On February 11th, 2011, New York-based actor/writer Justin Moran, appalled by the budgetary excesses of the problem-plagued and frequently-stalled Broadway musical, Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, threw down the gauntlet via YouTube, asserting that he could write, score, cast, stage, advertise and and open a Spider-Man musical on a nonexistent budget by March 14th, one day before the opening of the bloated spectacle.
Moran says he posted the video at 3 a.m., never thinking it would extend beyond his own circle of friends, but he woke up to find his voicemail full, hundreds of Facebook friend requests and even messages from Broadway pros who wanted to participate. With that, The Spidey Project: WIth Great Power Comes Great Responsibility was born.
Needless to say, Moran made his deadline (even though the other show didn't). And his worries about...ahem...copyright issues were alleviated when executives from Disney Theatrical (the muscle behind SM: TOTD) came to see the show.
This month, The Spidey Project is making its West Coast premiere via the Theatre Unleashed company, and it certainly lives up to the hype. Proudly wearing its impoverished heart on its sleeve, it nevertheless boasts an appealing, talented ensemble, a solid back-up band and enjoyable musical numbers.
David Chrzanowski, director of the Los Angeles production, says he added 15 minutes to the original's brief 60-minute running time to focus more on the acting. He also expanded the cast from eight to 10, which allows for richer ensemble singing.
Ryan J. Hill plays Peter Parker/Spiderman with tons of energy. He's a little guy, but he can really bounce off the stage walls. Kyle Cooper is an equally energetic Flash Thompson, Peter's rival for the heart of cute Gwen Stacy (Krista Taylor), and his "Chipotle" number is one of the show's comedic high points. Ben Atkinson is a crackup as Peter's fast-talking boss, J. Jonah Jameson, and Lauren Turner is amusing as Jameson's assistant, Betty Brant. Also fun are Melissa Jobe and Darren T. Mangler as Peter's Aunt May and Uncle Ben. The chorus is enthusiastic and sounds great, and the intimacy of the space makes that enthusiasm infectious. The audience I was with roared appreciatively throughout.