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It started out as a highly anticipated but eyebrow raising idea: the transformation of a comic book into a Broadway show. Soon into the rehearsal process, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark made headlines with its mishaps, swelling budget and seemingly endless delays. After one of the longest rehearsal processes in Broadway history, Spider-Man opened on June 14 to an audience of Irish-American royalty, including the show’s musical composers Bono and the Edge, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon and former President Bill Clinton. Though one Irish American soared high above the others… literally.
Broadway’s resident vigilante, Reeve Carney was a musician in a jazz-infused rock band in Los Angeles when he met Tony-award winning director, Julie Taymor. Some phone calls led to some songs which led to a trip to New York and a three-month audition process which would crown Carney with the most coveted new role on Broadway – Peter Parker himself.
Reeve caught up with Irish America about the premiere and his greatest passion – his band Carney. Reeve mentioned that one of the greatest perks of the show finally premiering is the hours of daylight he now has to devote to the band.
“It’s nice if you have other creative outlets,” he said. “I have my band and now we’re able to rehearse in the day time which is wonderful because it kind of gets my mind off the show for a little while. When I come back to the theater every night I have a fresh perspective and can deliver a fresh performance.”
After seeing the show, it is difficult to imagine the actors having the energy to do much else other than Spider-Man. The show is certainly unlike any Broadway has seen before, with actors swinging across the entire orchestra and landing on the ledges of balconies, the whole show culminating with a final battle scene, set on the side of the Chrystler building. It is a thrill ride so action-filled that it is jarring to think that this could ever become stale. But, according to the free-spirited Reeve, it can.
“Once you open, it’s a running show and it stays pretty much the same… When you do the same show every night you have to find ways to keep it fresh.”
Most, if not all, of Reeve’s off-time is dedicated to Carney, the band he, his brother Zane and their childhood friends Jon Epcar and Aiden Moore began dreaming up as adolescents. The Carney brothers began learning guitar and Epcar drums for a high school jazz band. The three went their separate ways for a while but reunited nearly four years ago to form Carney.
“The heart and soul of our music is rock and roll but the mental and spiritual approach to some degree is from a jazz background,” Reeve explains. A nice break from the static nature of a Broadway show are the Carney shows he works into the schedule. “With our band, Carney, we are very improvisational in nature… No sets are ever exactly the same …We throw in different songs but also even if the songs are the same there are sections of the songs that are completely improvised every night.”
Carney’s debut album, Mr. Green Vol. 1, definitely speaks to that jazz background, particularly in the track “Amelie.” Nothing is ever quite as it seems with Carney. Much of the band’s efforts are aimed to express a dynamic vision, to present the unexpected.
“Basically the approach of our band is to put music out there to inspire people and inspire ourselves but to also make people think.” Even the title of the band’s debut full length album, Mr. Green Vol. 1 is a testament to the band’s between-the-lines approach. “A word like green has so many different meanings and connotations and we like that concept. It kind of goes along with everything our band stands for. Not being black and white. We don’t want to be too obvious and we don’t want to force anything down anyone’s throat.”
The band members play with the orchestra in Spider-Man and also are looking forward to continuing to play shows in New York on their rare nights off as well as a gig opening for U2 at the end of July. “That’ll be a crazy Irish party that night,” Reeve joked.
Reeve’s ancestors immigrated to Boston in 1850. Though much of that initial immigrant Matthew Carney’s story has been lost through the years, Reeve noted certain bits of Irishness he felt had been passed down. Not only does Reeve have a keen interest in Celtic music, which he claimed had a great influence on his own music, but he also prefers that damp weather the Irish know so well.
“I have not been able to visit Ireland yet but it’s one of the places I’ve wanted to go more than anywhere else. That’s exactly my type of weather. It’s funny – I was putting up Christmas lights one year in California in the rain and it was the only time I’ve ever enjoyed manual labor outside because it’s usually way too hot for me. But it was cold because it was raining so much and I thought it’s probably because of my heritage that I can’t work in the heat. I think I like that damp, green sort of environment.”
Until Reeve can make it across the Atlantic, he is genuinely excited to continue his work as Peter Parker and to continue to grow with Carney. “We love playing live as a band but we look at this process of our involvement with Spider-Man as an incubation period for our band. Right now, probably the best thing for us to be doing is creating new music and recording that music so that whenever we decide to leave the show we’re able to present something new to the world.”
So for a while, Reeve Carney will, like Peter Parker, continue to live his own double life. Incubating rock star by day and a swinging Broadway star by night.
There really is no business like show business.