Tuesday night saw the official World Premiere of the all-new, all-singing (well not really), all dancing stage show Batman Live at Manchester’s MEN Arena. Taking a – neon-tinged – leaf out of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher era of movies and not Nolan’s dark re-envisioning of the franchise, the show briefly tells the story of Batman’s origins, followed by those of Robin – yes, this is essentially Robin’s origin story with all the major bat-villains shoe-horned into the tale.
The show itself, and yes it is a show – Batman Live is no musical, the nearest I can compare it to is something akin to Cirque Du Soleil, filled with magic, circus performers, high wire acts, acrobatics, explosions and much more, all wrapped in the skin of Batman. More spectacle than story, Batman Live has the thinnest of scripts that, despite its brevity, works well in stringing together each scene and nothing seems forced – well apart from some of the lame jokes of course!
Credit where credits due, Batman Live looks AMAZING. From the fantastic video wall at the back of the stage that works both as an animated back drop and “motion comic” that moves the story forward between scenes, plus its a great distraction between scene changes. The screen really comes into its own during the spectacular Batcave sequence, where its used as a humongous computer screen… The awesome video wall is matched only by the superb lighting which changes colours at the flick of a switch, bathing each scene in an iridescent glow from the blues and yellows of Batman to the purple and greens of the Joker – and, course, this being Batman we’re is treated to a flash of the famous Bat-signal, scouring across the watching audience before lighting up the back of the MEN Arena.
Whilst Batman and Robin are pegged as the heroes of the show, the real stars of the story are the villains – Riddler, Penguin, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Harley Quinn and the Joker. In fact it’s Harley and the Joker who steal the show thanks to the manic performance of Mark Frost as Joker and Poppy Tierney’s captivating and hilariously funny turn as the super-cute but super-deadly Harley Quinn… The duo almost take over the entire show as the finale approaches and their “relationship” is soured by a giant bazooka (yes I did say bazooka, and yes it is fired!)
When alls said and done, Batman Live is an amazing, and most of all fun, experience for all the family, and whilst the show had its faults – a poor fight sequence between Batman and Catwoman at the shows opening and problems with the venue itself – there was still plenty to enjoy about this Batman.