BWW Reviews: BATMAN LIVE Stays True to Comics, Makes a Good Time for Kids and Fans
Fitting three performances in one day can come at a cost depending on where you're playing. And though Batman Live World Arena Tour was only in San Jose for four short days (heading to Los Angeles' Staples Center next), Saturday evening's performance, the third showing that day, found the large HP Pavilion less than half full. The audience was there in spirit, though, spread out from the top boxes to the main floor seating. Children smiled and pointed at the show's spectacular visuals and semi-stellar acrobatics while the enthusiastic Batman fans were excited just to be near their favorite superhero.
Unfortunately, those may be the only audiences the tour has going for it. While a fairly empty arena makes for shorter lines, it also lessens the fun for those outside the target market, especially when the show, itself, has little to no audience interaction. Most who go to the show will get exactly what they want, but whether Batman has enough avid fans to fill all those seats for weekend performances is still open for questioning.
Set on an elongated stage with a giant LED screen in the shape of a bat, the Batman spectacular often gets described as a combination of live theatre and circus. The thin story line follows Batman as he takes on his apprentice, Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin. Several of Batman's most infamous rivals make appearances, including the Joker, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, the Riddler, the Penguin, Two Face, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow. But Catwoman and the Joker get most of the spotlight while the rest are thrown in just for fun, a shame since the bad guys not only get the best costumes, but the best actors, as well.
The role of batman has been triple cast due to the physical demands of the role. At Saturday's performance, Jack Walker gave a straight performance with little passion or draw to him. Kamran Darabi-Ford proved a better actor as Robin, the rebellious, angst-driven teen that millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) takes under his "wings." Emma Clifford made a wonderful, sensual Catwoman, Poppy Tuerney stood out as the playful Harley Quinn, and Mark Frost was a fantastic Joker, reminiscent of the character's appearances in earlier Batman films and television shows. Christopher D Hunt, Alex Giannini and Christopher Price also deserve recognition for their memorable, spot-on impressions as Two Face, the Penguin and the Riddler. Overall, fans looking for characters true to their comic book and Hollywood counterparts will not be disappointed.
The older TV, movie renditions of Batman underlie the whole of the show, which draws little to nothing from the recent Christian Bale films and a great deal from the original comic books. The bright colors and luminescent LED screen pull audiences right into the comic book world as pages turn on the screen and incredible 3-D graphics take viewers from the various streets of Gotham to the circus to Wayne Manor and all the way down to the Bat Cave. Miniature set pieces made to look like the well-known buildings of Gotham, as well as various sound effects, create the illusion of a real Gotham city. Thanks to detailed costumes, the actors pop against the dark stage, giving anyone in the arena a good vide. And the few circus acts and acrobatic movements give audience members extra treats without overwhelming the show.
The amazing visuals of the show make it worth seeing. On the other hand, the pace of the fight scenes is inconsistent, some being done in slower motion and others done at full pace - none of them looking in the least bit realistic to those over the age of 12 and all of them somewhat awkward and cheesy. But then again, this is comic book lore we're dealing with, so dramatic flying entrances by Batman and Robin are to be expected, and anyone with an imagination can pretend the flying Catwoman and Batman are actually on a rooftop fighting. Such theatrics at least sound good. The creators had the right idea.
Whether such a Batman Live World Arena Tour should exist is a matter of individual opinion. The tour’s special effects are wondrous, and its characters and circus acts are sure to impress the kids. Yes, this show is a lot of fun and is perfect for those it markets to. But how successful can that be when at least one showing seemed more like a case of the missing audience than a case of stopping the Joker’s takeover of Gotham? Why not go ahead and shell out the cash to see the show? The kids will absolutely adore it, and maybe you'll fill up those extra seats enough to increase the energy in the arena and make an already enjoyable show even more satisfying.--
BATMAN LIVE World Arena Tour
Staples Center, Los Angeles