NYCC round-up

A few tidbits from New York Comic Con:

  1. According to Ugo.com’s writeup, MJ was name-dropped as “play[ing] a ‘huge’ role in Pete’s life.”
  2. Given the reappearance/restoration of a certain character last issue and subsequent interview with Chris Yost about the new Scarlet Spider series, we can assume by implication that MJ will not be the new Scarlet Spider. Jury’s still out on what will happen to her powers — at this point I think she’ll lose them at the very end of Spider-Island after a couple issues of kicking butt.
  3. Some behind the scenes info about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark:
    The relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson was also really big part of the changes they made. Originally, the show focused on a love triangle between Peter, MJ and the entity called Arachne, but the writers felt they needed to get more focus on the core love story and develop it earlier. After debating whether MJ should be dating Flash Thompson at the stories start, they decided to drop him so the leads could share a kiss in the first act. They weren’t sure when the pair went from romantically interested to dating, but then as Aguire-Sacasa noted “Then we had a scene where they’re kissing on a balcony, and well…they have to be dating if they’re kissing on a balcony.”
    These changes also resulted in one of MJ’s solo numbers being changed to a duet with Peter (source) — which song is unmentioned, but probably “No More,” as it’s the only song they sing in the first act without other characters.

Video: Reeve Carney (Peter Parker), Jennifer Damiano (Mary Jane Watson), and T.V. Carpio (Arachne) perform the song “Rise Above” from the musical SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK for David Letterman (March 2, 2011).

Guess which show I caught rush tickets to this weekend? Full review to follow, but here’s the short version:

- Is the the critical consensus that the show is at best mediocre accurate? Yep.

- Is the show as facepalm-inducing as the videos online suggest? Yep.

- Was the troubled production history of the show blatantly obvious in its execution? Yep.

- Was it worth the rush ticket price? HELL YES.

Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano’s Tony Awards performance of If the World Should End from Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

My thoughts: it’s a lovely ballad, but not the show-stopper I’d expect from a standalone performance at an awards ceremony. Then again, given all the problems the show’s had I can understand why the producers would want to present something more low-key, just to show that their show isn’t all special effects disasters.

The acting’s somewhat flat, but I’ll reserve judgment given that the nature of theater performance requires a certain hamminess which rarely translates well to the small screen. (Any Doctor Who/Torchwood fans among my followers? Think of Broadway-trained John Barrowman’s performance as Jack Harkness and you’ll know exactly what I mean.)

Critical reactions to the performance seem to fall in line with mine: pleasant enough, but nothing mind-blowing. I guess we’ll just have to see how the song works in its full context!

Other tidbits about MJ/Jennifer Damiano in Turn Off the Dark:
» In an interview with The New York Times, Damiano and Carney are enthusiastic and confident about the new version of the show (and flirt a lot, apparently).
» Kansas City Star's Robert Trussell gave a positive review (sorry, “gut reaction”), although he barely mentions MJ, referring to her as Peter’s “sweet little” love interest. Uh-oh.
» Meanwhile, Chicago Sun-Times' Willa Paskin's review is thoroughly negative, but her assessment of Damiano as MJ is near-identical to Trussell’s: ” Jennifer Damiano is earnest and real as Mary Jane Watson, his ever-thwarted girlfriend.”

Neither of those reviews bode very well for sassy!MJ, unfortunately, but in the spirit of optimism I’m going to hope that Damiano’s at least been given more to work with than poor Kirsten Dunst.

Rick Marshall’s review for MTV doesn’t mention MJ at all, but does a good breakdown of the differences between musicals version 1.0 and 2.0 from the perspective of someone familiar with the comics. Warning: lots of detailed spoilers, so readers beware!

Finally, though it doesn’t concern MJ or Turn Off the Dark directly, it’d be remiss of me not to mention the passing of Spider-Man producer Laura Riskin at the age of 61:

In addition to overseeing Sony’s Spider-Man franchise, whose three films have grossed nearly $1.2 billion domestically, Ziskin produced or exec produced such movies as Pretty Woman, To Die For, and As Good As It Gets. The president of Fox 2000 from 1994 to 2000, Ziskin also exec produced the Academy Awards in 2002 and 2007.

You can read more about her career at comingsoon.net. RIP, Ms. Riskin, and thanks for bringing us such wonderful films!

First look at Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark 2.0! You can tell it’s a musical based on a comic because the title has two qualifiers.

MJ (Jennifer Damiano) makes brief appearances throughout the video, most notably at 3:38-4:26 when she sings the duet “I Just Can’t Walk Away (Say It Now)” with Reeve Carney’s Peter Parker. Note the backdrop is a theatre entrance for a production called “The Fly” with MJ’s name on the marquee and a review blurb which appears to start “A Triumph…” Looking at the list of musical numbers, MJ is listed in five songs total, two of which are solos — presumably she appears in at least a couple of other numbers as one of the “Company” as well. So it looks like she’ll be an appropriately prominent part of the story. More than that, it’s hard to say; Jennifer Damiano has a lovely voice, but we’ll have to see whether she gets a chance to show some sass in the role, as any good adaptation of MJ should.

I’m reasonably hopeful on that front because Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the writer brought in to revise the script, showed an excellent grasp on MJ and her relationship with Peter in his stint on Sensational Spider-Man volume 2. For some reason I have been remiss in posting any scenes from his run (a mistake I’ll have to remedy) other than the last page of his last issue, which is sweet on its own and takes on a decidedly more insubordinate edge when you consider the next issue was part of One More Day. Aguirre-Sacasa’s run went from issues #23-#40, and can be collected in the trades Sensational Spider-Man: Feral, Civil War: Peter Parker, Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Back in Black. (Don’t you love how consistent Marvel is with naming their trade collections? It makes it so much easier to get ahold of complete runs on a title!)

Unrelated to matters MJ, I want Reeve Carney’s Spider-Man jacket, and Patrick Page as the Green Goblin is clearly going to steal the show. Overall, Turn Off the Dark looks entirely goofy, but in a deliberate way, and much more watchable than I was expecting. I may have to try for rush tickets next time I’m in the area!

So, NYC followers — have you seen Turn Off the Dark, either in its pre-revision form or the revamp that started previewing last month? If so, what did you think? If not, are you planning on going to see it?