Words of inspiration: "And you said rise above."
4. "Picture This": The lone performance from Bono & The Edge is lightweight U2. Words of inspiration: "On this sunny day."
5. "I Just Can't Walk Away (Say It Now)": Reeve Carne and Jennifer Damiano and a cello. U2 at their most "Wicked." Words of inspiration: "Can't walk away."
6. "Bouncing Off the Walls": Weakest song of the lot, it sounds like a reject from "October" deemed too much of Thin Lizzy-meets-"Drive My Car." Words of inspiration: "Let's rock and roll."
7. "Pull the Trigger": A scene setter for evil vs. good, talk-sung by Patrick Page over heavy drums, laboratory sounds and, eventually, heavy metal chords. Words of inspiration: "So fight back!"
8. "No More": Blessed with signs of restraint, tune is a 50/50 split between "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own" and "Into the Woods." Words of inspiration: "I am not where I belong."
9. "DIY World": From a theatrical perspective, the most successful song in the score. Solo voices and ensemble woven together addressing a dilemma and predicting the future over appropriate orchestration. Words of inspiration: "We need to be what we gotta be."
10. "If The World Should End": The snoozer of a ballad performed on the Tonys at least showcases Jennifer Damiano at her sweetest. Words of inspiration: "If there's no tomorrow/I'll have today again."
11. "Sinistereo": The Edge imagines scoring an Edgar Allen Poe horror flick and brings in some Brits to supply the layered vocals "I'm am the Walrus" style. Words of inspiration: None.
12. "A Freak Like Me Needs Company": Nearly every musical these days has a song that has no relation to the rest of the score. "Spider-man" gets this watered-down Pet Shop Boys-style dance number. Words of inspiration: "I'm unique - a freak!"
13. "Rise Above 2": Spidey's moment of reflection is greeted by, what else, words of inspiration. "One" lite. Words of inspiration: "Know that I'll be watching."
14. "Turn Off The Dark": Shimmering and beeping musical textures give the album closer a shape that no other tune possess. T.V. Carpio's singing seduces; her spoken interlude, not so much. Words of inspiration: "The gift you've been given binds you to me."