…freedom looks like too many choices… – U2, “New York”
Sometime after my plans for Philadelphia had been set, I decided that I wanted to go see Spider-man Turn Off The Dark since I would be so close–probably closer than I’ve ever been or will be for awhile–to New York City. At the time, the show was being rewritten and overhauled and I had hope that it would reopen, make it through the previews, and continue on successfully. Fortunately for me, that seemed to be the case. I asked around online and Erin—who was then just an online acquaintance—thankfully agreed to go with me. Erin had been to New York City before so she knew the ropes… better than me, anyway! And I felt less fearful about trying to navigate in what is to me a big scary city.
So I bought the tickets for the next day after the Philly concert, Erin booked the hotel in Times Square, and we decided we’d take Amtrak from Philly to Penn Station in NYC. It would be an epically fun little U2 “weekend” for us. Busy, yes. But fun.
As is usual for a stint in GA, we’d been up the day of the concert at 4am and, due to the horrible traffic pattern exiting the stadium, we did not get back to our hotel—just three miles away—until 2am the following day. We got a few hours sleep to wake up around 9 the next morning. I did not feel like I’d slept at all when I initially got up but after a shower and breakfast, my excitement masked my fatigue and I felt energized to face the new adventure.
Our arrival in NYC was a dizzying combination of subways and travel by train. I was glad Erin was more patient than me. I’m sure I could have figured it all out—I’ve had to do so in Europe—but it somehow all seems so much more intimidating in the US. Maybe when I travel abroad I live in a state of ignorant naivete because the cultural differences make it impossible for me to attempt to interpret the behaviors of the inhabitants; therefore, I can’t perceive the danger I think I feel around me by all my fellow US citizens. Either way, I cannot underscore how uncomfortable big cities like NYC make a small city girl like me feel as compared to say, Munich, where I’m just overwhelmed by the extreme foreignness of it all. I tried to look at NYC like that—pretend I was in some foreign country somewhere. That seemed to help.
When we emerged from the subway onto the streets of Time Square, my head exploded from the number of people who flooded the streets like one massive stream of bodies. I had pictured a lot of people, sure, but this was like the alley between tents at a carnival. I recognized some of the brightly lit buildings with their futuristic digital billboards from movies I’d seen, although in those movies the streets had been much emptier. It all seemed a lot more cluttered and narrow than I’d imagined. I thought Times Square would be an actual square, kind of like Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. Which I suppose, now that I think about it, is not really a square either. Still, Cleveland’s theatre district—even on a show day—is not nearly as packed as Times Square. Small City Girl exclaimed, “Eep!”
We stayed at the Millennium Hotel which was a little out of the way from the main pedestrian traffic and was actually only a few blocks from the Foxwoods Theatre where we would see Spider-man. Once we checked in, we walked to the theatre to ensure we knew how to get there. After running a few short errands (such as buying a toothbrush, as I’d forgotten to pack one, and the cheap one I was provided at the hotel in Philly was destroyed after a single use), Erin and I decided to stalk Bono take a stroll through the famous Central Park. At the part of the park that just happens to be in front of Bono’s NYC apartment, The San Remo.
We didn’t honestly expect to see him there. My story—and I’m sticking to it—was that it was research for my rock star story. My continuing quest to see how the “other half” lives. The subway exit onto the street was just half a block from the famous residence. We stood on the corner across the street, took a few pictures, and then passed both entrances to the building from the same side of the street so not to appear obstructive or alert the bellmen. It was actually an old building. Nothing outwardly spectacular or grand. Just another apartment building in New York City. I can’t even imagine what it must have looked like on the inside. Nor did either of us know which tower Bono’s apartment occupies.
We hung out in the park for an hour or so, just generally taking in the surroundings. It was just like I’d seen in movies—an oasis of green in the middle of a cement jungle where at some points tall buildings poked over the tops of the trees. It was fairly busy with bicyclists, joggers, picnickers, and other tourists milling about. We imagined what it would be like to see Bono jogging by (we know he jogs) or on a stroll with his wife and sons as the paparazzi frequently catch him. No such luck for us that day. I wasn’t even sure he was in town.
After we’d had our fill of failed attempts to stalk, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for show. It turns out that Lori-Jo (aka EdgeFest)–another fan I’d met in my travels this summer—was in town and also attending that evening’s show. So we ended up meeting up with her for dinner. She rescued us from the chain restaurant of the Hard Rock Cafe to one of the many Irish pubs which, incidentally, happened to be across the street from our hotel. She happily fed the jukebox so that we could enjoy a bountiful of U2 music as we ate.
We parted ways with Lori-Jo because she had to pick up her tickets at Will Call. However, as we waited for the show to start from our great seats in the Flying Circle—which was the lower balcony—Lori-Jo walked right past us and sat in the row right in front of us! For the win! We formed our own little “crazed U2 fan” corner. While we did not make nearly as much ruckus as the slew of kids and their obnoxious parents further down our row, I can’t say we were exactly a passive audience. There was some fist pumping during a scene in which the main characters were at a club where the song “Vertigo” was playing and we could not help but poke each other a giggle at the various U2 references sprinkled throughout the script. It was not unlike a (subdued) U2 concert for us.
The show itself was really delightful. The music was well-balanced in the theatre, at an acceptable volume, and not at all distorted. You could make out the individual instruments and the cast pulled the songs off as good as their polished versions on the soundtrack I bought when it came out a month ago. The storyline pretty similarly followed that of the first Spider-man movie starring Tobey Macguire with an attempt to make add a more literary take on the plot with the legend of Arachne. Jennifer Damiano’s performance of Mary Jane Watson was reminiscent of Kirsten Dunst’s performance in the movie.
The costumes were awesome. Patrick Page really stole the show as the villainous Green Goblin, almost as if evil scientist was his first nature. The acrobatics had me on the edge of my chair because, given all the accidents the show had experienced early on, I did not want to personally witness any such accidents. I kept thinking there was no freaking way I would personally ever do what those actors were doing. And I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane (however, I hate rock climbing, so I guess my statement comes as no surprise).
Most of the acrobatic stunts were performed by other actors dressed as Spider-man. However, at the end of the play, Reeve Carney did perform a few of his own, including a breath-taking jump onto a platform at the edge of our balcony. I can still see the silhouette Carney—his spiked hair aglow by the light of the spotlight at his back—and the shit-eating grin spread across his face as he looked out at us. It was almost as surprising and rewarding as if Bono himself had suddenly appeared on the balcony! Carney went on to jump up to the (higher) balcony above us where I’m sure the audience received a similar performance from the young actor.
The house was packed. Whether it was to watch what some still considered a sinking ship or people were honestly starting to take this show seriously, I felt vindicated that Bono and The Edge’s attempt to insert themselves into Broadway was finally working out for them. Sure, the story itself is not extremely deep. It doesn’t have the emotional or literary impact of Cabaret (my favorite musical) but neither does the tongue-in-cheek dialog of The Fifth Element compare to the emotionally uplifting message of Gattaca; yet, I love both movies with a passion. Sometimes you read a fiction novel because it’s fun and entertaining. Not everything has to teach you something.
But it’s not to say that Spider-man Turn Off The Dark is devoid of any meaningful content. It’s a love story primarily which is perhaps one of the most common themes Bono explores in all his work (think: The Million Dollar Hotel). Interlaced within the songs and some of the dialog is a dire political commentary ripped right out of today’s headlines—genetics (playing God), war, patriotism. I, of course, eat this stuff up.
The song “Pull The Trigger” has such a biting punch, I’ve been calling it “Bullet The Blue Sky 2.0.” As an evil corporation seeking to create super soldiers for the military try to persuade Norman Osborn to sell the secrets of his genetic breakthroughs, they chant the haunting chorus that reminds me so much of the war cries of those people who cried chants of anti-patriotism whenever I criticized the country post-911:
Don’t just think of you,
Think of God and country,
Join the proud and few who know best for their country
Get some patriotic pride
Or get on to the other side.
And the ever poignant obvious stab at the most recent events in Iraq:
How do we win, by living in fear
How do we win, get the enemy clear
How do we win, by saying it’s done in retaliation
The march of the soldiers screaming “yes, sir! hut-2-3” at the end of the sequence was spine-chilling, seeming somehow very ZooTV to me. I wish U2 could perform this one in concert (even though it’s technically not a U2 song). The words are marvelously poignant and, honestly, I’d love to see The Edge play the kick-ass guitar solo in the middle eight. I am envisioning a troop of One campaigners dressed in military attire as the marching soldiers with Bono leading the pack in his ZooTV era military outfit from “Running To Stand Still.”
Okay, I kid. But still… It would be a great live song. I think the sequence that accompanied this song in the show was my favorite part. I was pleased when Lori-Jo also seemed to gravitate to that song as well (and how could she not, as an Edgegirl, with a guitar solo like that one?).
Anyway, it was really a lot of fun and worth every cent I paid for that ticket (it’s Broadway, after all). The only that was not enjoyable was the aforementioned children who disrupted my consciousness from being drawn into the action of the show. During every love song/sequence between Peter Parker and Mary Jane, the kids began to shift in their chairs and talk loudly. I know the fun theme of Spider-man appears to parents as an open invitation to bring their kids, but really, must they? Perhaps a parent should consider whether or not their child is capable of sitting quietly for two hours before bringing the to a live show…? I’m just saying. I don’t think my mom—who loves theatre—brought me to one live show before the age of 13.
Additionally, there were two adults in front of Lori-Jo who plainly had an inability to sit still. The man kept checking his phone or texting (and was reprimanded by the usher once) and the woman was constantly shuffling in her seat. Why do people like this even bother attending a show? I seriously started to wonder if perhaps New Yorkers are just more of the heckling type for every type of entertainment they attend (and I’d witnessed them at baseball games when I frequented Long Island for a former job). Some of the behaviors I witnessed in this audience would never have been allowed to happen at a show in Cleveland. I ended up giving some people my best stink-eye. Which didn’t seem to help much. Oh well.
The show ended to much applause, though, so people seemed to generally like it. On my way out, I stopped at a merchandise stand to make my contribution to Bono and The Edge’s lavish lifestyle and, probably, the education of their children. They are always thankful about me spending my “hard-earned,” after all. Hell, they deserved it after the year they had with this show. I bought a really cool women’s sized t-shirt that I plan to wear to the show in Pittsburgh.
Outside of the theatre, we took turns taking pictures of each other in front of the panel over the door that read “The Bono-Edge Score Really Rocks.” Because. Well. It does.
We went out for some post-show drinks afterwords but we pretty much called it night after that. Erin and I had another early morning wake up call as we had bought tickets on the 9am train back to Philly since Erin had drive from Atlanta and had to get back for work on Sunday.
I had the quintessential NYC experience–complete with a Naked Cowboy sighting earlier in the day–and I was able to enjoy it while hanging out with some fabulous new friends (Erin, Lori-Jo!!). I really left town with a feeling of satisfaction–a great concert, a great evening out on Broadway, a fun new adventure. You can’t ask for anything more!