Before Spidey: Turn off the Dark, Other Superhero Musicals

Before Spidey: Turn off the Dark, Others

Years in development, the multi-million dollar musical Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark made its debut on Broadway last night, November 28, 2010.  Despite being beset by cost overruns, delays and injuries to its high-flying cast, anticipation for Turn off the Dark continues to build.   Directed by Julie Taymor (The Lion King) with songs by U2’s Bono and The Edge, the show has the potential to go either way: a share of the success that superhero properties have had in other media of late, or a genre-shattering bomb that will make even the idea of a large-scale Broadway production radioactive for a generation.

The PR blitz in its favor has begun with reports of Taymor’s almost super-human desire to complete the project and a small tableau of Annie Leibovitz photographs of Turn off the Dark’s interpretations of Spider-Man and his gallery of villains both old, like Green Goblin and Carnage and original, like Swiss Miss, a walking Swiss Army Knife of evil, and presumably, preparedness. Initial press reactions from last night's first ever full run-through have been mixed, with reports of stall-outs and tech glitches throughout. Ultimately, predicting how Turn off the Dark will fare might be as easy as looking into the past and seeing how the intersection of singing and crime fighting worked once upon a time.


It’s A Bird…It’s A Plane…It’s Superman!

The first Superhero Musical was this 1966 production that pitted the Man of Steel against threat of an evil scientist and his army of Chinese acrobats while simultaneously struggling for the heart of Lois Lane against a rival for her affections.  Unfortunately, the “never ending battle” only lasted 129 performances on Broadway, but it did garner three Tony nominations for its performances.  It’s a Bird… hit the road soon afterward and become a moderate, underground success and even was adapted for TV and aired on ABC in 1975.  The potential success of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark has inspired talk of a reboot; a new version was even tested in Dallas in the summer of 2010.


Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "Mayhem of the Music Meister"

The Music Meister, utilizing his mind-controlling singing voice (provided by Neil Patrick Harris) hatches plot to take over the world with the unwilling help of heroes and villains alike.  Teamed with Black Canary, Batman must endure plot-advancing song and dance numbers.  Mayhem of the Music Meister, an ‘off-beat’ episode of the surprisingly deep kid-targeted, toyetic animated series spawned its own soundtrack album that runs a tidy eighteen-plus minutes.


Batman: The Musical

In a case of what could have been, 2002 saw the cancellation of Batman: The Musical, a Broadway show featuring the Dark Knight conceived by Tim Burton, playwright David Ives and Jim Steinman of Meat Loaf lyrical fame.  Exact plot details were never released after the project was cancelled after a wave of theatrical failures for Warner Bros., but would have involved Batman facing not only the Joker but the corrupt establishment in Gotham City.  Batman: The Musical should be not confused with the year 2000 Batman Beyond episode "Out of the Past" where Bat-Protégé Terry McGinnis takes an elderly, unamused Bruce Wayne to see Batman: The Musical in the year 2039.  Before they leave, they and the viewing audience get to see the opening of the show-stopping number A Superstitious, Cowardly Lot (Their Evil Schemes Will Come to Naught.) 


Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Neil Patrick Harris is another villain in this original web miniseries from 2008.  His Dr. Horrible finally gets a chance to raise his profile in the world of villainy, but his unrequited (and unspoken) crush on the girl at the laundromat and his rival, the hero Captain Hammer complicate matters.  Conceived by Joss Whedon and a small circle of allies during the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was an experiment in non-traditional content distribution, and thanks to clever script and a sharp cast become an internet phenomenon.  Rumors of a full-length feature sequel persist, though it's likely on the backburner due to Joss Whedon's current project, the similarly super Avengers. The story has continued courtesy of Dark Horse comics.


Captain America

Batman wasn't the only one to stall out before making his big stage debut. In 1985, a $4 million production starring the star-spangled Avenger was prepped for the stage, but never quite made it. The play was going to involve Captain America and his lady friend, who was a candidate for president who gets kidnapped by terrorists and held at the Lincoln Memorial. The show even included ads run in Marvel Comics doing a casting call, as seen on the right. Today's audience might have a problem with an ad seeking a "10-14 year old girl" to be Cap's "very special friend."

What superhero should have their own musical?

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