Thursday night at the Staples Center, Batman fans got almost everything they could ask for. Batman flew through the sky, Dick Grayson became Robin and Catwoman began her romance with Batman. Another fantastic creation entered the Batmobile history. Batman fans of all ages were pleased. “Batman Live” brings Batman alive.
This Nick Grace Management incarnation of Batman (Sam Heughan with Jack Walker and George Turvey) is the bulked up guy with a suit that doubles as armor. It might be a tad too heavy, giving Batman a cartoonish look that only Arnold Schwarzenegger can pull off in real life. In the Batman history, that puts him between Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan’s version. The music isn’t the light and cheery heroic ditty of the TV series, but the dramatic symphonic theme song.
Here, true to DC Comics, we see Dick Grayson (Kamran Darabi-Ford) first as the proud son of the Graysons, a family of acrobats (Poppy Tierney plays Mary Grayson and Harley Quinn and Christopher Price plays the Riddler and John Grayson). The circus has come to Gotham City. His parents are killed, but we’re not sure at first who the real culprit is. Batman appears and we also learn Batman’s story.
The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents came after they took him out for a third time to see a movie about Zorro. His inspiration from that movie, brought him to becoming Batman under the guidance of Alfred (John Harding), his British butler.
Grayson’s hero is Robin Hood although in real life, he’s inspired by Batman.
We see an assortment of villains in the show, including the Penguin (Alex Giannini), the Riddler, Two-Face (Christopher D. Hunt) and Scarecrow (Benos Noble), but the main story line is about Batman facing the Joker (Mark Frost) and, as previously mentioned, beginning his complex romance with Catwoman (Emma Clifford who also plays Martha Wayne). The Joker is closer to the version Caesar Romero created in the TV series while Catwoman is a cross between Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer–sexy like crazy, but not crazy like the lady in a costume sewn from several different old raincoats. Catwoman’s outfit is like high fashion but sensible and she knows how to use a bullwhip.
The production makes good use of animation that is projected on the bat-shaped screen at the back of the built up stage. We see pages of what is supposed to be a comic book to remind us of this story’s source. Animated bats fly in formation and we are taken from the interior of Wayne mansion to the interior of the Batcave. The built up stage allows for characters to rise up and disappear into the stage and above the stage is a high tech catwalk that brings actors swinging down from above.
Think of this as a Cirque du Soleil type circus. Cirque shows often have a theme and the acts are tied together loosely by a bare-bones plot. Here the plot is much stronger(written by Allan Heinberg) and the characters more defined. We still have acrobats although one might wish for more creatively choreographed fight scenes, the Batmobile (created by Professor Gordon Murray) is worth waiting for.
Overall, my friends and I were impressed although overwhelmed by the volume of the proceedings. It was loud, like stage show that was amped up so that no one would need hearing aids. Since this is an arena event, think of this as theater as spectacle, like the Romans and their gladiators as opposed to the Greeks and their Greek chorus tales of hubris. The direction of Anthony van Laast makes this pleasing for both adults and children (Co-directed by James Powell).
“Batman Live” continues until Sunday afternoon when it moves to Las Vegas for a few days. The tour hits Oklahoma City, Rio Rancho, Colorado Springs, Loveland (Co.), Wichita and Sioux City. For more information about tickets and the tour, visit the official “Batman Live” website.