"The Spidey Project" poster

In the interest of full disclosure: I’m a lifelong Spider-Man fan, but the recent movie trilogy satisified — and then also nullified — my thirst for live-action webslinging adventures. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to the upcoming 3D film “reboot” of the Spider-Man film franchise, now starring Andrew Garfield as hero Peter Parker. And I had no intention of seeing Julie Taymor and Bono’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway, expecting only to be incensed at the myriad ways the bloated blockbuster production would surely skew the Spider-Man story I knew and loved to make it all but unrecognizable to comic book geeks like myself.

Which is why I was initally both intrigued and dismissive when improv performer and playwright Justin Moran announced on February 11 that he would create and direct The Spidey Project, a “guerilla theater” musical based on the Spider-Man comic books — to be completed in less than 30 days, with a budget of $0, and scheduled to open on March 14, one night before the $65 million Broadway musical’s  delayed March 15 opening (which has now been pushed to June 14, following the dismissal of Turn Off the Dark director Julie Taymor).

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen more money poured into one show than any other in Broadway history,” Moran said of Turn Off the Dark, “and it still shows no signs of opening. Wouldn’t it have been amazing if instead of this one show, a dozen smaller new musicals open this season? Think of how crazy the Tonys would be. Think of the creative innovation as each show tried to do more with less. Think of the amount of actors that would be working again.”

Moran was inspired to action by the negative reviews Spider-Man received after February 7, the show’s previous (but also delayed) opening night. Yet rather than criticize someone else’s work, he decided to take on the project himself. “Our goal isn’t to tear down Julie Taymor or parody her production,” Moran told the New York Times in February. “Our goal is to do what she should have done in the first place, and that’s just make a really good musical.” Miraculously, the creators did something their Broadway rivals couldn’t: they opened the show on time and on budget.

I was in the audience for the second of two one-night only performances of The Spidey Project: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility at The PIT last night; a 10 p.m. performance was added after tickets for the 8 p.m. show sold out instantly. My curiosity and love of all things Spidey meant that I had to see it, if only to confirm that Moran had undertaken an impossible challenge which would only vindicate Taymor as a visionary director. As I followed Moran & Co.’s progress on his “The Spidey Project” blog, I figured the stunt might make for an entertaining event on a Monday night. But I didn’t actually expect the show to be so good.

Moran used the power of the internet (specifically Facebook and YouTube), though, to recruit a talented cast and crew of volunteers from the improv and musical theater communities, who together displayed their ingenuity and sincerity in bringing a one-hour Spider-Man musical comedy to the New York City stage. Read the rest of this entry »