Blurring Cirque du Soleil style circus skills with the high-camp of the original comic-book series, Alan Burnett’s Batman Live is a technical and visual wonder, exploding with colour and scintillating visual effects. Allan Heinberg’s happily kitsch script follows Robin’s origin story from the big top to Wayne Manor, pitting the dynamic duo against hated enemies and personal demons.
Anthony Van Laast and his team have created an immersive and exciting theatrical experience unlike any other. James Seymour Brett’s soaring original score fills the streets of Gotham with a cinematic sense of the epic whilst Jack Galloway’s costuming remains true to the character designs whilst creating something new and thrilling. The immersive LED screen which towers over the proceedings is spectacular, flicking like a comic book between scenes and revealing stunningly rendered, beautifully drawn backgrounds.
As the over-medicated New Jersey jester, Poppy Tierney’s Harley Quinn is the surprise star of the proceedings, bouncing with a plucky naivety and striking back with an assured villainy. Mark Frost’s Joker, too, captures the psychotic playfulness of Batman’s arch-nemesis, delivering his lines with perfect comic timing and a menacing joi de vivre. Sam Heughan’s Batman holds his own against the league of super-villains, confident in the Caped Crusader’s suit and softly emotive in his portrayal of the conflicted Bruce Wayne.
And yet, whilst these successful theatrical elements sizzle like Mr. Freeze in a steam room, the first act lacks drama excitement and cohesion in the narrative. The many circus scenes, impressive as they are, quickly become repetitive and most of the billed super-villains fade to cameo appearances beyond their introduction. Exposition dealt with and its heroes born, the second act seizes Catwoman’s whip and drives the narrative towards more interesting territory, firing up the Batmobile and spending a Gotham bank vault on exciting set pieces and elaborate pyrotechnics.
The Dark Knight rises too late for Batman Live to be a truly great production. Nonetheless, its celebration of spectacle and striking final sequences are enough to recommend it, even if it cannot quite live up to its own hype.