Honda Center, Anaheim
Through September 9
Staples Center, Los Angeles
A gigantic table and chair dwarf the young orphaned acrobat who is about to become Batman’s famous sidekick, Robin.
As he runs across the table to sit in the chair, he is made to look like an infant in the vast gloomy space that is Wayne Manor. Like an infant in a world that he has just stepped into. And, in a wink to the audience, an actor also a mere speck in this gargantuan production.
Batman Live is billed as “The World’s Largest Living Comic Book” and much of the oversized and over-the-top presentation very effectively pulls the audience into the realm that the iconic comic book superhero has graced since Adam West was a kid. Ultimately, it’s the kids this show is for.
But imagine this: In the same summer inhabited and in some ways haunted by the latest Batman movie, a lavish, British-based stage production had the audacity to begin its North American tour at the Honda Center in Anaheim on September 5 built on the same character. But this is no Dark Knight rendered by Christopher Nolan. Somewhere between the Tim Burton-era Batman and the version seen on cable cartoon shows, lies Batman Live. And packaged in Cirque du Soleil and London West End panache.
The brisk storyline is about how Robin comes to join Batman after the Boy Wonder’s acrobat parents are killed during their circus performance. But before long all of the Batman’s famous foes are lined up against him, lead by the Joker at Arkham Asylum. Catwoman, of course, chooses to play both sides to her advantage.
This is a $15 million production with 42 actors and acrobats, all manner of lighting and special effects, actors on wires, big sound and score, and a 150-foot video screen. There is dancing cleverly incorporated into certain scenes but mercifully, there is no singing.
Some of the wire work looked a bit awkward and cautious at times, implying who were actors first and acrobats a distant second. But to every young face in the house, this was of no matter. To be honest, if I was a kid, Batman Live would have blown me away and had me buzzing for days.
A hot air balloon that was to explode on stage but didn’t, halted the performance for several minutes. Excusable as typical opening night bugs but it also demonstrated just how complicated it is to pull off a production like this.
The storytelling might be a bit cheesy for adults, but the production is so visually impressive, Batman Live is still something to see. If you have a young family you’re trying to keep entertained, this is a production as hard to beat as the Caped Crusader.