When Broadway theater reviews attack

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Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark recently finished a major overhaul, during which they took several weeks off to change the script and music in the hopes of overcoming terrible reviews during previews. This got me looking for the original Spider-Man reviews, and in the process I found several other gems, where the reviewer reamed the show in question with some very clever and entertaining phrases. Here are some of my favorites (I heartily recommend clicking through to read the reviews in their entirety):

The show: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

  • What it’s about: Who even knows at this point? The show has undergone so many revisions (and accidents) that I have no idea what the “final” product will be.
  • The reviewers: New York Times, Slate
  • Highlights:
    • "The sheer ineptitude of this show, inspired by the Spider-Man comic books, loses its shock value early. After 15 or 20 minutes, the central question you keep asking yourself is likely to change from ‘How can $65 million look so cheap?’ to ‘How long before I'm out of here?’…‘Spider-Man’ is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst…[it] is so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair. Fans of Ms. Taymor's… ‘The Lion King,’…will have to squint charitably to see evidence of her talent."—New York Times
    • "Julie Taymor's train wreck, through and through…a comic book musical that seems to have no affection for comic books or musicals…[a] mass entertainment that at its heart is one woman's wild ego trip.”—Slate

The show: Good Vibrations

  • What it’s about: This jukebox musical features the music of the Beach Boys as it follows three high school buddies who invite the nerdy valedictorian girl on a road trip to California (because they don’t have their own car). It’s basically an 80s movie.
  • The reviewer: New York Times
  • Highlights:
    • “…the sum effect is of a lumbering, brainless Frankenstein's monster, stitched together from stolen body parts and stuffed into a wild bikini.”
    • “…audience members strong enough to sit through this rickety jukebox of a show, which manages to purge all catchiness from the surpassingly catchy hits of the Beach Boys, will discover that the production does have a reason to be, and a noble one: ‘Good Vibrations’ sacrifices itself, night after night and with considerable anguish, to make all other musicals on Broadway look good.”

The show: Moose Murders

  • What it’s about: The show was originally billed as a “mystery farce,” as a family gets trapped in the mountains during a storm with several others and a lot of people die. The show is now known as the ultimate awful production, against which all other awful productions are judged.
  • The reviewer: New York Times
  • Highlights:
    • “Though the heads may be hunting trophies, one cannot rule out the possibility that these particular moose committed suicide shortly after being shown the script that trades on their good name.”
    • “I'm tempted to upbraid the author, director and producers of ''Moose Murders,'' but surely the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will be after them soon enough.”

The show: The Addams Family

  • What it’s about: This musical adaptation of the classic cartoon/movie/TV show is based around Wednesday and her new boyfriend, as the two families meet for the first time. I don’t have anything snide to say because I really liked it.
  • The reviewer: New York Times
  • Highlights:
    • “Imagine, if you dare, the agonies of the talented people trapped inside the collapsing tomb called ‘The Addams Family’…[it] must feel like going to a Halloween party in a strait-jacket or a suit of armor. Sure, you make a flashy (if obvious) first impression. But then you’re stuck in the darn thing for the rest of the night, and it’s really, really uncomfortable. Why, you can barely move, and a strangled voice inside you keeps gasping, ‘He-e-e-lp! Get me out of here!’”
    • “Fans of the ‘Addams’ television show will be pleased to learn that Thing (the bodiless hand) and Cousin Itt make cameo appearances. They receive thunderous entrance applause and then retire for most of the night. They are no doubt much envied by the rest of the cast.”

The show: Love Never Dies

  • This is a sequel to the immensely popular Phantom of the Opera, which has endured for decades. It is also one of the most critically panned musicals of all time.
  • The reviewers: New York Times, The Daily Mail, The Observer, Time Out London
  • Highlights:
    • "…about as tension-filled as winding wool." –The Observer
    • “…ghastly…an interminable musical monstrosity…With its sickening swirls of video imagery, pointless plot, and protracted, repetitive songs, Love Never Dies... is punishingly wearisome."—Time Out London