Wholly spectacle, Batman!
Technically, this is a preview review. I got free tickets from See Film First for the preview yesterday at the Manchester Evening News Arena. The show starts tomorrow. £79 for a family ticket but, if I could afford it, I would say it was worth it.
Apologies for the poor quality of the photos: we were asked not to use flash photography and I, at least, obeyed. You can click on them to enlarge for a better view.
The directors came out before the start and asked us to make lots of noise whenever we felt like it, to let them know what works and what doesn’t. They warned that there might be pauses, because this was a dress rehearsal to iron out any problems.
I have never seen a show like it. The staging was fabulous: a backdrop screen using cartoons was seamlessly interwoven with live action. Video played throughout, showing turning comic pages, screaming bats, the Bat Cave. When Batman jumped into the fabulous Batmobile to ride to the rescue, he drove through a door in the backdrop and the video then showed cartoon of him tearing through the streets of Gotham City.
Things came up from the floor and down from the roof; mostly people, but ribbons and hot air balloons and hanging bodies as well. There were cannons and magic tricks and pyrotechnics, and it was all the fun of the circus in which a lot of the show was set.
There was a constant soundtrack and it was LOUD, but it added to the excitement. In the first noise pause, at a dramatic moment, a little boy shouted, ‘Batman!’ like he’d just noticed him. It is possible, because there were acrobats and trapeze artists and lots of action all over the stage.
I didn’t go alone, Spud came with me:
Mum: Fancy going to see Batman Live?
Mum: Shame. I’ve got free tickets.
Spud: [Sigh.] Okay then. [With its implied, If I must; and only because you're making me.]
He was not impressed to be the only teenager there with his Mum, until he noticed lots of teenagers and twenty-somethings in the queue behind us. Once he had his own ticket and could move away from me, his street cred was restored.
Then he saw the Batman masks! He just had to have one, and disgorged pocket money with haste. Tried it on, found it hot, and immediately regretted the waste of his hard-unearned cash. After watching the show, he confided that he secretly loved Batman and was so glad he had a mask as a souvenir. Is it any wonder we parents don’t understand our teen children?
He didn’t wear the mask throughout the show, but plenty of people did. Mostly children, and one twenty-something young man in front of us, who held his girlfriend’s hand throughout. Perhaps he was scared, like the four-year old next to us who needed to go to the toilet every fifteen minutes. His Mum suspected it was a fear-bladder.
There weren’t many problems and only one pause, when Batman suddenly went down during a fight scene. Holy pulled muscle, Batman! The lights went up after a while, and we were told there would be a wait of four minutes, but Batman was okay. Lots of cheers from the audience.
Audiences are fickle: at four minutes and two seconds, the slow hand claps started, changing to applause when the show was resumed.
The only little problems that I’m aware of came right at the end; perhaps Batman was tired: when asked why he devoted his life to fighting crime, Batman replied, ‘Because my life would descend into random craos.’ And when he and the Boy Wonder made their final exit in the Batmobile, his cape got trapped in the door. Kind of ruined the dignity of the superhero. Holy way to spoil the effect, Batman.
But these are small niggles; not even niggles: I mention them to make my post interesting, and would have been annoyed without them, because all I can say is:
My Verdict: Holy Bat-tastic, Batman!
The best thing about the afternoon for me, however, was that, despite torrential rain all day long, we went from our house in Stockport to the centre of Manchester without being exposed to the weather for more than twenty seconds; we didn’t even need a coat: house – car – Stockport Station – Piccadilly Station – down to the trams – Victoria Station and the arena entrance is inside the station. Travelling during a downpour without getting wet – now that’s what I call impressive.