A Spider-Man musical must not have seemed like the nosedive off a skyscraper it turned out to be back on that first day, when Broadway producers gave Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark the green light. But by the time Team Taymor finally hauled their spoof-ready behemoth of a show out into the limelight, it seemed Spidey had lost his sense completely.
The moral of the story? You don’t need eighty million dollars to turn a piece of junk into something priceless. Landless Theatre Company doesn’t have the massive budget of its green-gobblin’ progenitor up in New York — hell, they don’t even have Bono and The Edge! — but with Spidermusical: A Second Chance For Awesome, they’ve taken a giant leap that actually lands.
Granted, “giant” is relative. This low-flying pseudo-hero’s air space — the DCAC theatre in Adams Morgan — is about as big as a Broadway star’s dressing room. But with a fairly-fun book and music, a snappy production, and an above-average cast of performers, Landless has upped their game. Directed by Melissa Baughman, this quick-footed parody slings a web of jokes that stick.
There’s no fine detail to wringing a show out of this material, written by Randy Blair and Tim Drucker with music from Matthew roi Berger and lyrics by Randy Blair. That would be like trying to fine-tune a kazoo. Spidermusical takes such an epic fail as its inspiration that a broad brush often works best with these gags.
But, somewhat surprisingly, this show would tickle ribs even if Julie Taymor’s disaster had never happened. The show’s got a beating heart to carry it beyond the topical, centered in Mickey DaGuiso’s charming and relatable Peter Partker (that Partker’s with a “t” to keep the suits away, I imagine). DaGuiso is also a music director and stage accompanist — at Landless as well as other local theatres — but his return to the stage is well-played, and it’s gratifying and fun to see him again.
Part of the trick is assembling a supporting cast stellar enough to do bad theatre well — something Landless only sporadically achieves. But here they’ve totally nailed it. Everyone is exceptionally funny and well-matched to type. Matt Baughman gets big laughs as Peter’s d-bag high school rival. Steve Custer, in a variety of roles, carries scenes away with him every time he leaves. Ally Jenkins has some hilarious bits as Peter’s horny co-worker at Gawker (what, you didn’t know he worked at Gawker?) and Melissa O’Brien brings a nice synergy of sexy curves and hard punches as love interest Mary Joan.
And, thank the lord, everyone can sing, too! In the night’s best song, Peter’s bankrupt Nana June (Arielle Goodman) laments the sale of her collection of clown figurines in a solemn aria called “The Clowns Are Gone.” It’s a fully-committed number, transcendent in its size and scope (not to mention the fact that the talented Goodman tears it apart and leaves it for dead). That it’s followed later on with a closing song called “The Clowns Are Back” just hooks us all over again.
What’s it about? Something involving Artistic Director Andrew Lloyd Baughman playing an evil-genius mad scientist Dr. Rick Oz-Cosborne (who, as you’d imagine, get a pretty good evil-genius mad scientist song of his own). His anarchic crimes know no bounds — “What are morals but thoughts that get in our way when we’re trying to have cooler thoughts?” he muses at one point — so it’s up to to Peter to fight him off with some silly choreo, flashes of projections, a few tossed action figures, and more.
Take that, Broadway — a swingin’ new musical on a millionth of the expense budget! It’s great to see Landless, a reliably mid-level funny troupe, hit one out of the park. Go see it, get bitten. It’s super.
Spidermusical: A Second Chance For Awesome runs thru April 29, 2012 at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St NW, Washington, DC.
Spidermusical: A Second Chance For Awesome
Written by Randy Blair and Tim Drucker
With music from Matthew Roi Berger and lyrics by Randy Blair
Directed by Melissa Baughman
Produced by Landless Theatre Company
Reviewed by Hunter Styles
Running Time: Approx 1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission