Batman Live!

Last night we saw Batman Live, the arena show currently running in Manchester. It’s sort of a trial run – if successful, the show will head to America following it’s UK tour.

One of the problems with something like that is nobody really knows what it is supposed to be. It’s not a musical. It’s theatrical, but it’s not a drama or a play. Really the best way to actually describe it is to say it’s like a musical, but without the songs. It’s big, with acrobats and circus performers, some amazing set design and cool sequences. Behind the stage is a huge bat-shaped screen, which really kicks the show into something else – the screen acts like a motion comic, flicking through pages to indicate scene changes and providing a giant backdrop of Jim Lee art and design against which the action unfolds.

We were in the floor-level seats, which gave me the opportunity to walk around the stage and get some pictures. Me and the stage, taken from our own seats:

Stage front:

And the other side. And yes, there were plenty of people – young and old alike – dressed as characters from Batman:

The show is about Dick’s journey from being a member of the Flying Graysons to becoming Robin. While the main antagonist is The Joker, aided by Harley Quinn (whose note-perfect performance was easily the highlight of the show), along the way we meet The Penguin, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and Catwoman – Catwoman, I am pleased to say, was portrayed accurately as a neutral anti-hero rather than a villain.

It wasn’t perfect, not by a long chalk – it was clearly a very toned-down show suitable for young children, so all of the fight sequences were slow and lacklustre, featuring some very poor choreography, and the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne – the pivotal moment, surely – actually took place off-stage. Unfortunately, it was the awkward moments that stick in the memory – such as the leisurely Kirby wire representation of Batman and Catwoman’s fight/pursuit across the rooftops of Gotham, rather than the bits that were really amazing – such as Harley Quinn’s attack on The Joker’s hot air balloon with, you guessed it, a bazooka.

But hey, it’s a family show and it was a fun night out. With some tweaks and development it could be really good, and I imagine some retooling will take place before it heads Stateside.

I also counldn’t resist the rather large, rather thick and rather price programme.

I didn’t take any video during the performance, but there are a couple of good clips from the same show we were at online, which give a feel of what it was like:

Earlier in the afternoon, we headed into the Generation Pop art gallery, which is holding an exhibition of DC art to coincide with Batman Live. I was expecting original comic art, but the exhibition was actually entirely glicee fine art prints of Alex Ross and Jim Lee work. Some of the pieces – including a giant 50″ widescreen Alex Ross painting of the original seven members of the Justice League of America – were amazing, and they were all for sale.

So… um… we bought one! Not the Alex Ross masterpiece – at £1700 that was a little expensive (!), but a neat Jim Lee piece. It’s being shipped from LA, and should be here in a couple of weeks. But I’ll save another blog post for that when it is up on the wall in our library!