Batman Live has been shown across the world and has finally come to the United States, beginning at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA with a tour that began on September 5th. I was there to check it out, and now I can tell you all about it. Here be spoilers, I’ll try and use what pictures I can from my own experience, but there will also be ones from the show’s site when they are better.
Batman Live tells the origins of Dick Grayson’s transformation into Robin, the Boy Wonder, and what better way to do so than by using a cast of truly acrobatic performers. The show is at its best when it has you feeling like a Gotham citizen watching the circus acts at Haly’s Circus, or as a less-than-reputable type hanging out in the Iceberg Lounge watching a show among other events.
It helps that Batman and his villains have a taste for theatrics, so when Joker decides to set up a giant circus show to lure Batman in to save Dick Grayson, it doesn’t feel forced at all. The show really gives the splendor of Batman and his world; the size of the Batcave alone was impressive. Another thing to be noted, is that with a stage that’s a few hundred feet long, they use a giant LED screen to really give you the scope of the scene. That screen was a character itself, showing us comic panels as well as backdrops. It allows you to feel like we are truly leaving one locale for another. There were some glitches with the screens, but it was opening night so I’ll let it slide, since it’s also an amazing tool of complexity.
The show takes us from the loss of Bruce’s parents to Haly’s Circus, where we get a display of unicycles, ponies, and finally acrobats. You kind of watch the Flying Grayson’s final performance with dread, knowing what’s coming. When Batman learns that Zucco is responsible, he begins his manhunt while leaving Dick to be attended by Alfred. By the way, the audience applauded every character’s intro, but Alfred had one of the biggest audience reactions, which pleased me to no end.
The Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge is a hangout for all the villains, practically a club house. Catwoman arrives after a very Crouching Batman, Hidden Catwoman (that joke belongs to my friend Sam) battle with Batman. She alerts the other villains that if Batman catches Zucco, the crook could squeal on a ton of information he has on all the villains. Penguin, Two-Face, and Riddler (with an awesome cane) decide it’s best to keep Batman from finding Zucco. Batman is already on the case, though, and throws Zucco in on the villains and a fight breaks out. The fights aren’t the best part of the show, but with all the rest going on, it’s made up for. Batman learns that Zucco had killed the Graysons under the orders of the Joker.
Meanwhile, Dick runs off to try and sneak back into the circus. He learns what Batman knows, that Joker is responsible and now owns the circus. Now that he has Dick, Joker and Harley (she was the other big reaction that I’d say ties with Alfred in reaction) plan to trap Batman. Harley becomes sort of the second character for us to sympathize with, she and Dick talk and we see how her devotion to the Joker just keeps leading her to bigger and bigger problems. The actress playing Harley seemed to be having a lot of fun giggling and prancing about, and the audience appreciated it.
Joker shows off his plans to Dick by using Harley as his magician’s assistant, as we see Harley escape each deadly plot proving Dick right, that Batman will be fine. Even on his last trap where Harley just disappears afterwards, Joker is confident he’ll get Batman. Eventually Batman arrives and fights off Joker’s goons, and gets treated to pure nightmare fuel in the form of a giant Joker head where his eyes and teeth are made of people.
We get a massive battle that has enough combatants who are also wielding staffs that make it fun to just see Batman fight his way through them. Joker jerpacks away while Harley finally reveals herself and gets taken to Arkham. To keep Dick from going off on his own to seek vengeance on the Joker, Bruce shows Dick the Batcave, and wow that thing is immense. They even show the giant penny and robot T-rex hanging around. We learn that Alfred is the one to have taught Bruce his fighting skills, and will begin training Dick, beginning with Tai Chi.
At Arkham all the villains lounge about while Harley pines for the Joker to save her, Catwoman mentions it’s been weeks, but just then Joker breaks in! He has a plan and it’s going to take all the rogues working together to take over Arkham. Back at the Batcave, Bruce shows off the Batmobile to Dick, but is interrupted and learns of the trouble. While he rides off to stop them, Alfred alerts Dick that while Bruce said Dick couldn’t leave, he never said anything about Circus Lad (he’ll figure it out later). When we see what Batman is up to, the backdrop screen depicts the drive the Batmobile takes to arrive to Arkham, with plenty of swerves and near hits as the car speeds through Gotham.
When Batman arrives at Arkham, the place has taken a turn for the worse, to say the least. Inmates wrapped in straight jackets and chains hang all around, and the Batman gets greeted by an 11 foot tall Scarecrow and is promptly gassed repeatedly. While he’s still reeling from the fear toxin, Poison Ivy descends to try and kill Batman with a kiss. When that fails, it’s up to every available inmate to come out to attack Batman.
It looks like Batman is on his last leg, all the villains have him surrounded, he’s doped up on fear toxin, only Catwoman is on his side. Suddenly
Circus Lad Robin swings in to help out. Batman is able to pull himself out of the drug by the sheer confusion of Robin’s existence, and with Robin and Catwoman by his side, the three sword fight off their enemies. After taking out most everyone, Harley arrives with a bazooka, and Joker tries to escape in his clown car. When Harley realizes he’s going to leave her high and dry, she takes aim and blasts Joker spinning off into the distance. Harley runs off to follow while Batman and Robin let Catwoman get away. When Robin asks why they let her get away, Batman explains that he’ll understand when he’s older. Robin asks if either Julie Madison or Vicki Vale (an ongoing joke about who is Bruce dating throughout the show) will understand. With that our heroes jump into the Batmobile and take off, ready to start a new era of crime fighting in Gotham.
So that’s the show, I hope that you can go check it out if it’s playing by you. It just started out, so it’s going to be heading all across the US. It’s a fun show, and one the whole family can enjoy. Towards the end of our show we had a bit of a hiccup and had to wait 10 minutes for something to be fixed. The audience started to applaud together for the show, they didn’t mind the wait. I hope this show does well enough to garner a sequel; maybe we can get a Batgirl origin story and some more villains like Mr. Freeze.