Audiences entering the arena are greeted by a 3D Gotham City landscape complete with buildings, soundscape and video animation, setting the scene for the story to come. The sheer magnitude of the production becomes apparent from the first moment the full symphonic score is heard and the 100ft bat-shaped LED video wall comes to life to enhance the action on the custom-built stage.
Bringing Batman, Robin, The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler and a host of other characters from the world of DC Comics into a live stage production for the first time, it’s a spectacular production combining a new original story with state-of-the-art special effects, impressive stunts by circus performers, pyrotechnics, illusions, video screen sequences and thunderous music.
An unashamedly big show designed with arenas and family audiences in mind, it premiered in Manchester last month at the start of a tour of UK and Europe and will only reach North America this time next year.
The 43-strong cast of actors and circus-trained acrobats act out the story by Allan Heinberg which follows the origins of Robin, former circus performer with acrobatic family The Flying Graysons, turned crime-fighter.
Elsewhere we see the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents and the circumstances that made him Batman, as the action unfolds across iconic settings including Wayne Manor, Arkham Asylum, The Batcave and Gotham City.
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson – both orphaned at an early age – must first learn to overcome their own fears and forge their own family – along with Police Commissioner James Gordon and Bruce’s trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth – if they’re going to survive the combined forces of Batman’s rogues gallery: The Joker, The Penguin, Catwoman, The Riddler, Two-Face, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.
Creative director Anthony Van Laast, with a background in choreography over three decades of Broadway and West End theatre, said: “Nothing has ever been done quite like this before; making it into an epic piece of live theatre,”
The use of circus performers brings an element of acrobatic choreography, rather than that of more traditional song-and-dance musicals (which Batman Live assuredly isn’t).
“Having the space to do all that stuff adds a unique element to it,” says Van Laast. “It’s a very physical show; there are some incredible face-offs. Then there’s all the peripheral visual activity that makes it worthy to be in an arena. We’ve given it the epic nature it deserves.”
The stage set is designed by Es Devlin, multi-award-winning international stage and costume designer behind tours for Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Take That, who was recently appointed as the designer of the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony.
The giant video wall will feature new artwork inspired by the award-winning, artist Jim Lee, now DC Comics co-publisher. The musical score is composed by James Brett.
The creative team has been recruited by executive producer Nick Grace, who knows how to think big. For the last few years he has managed the record-breaking Walking With Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular which came to Sheffield in 2009.
Batman Live will be playing eight shows at the Motorpoint Arena next week from Wednesday to Sunday. Tickets are priced £20, £30 & £35, with a limited number of premium Gotham City seats available at £45 (plus booking fee),
lSee a sneak preview on www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk