| This has got to be the worst alternate universe ever. -Spider-Man
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It tells the origin story of Spider-Man, as well as his romance with Mary Jane Watson and his battles with the Green Goblin. The show includes highly technical stunts, such as actors swinging from "webs" and several aerial combat scenes.
The following is a synopsis of the show as it was performed in its preview period from November 28, 2010 to April 17, 2011.
As the curtain rises New York City is burning ("Splash Page"). Mary Jane Watson is suspended from the Brooklyn Bridge, and Spider-Man is rushing to save her. He is too late and his nemsesis, the Green Goblin cuts the rope. After Mary Jane falls, the Geek Chorus (Miss Arrow, Jimmy-6, Professor Cobwell, and Grim Hunter) enters. They are in the process of "writing" a new Spider-Man story. Miss Arrow contends that Peter Parker isn't actually the first person to become a spider. She begins to tell the story of Arachne ("Behold and Wonder"), an Ancient Greek weaver who challenged Athena, the Goddess of Weaving, to a duel; Arachne won and was punished for her hubris by Athena, who destroyed her work. Arachne was so distraught, she hanged herself. Athena felt guilty, so she gave her eternal life in the form of the world's first spider.
The scene dissolves into Queens High School where Peter Parker is presenting an oral report on Arachne. His questions prompt the teacher to assign the entire class a ten-page report, which they must work on over the weekend. As revenge, Flash Thompson and the other bullies at the school begin to physically and verbally abuse Peter ("Bullying by Numbers"). He walks home beaten and alone, until he runs into his next door neighbor, crush, and Flash's girlfriend, Mary Jane. They each go into their separate homes and have arguments with their guardians: Mary Jane's father tries to beat her, while Peter feels his Uncle Ben is trying to replace his dead father. Both teenagers long for escape ("No More").
The next day, the class goes on a field trip to the laboratory of Dr. Norman Osborn, who is performing genetic experiments which involve splicing different gene traits from different animals together. He explains the need to speed up evolution ("D.I.Y. World") to make the world a more perfect place and shows off his prime specimen: a large female spider. Unfortunately, the spider is missing; it turns up moments later and bites Peter. The action is interrupted again by the Geek Chorus, who argue why Peter was bitten; some believe it was fate, some believe he was chosen by the spider, and some believe it was a case of him simply being in the spider's path.
Back in the story, Peter is discovering his new spider powers: climbing on the ceiling, shooting webs, and using his new found agility and strength to give a beating back to the bullies ("Bouncing Off the Walls"). Unfortunately his new powers don't impress Mary Jane, who drives off with Flash in his new car. Peter believes that if he can afford a car, he'll be able to earn MJ's love; he enters an amateur wrestling contest and defeats champion Bonesaw McGraw for the $1,000 prize. On his way home he sees Flash going into MJ's house; soon after someone steals his new car, but Peter refuses to stop him. Uncle Ben sees the thief and runs after him, only to be killed by the speeding motorist. Ashamed of his recent selfishness and powerless to save his uncle, he goes to his room to grieve; Arachne sees him and shares in his pain ("Rise Above"). She gives him a costume made with the colors she described: Red for every heart of the innocent that bleeds, and Blue for the sorrow of endangered citizens. Peter copes with his uncle's death by swinging through the city breaking up crimes as "Spider-Man". Editor of the Daily Bugle J. Jonah Jameson thinks he's a menace and offers cash for whoever can manage to get pictures of him; Peter takes on the job as Spider-Man's personal photographer.
Back at the laboratory, the U.S. military tries to convince Osborn to speed up his experiments and create new genes to be spliced into people, so that they can be used as fighting machines in wartimes ("Pull the Trigger"). Osborn decides he will try the new experiment on himself first, with the help of his wife. Meanwhile MJ is impressed by Peter's new status at the Daily Bugle, and the two discuss their plans after high school: MJ wants to be an actress and Peter wants to be a photographer. They flirt, while Osborn and his wife prepare the gene splicer for the new experiment ("Picture This"). The machine goes haywire and Osborn's wife is killed, while he is transformed into the Green Goblin. To avenge his wife's death, Osborn begins murdering the lab techs and takes the military men hostage; Spider-Man intervenes and saves them, but Osborn knows it is Peter; after all, it was his spider who bit him. The Green Goblin kidnaps MJ and tells Spider Man to meet him atop the Chrysler Building, via a piano solo ("I'll Take Manhattan"). Spider-Man accepts, and the two have an epic battle over the audience. The Geek Chorus interrupts, wondering how they can get Spider-Man to defeat his foe; they decide that MJ has been attached to the piano and the Green Goblin pushes it over the side. He gets caught in it and falls to his death, while Spider-Man saves MJ. As he brings her down, they kiss and she asks who he is. He responds, "I'm your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man," and swings off into the night. An image of Arachne is barely visible above them.
The Geek Chorus enters and informs the audience that Spider-Man has defeated his ultimate enemy, so their story is complete. Miss Arrow is convinced that they are not finished, because Spider-Man's real ultimate enemy should be unbeatable. So they introduce several villains to which Spider-Man disposes of: Carnage, Swarm, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, The Lizard, and Swiss Miss (whom Miss Arrow invents on the spot). Throughout this super villain parade, we also learn that Peter and MJ have formed a relationship. With all of these villains afoot, Peter is exhausted and not paying much attention to her or anyone else in his life ("Spider-Man Rising"). As Peter sleeps one night, Arachne invades his dreams. She realizes that she will no longer be alone now that there is another spider to share her darkness ("Turn Off the Dark"). She begins to weave illusions in his mind, and Peter can't tell the difference between the dream and reality when he awakes. MJ becomes completely fed up with Peter's constant lateness and disregard for her after he does not show up for her new play ("Walk Away"). That night, he decides to abandon Spider-Man forever.
The Daily Bugle finds Peter's suit thrown in the trash and runs a headline about Spider-Man disappearing. Arachne reads this and becomes enraged ("Think Again"). She devises a plan to bring Spider-Man back by having all of his former enemies descend on the city at once. The Geek Chorus interrupts, citing the fact that they are all dead. Arachne's furies then take over the script-writing and scare the Chorus away. Peter and MJ enjoy a night out dancing, now that Peter has no real commitments to Spider Man and is back in school doing well. Suddenly, the power goes out; then the walls of the club come alive with the image of the Green Goblin, apparently alive and wreaking havoc. The villains destroy the city piece by piece, yet still Spider-Man does not appear ("Sinistereo").
Arachne is upset that Spider-Man has not taken her bait, and she visits him in another dream in which the two of them get married. When that does not work, she uses a headline in the Daily Bugle about 50 stolen pairs of shoes to weasel her way into the office of J. Jonah Jameson. Her furies steal the shoes for themselves and descend upon Jameson ("Deeply Furious"). Arachne convinces him to run a headline pronouncing Spider-Man a needed hero, and he does. After enjoying the blackout and its intimacy, MJ and Peter come to a standstill: because of the dreams and the added pressure of needing Spider-Man, Peter doesn't think he can be good enough for MJ anymore. She assures him that he is all she needs in the world ("If the World Should End"). On a path of soul-searching, Peter realizes that if MJ loves him then he can go on Spider Man; he finds his inner hero and vanquishes the Sinister Six ("The Boy Falls From the Sky").
Arachne kidnaps Mary Jane, and the Geek Chorus appears once again. They argue about who Spider-Man's true nemesis is, the one he can never beat, with some thinking it must be MJ. But Miss Arrow assure them that it is Arachne, since she is an expert of weaving illusion. Back in the story, we see that Miss Arrow is right: Arachne has trapped Peter in her giant web. MJ is suspended in a cocoon and will die unless Peter pledges to be with Arachne, to share her darkness forever ("Love Me or Kill Me"). They fight, and eventually Peter agrees to be with Arachne if it means saving MJ. Arachne has a sudden change of heart, realizing that there is still humanity left in the curse of the spider. She finds her own humanity and spares MJ's life. Arachne spares Peter of a life with her, as she knows he will always only love MJ; but in realizing his humanity, she has found her own and is released of her burden of darkness. Peter watches as Arachne ascends into the light by the same cloth she used to take her life. With his suit at the Daily Bugle, MJ sees Peter and finally realizes his secret. She agrees to stand by him as sirens begin wailing and Peter swings away.
The following is the version currently playing on Broadway.
At Midtown Manhattan Magnet High School in Queens,New York, local teenager Peter Parker gives a book report about Arachne, Goddess of the Weavers ("The Myth of Arachne"). As Peter gives his report, Arachne descends to the stage and tells the audience her story ("Behold and Wonder"). Thousands of years ago, Arachne was a skilled weaver who became conceited and boasted that she was greater than the goddess Athena, who challenged Arachne to a weaving contest. During the contest, Arachne created blasphemous images of the gods. Furious, Athena destroyed Arachne's work. Devastated, Arachne hung herself, but Athena took pity on Arachne and transformed her into the world's first spider. Now Arachne is cursed to wander the universe and weave her web for all eternity.
After class ends, Peter's ex-best friend Flash Thompson and his gang gleefully torment the Straight A Student ("Bullying by Numbers"). Peter has a crush on his popular next door neighbor Mary Jane Watson, but they both have unhappy lives. Mary Jane has an abusive father and suffers at home while Peter suffers the torment of bullies at school ("No More"). Peter has lived with Uncle Ben and Aunt May ever since his parents Richard and Mary Parker died in a plane crash when he was a baby. A few days later, Peter and classmates go on a field trip to the genetics laboratory of scientist Norman Osborn and his wife Emily, who explain what they hope to accomplish with their genetic research ("D.I.Y. World"). While Peter takes pictures of the lab for the school newspaper, the Osborns put the whole lab on lockdown as a dangerous genetically altered spider has escaped. While the students and scientists panic, the spider lowers itself onto Peter's shoulder and bites him ("Venom").
Peter soon becomes aware that he has spider-like powers as a result of the spider's bite along with a muscular physique, 20/20 vision and the ability to emit web strings from his wrists. He uses his powers at school to defeat Flash and his friends in a fistfight ("Bouncing Off the Walls"). After seeing Flash give Mary Jane a ride, Peter decides to buy a car to impress her. He heads out and enters a wrestling tournament, where he defeats champion Bonesaw McGraw for the grand prize of $1,000. Peter returns home only to learn that Uncle Ben has been shot by a carjacker. Ashamed of his recent selfishness and realizing he's powerless to save his dying uncle, Peter has an emotional encounter with Aunt May unaware that Arachne is watching over him. Arachne encourages him to use his gift to defend the innocent from evil ("Rise Above"). Peter vows to avenge Uncle Ben's death by using his powers to save the world and notes that "With great power comes great responsibility".
Peter then makes a costume with the colors that Arachne described to him. Red for every heart of the innocent that bleeds and blue for the sorrow of endangered citizens before swinging through the city on his webs, fighting criminals and saving innocent civilians as "Spider-Man". The Daily Bugle then begins to publish articles about Spider-Man while Peter is hired by editor-in-chief J.Jonah Jameson as a freelance photojournilistt. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn begins thinking that Spider-Man stole his research as the military organization Viper Worldwide presses him to accelerate his project ("Pull the Trigger"). Norman contemplates the dilemma with Emily while Peter shares his first romantic moment with Mary Jane ("Picture This"). Norman then decides to experiment on himself, causing an electrical surge that results in Emily's accidental death. Norman goes insane and mutates into the "Green Goblin".
The Green Goblin comes up with a plan to genetically alter other humans as he did himself ("A Freak Like Me Needs Company"). Through his experiments on his former employees, he manages to create six villains: Carnage, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Lizard, Swarm, and Swiss Miss. That night, Mary Jane tells Peter that her love for him has grown and he admits that the feeling is mutual ("If the World Should End"). The Goblin and his new alliance of criminals – calling themselves the "Sinister Six" – go on a rampage through New York ("Sinistereo"). Spider-Man quickly defeats the Sinister Six as the citizens of New York cheer him on ("Spider-Man!"), unaware that the Goblin has managed to escape. The Goblin arrives at the headquarters of The Daily Bugle and tells Jameson to print his plans of dominating the world through genetic mutation. The Goblin also tells Jameson that he gave Spider-Man life, making Jameson believe Spider-Man is in league with the Goblin and therefore giving Spider-Man an even worse image from the Bugle. Later that night, Arachne comes to Peter in a vision and explains that she is his guardian along with the reminder that being a hero is his destiny and he cannot escape it ("Turn Off the Dark").
Maligned by the media and suffering financial woes, Peter wants to spend more time with Mary Jane after missing the opening night of her play and begins considering to take time off from fighting crime. Upset over Peter's constant excuses and not wanting to lose the best friend she ever had, Mary Jane suggests they take a break from their relationship ("I Just Can't Walk Away (Say It Now)"). Hurt, Peter decides not to resume his heroic acts as Spider-Man and gives his costume to J. Jonah Jameson telling him that Spider-Man has quit. He later takes Mary Jane to a night club and impulsively proposes to her. While there, the Green Goblin intercepts the city's TV signals and sends a message to Spider-Man threatening his loved ones. Peter takes Mary Jane to his apartment and breaks off their relationship for good so that his enemies won't target her. After telling Mary Jane that he will always love her, Peter takes a walk and realizes that he needs to be a hero not only for Mary Jane but for the world ("The Boy Falls From the Sky"). Spider-Man then recovers his costume from The Daily Bugle and goes after the Green Goblin.
The Green Goblin sits at a piano at the top of the Chrysler Building and humorously boasts to the audience of his plan to destroy New York City ("I'll Take Manhattan"). Spider-Man arrives ready to fight, but is soon unmasked when the Goblin reveals he knows Spider-Man's true identity. Peter attempts to revive the good-natured Norman within the Goblin, but to no avail. Peter engages the Goblin in combat, but before he can finish him the Goblin reveals that he has Mary Jane, who now dangles from the Chrysler Building. A flying battle over the audience takes place and when it seems all hope is lost, Spider-Man webs the Green Goblin to his piano. The Green Goblin, not realizing this, thrusts the piano over the side of the Chrysler Building, taking him down to his death. After Spider-Man saves Mary Jane, she tells him not to leave and reveals that she has guessed who he is. Peter removes his mask and they embrace. The two contemplate their new life together before sirens begin wailing and Spider-Man swings away ("Finale – A New Dawn").
Original Broadway Cast
- Peter Parker/Spider-Man: Reeve Carney
- Mary Jane Watson: Jennifer Damiano
- Arachne: T.V. Carpio
- Norman Osborn/Green Goblin: Patrick Page
- J.Jonah Jameson: Michael Muhlheren
- Uncle Ben/Buttons/Viper Executive: Ken Marks
- Aunt May/Mrs.Gribrock/Maxie: Isabel Keating
- Emily Osborn/Marbles: Laura Beth Wells
- Flash Thompson/Bud: Matt Caplan
- MJ's Father/Ring Annoucer/Stokes/Viper Executive: Jeb Brown
- "The Myth of Arachne"†† – Peter
- "Behold and Wonder"†† – Arachne, Weavers
- "Bullying by Numbers"†† – Peter, Bullies, High School Students
- "No More" – Peter, Mary Jane
- "D.I.Y. World" – Norman, Emily, Peter, High School Students, Lab Assistants
- "Venom" ††– Bullies
- "Bouncing Off the Walls" – Peter, High School Students
- "Rise Above" – Peter, Arachne, Citizens of New York
- "Pull the Trigger" – Norman, Emily, Viper Executives, Soldiers
- "Picture This" – Peter, Mary Jane, Norman, Emily
- "A Freak Like Me Needs Company" – Green Goblin, Sinister Six, Ensemble
- "If the World Should End" – Mary Jane, Peter
- "Sinistereo" – Reporters
- "Spider-Man!"†† – Citizens of New York
- "Turn Off the Dark" – Arachne, Peter
- "I Just Can't Walk Away (Say It Now)" – Mary Jane, Peter
- "The Boy Falls From the Sky"† – Peter
- "I'll Take Manhattan"†† – Green Goblin
- "Finale – A New Dawn"†† – Citizens of New York
† "The Boy Falls From the Sky" was written by all band members of U2
†† Not on the Broadway cast recording