BWW Interview: James Hadley Marvels at Directing Spider-Man (A Childhood Super Hero) & His Cohorts
The national tour of MARVEL UNIVERSE LIVE! AGE OF HEROES lands in Southern California beginning July 7 at STAPLES Center. Enhancing the tale of the Super Heroes' recovery of the Wand of Watoomb from the clutches of Loki and his crew of fellow villains will be massive video projections, advanced special effects, and stunts from aerialists, acrobats and motorcycle riders. Expect to experience Bruce Banner transform into The Hulk right before your eyes, Doctor Strange levitating, and Spider-Man casting his webs, or much more.
We had the chance to catch director James Hadley during a break from his New Orleans rehearsal.
Thank you, James, for taking the time out of your prep for the debut of your tour in New Orleans.
You're used to wearing a number of hats in your projects (director and creator: European Games 2015 Closing Ceremony, Senior Artistic Director for numerous Cirque du Soleil productions, and writer and director of circuses for other companies). Will it be 'easier' for you to be only the director of AGE OF HEROES?
I always look at projects as being collaborative, and for me, the team that I work with is very important and I take their input very seriously. I was fortunate in this project that I was able to work with a fantastic team who are specialists in what they do. The team includes a fight choreographer, aerial choreographer and stunt director, who each come with specific talents. We call ourselves the "Action Team." Our job was to give powers to these Super Heroes and to find the most exciting way to do that. I work best in a team dynamic.
At what point of the development process were you brought into AGE OF HEROES? (after writer? before casting?)
I was brought in very early on. A rough draft of the script had been written by David Love. His background is TV and film, and mine is in live theater. We worked closely together to find the most dynamic and exciting storyline that could be presented in a theatrical setting.
With YouTube and the different ways to see entertainment, people's expectations of entertainment have been raised. Because of that, we are always pushing the limits. With AGE OF HEROES, we found an exciting new way to tell the story.
When did you start working with Cirque du Soleil, 2005?
You worked with a cast of 3,000+ artists in the Closing Ceremony for the 2015 European Games. How big is your current AGE OF HEROES cast?
How much easier/different are the logistics of working with a "normal-size" group of performers?
You really can't compare because the shows and the expectations of the performers are so different. What I like about a smaller cast is that you get to know them individually and work with them on a personal level. You find out what their strengths are, and are able to nurture and develop them.
In an arena setting with audience seating almost 360 degrees, as opposed to a thrust stage; you must take in consideration sightlines for various audience positions. Do you still stage the majority of your actions mainly front?
I take into consideration that there will be people sitting 270 degrees around the stage. In rehearsals, I watch the show from a different place in the arena every time, in order to make sure everyone in the audience sees a great show and is immersed in the story.
Where would you suggest audience members purchase their seating for optimum viewing of AGES OF HEROES? Direct center? Further rows back?
Due to the way I have staged and directed the show, every seat in the arena is a great seat.
When you started out your performing career with The National Ballet of Canada, what other styles of dancing did you have to master to book your various Broadway shows (CATS, A CHORUS LINE, CHICAGO,THE RED SHOES, THOU SHALL NOT, BELLS ARE RINGING)?
Although I initially trained as a ballet dancer, my dream was to be on Broadway. Therefore, I simultaneously trained in tap, jazz and theatrical dance.
It seems like acrobatics need to be part of a dancer's repertoire now, would you agree?
Expectations of dancers have definitely increased. When I look at this show, although we do have dancers; it's remarkable how many disciplines they have mastered, including fighting, acrobatics and stunts.
At what point of your performing career, did you realize you'd rather be a creative off-stage rather than onstage?
Fortunately, before my body gave out. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with Susan Stroman who inspired me and fueled my passion for directing.
Disney has been known to include very dark aspects of human nature (Bambi's mother being killed would be the harshest example). Any reasons for parents to cover their little ones' eyes in AGE OF HEROES?
Parent's won't need to cover their children's eyes, but perhaps they might need to cover their ears. This show incorporates many special effects and the use of pyrotechnics.
AGE OF HEROES has scheduled dates through the end of March 2019. Aside from plugging in new cast replacements, is part of your directing duties to go to each and every tour city to set up/refresh the show? Or do you go to only select cities?
We have an incredibly talented production staff and technical crew that travels full-time with the show. They have been working alongside me during the rehearsal process, and their responsibility is to maintain the show and ensure that every audience experiences the same incredible show in every city.
With such specific, and most times synchronized, talents (acrobats, motorcycling, aerialists), do you have swings for each group?
The show was cast to ensure that each area discipline featured in the show has a depth of performers who are capable of stepping in and any time.
Did you have a favorite Marvel Super Hero growing up?
I grew up watching the Spider-Man cartoons, and for me, it's really exciting to now be working with him.
Now that you're a grown-up, what place do you believe Super Heroes have in everyone's lives?
I think that Super Heroes are the heroes of our generation and they help teach our children right from wrong. They're always fighting for what's right and good. It's a really good message for the youth of today.
Thank you again, James! I look forward to catching your Super Heroes right some wrongs!
For the southern California portion of their U.S. tour, MARVEL UNIVERSE LIVE! AGE OF HEROES will be appearing at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles July 7-9; Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario July 13-16; and Honda Center in Anaheim July 20-23. For available tickets and complete tour schedule through the end of March 2019, log onto www.marveluniverselive.com