On 19th July 2011, Batman Live made its worldwide debut. The £12 million live stage show opened in Manchester in the UK, and featured many iconic characters from the Batman mythology.
For those who did not catch the show, Batman Live was an action-adventure spectacular which focused on Batman, his villains, and the origin of Robin. The show featured large set pieces, imaginative costumes, and even found room for the Batmobile.
Batman Live played nine shows in Manchester, before touring around parts of the UK. It then moved on to Europe in late 2011, before hitting North America during summer 2012.
Speaking to City Life magazine back in 2011, about the arrival of Batman Live, Manchester Arena General Manager, John Knight, said: “Major cities across the world have been fighting to premiere Batman Live, so to have secured it for Manchester is a huge win for both the venue and the city.
“Manchester is renowned for being a creatively innovative city and we’ve always found audiences to be very open to new productions which push the boundaries of live entertainment.”
DC Comics’ Jim Lee, said: “When a character has as wide an audience and as rich a history as Batman, it’s truly exciting to see him introduced into an all-new storytelling medium.
“Batman Live will bring a completely new experience to fans of the character – it’s great to be able to give them something they haven’t seen before.”
Batman Live was written by Allan Heinberg, and was based on a story by Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, and Allan Heinberg. Water Lane Productions Ltd produced the show, in association with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment, with Nick Grace as Creative Producer, Anthony Van Laast as Creative Director, and James Powell as Co-Director.
Nick Court and Sam Heughan shared the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne for the production, while Kamran Darabi-Ford and Michael Pickering both played the part of Robin/Dick Grayson. Mark Frost played the Joker, and John Conroy portrayed Bruce Wayne’s trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
Additional iconic characters featured in the production included Catwoman, Harley Quinn, The Penguin, Two-Face, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Joe Chill, and Tony Zucco. The story also incorporated scenes set at the circus, so the Flying Graysons also made an appearance, alongside various Gothamites.
Each character looked as if they were ripped straight from the comics, with imaginative costumes from designer Jack Galloway. The Batsuit was bold and dynamic, Robin’s costume was bright and striking, and the villains were a sight to behold – especially Scarecrow, who looked terrifying.
Racing car designer Professor Gordon Murray was tasked with bringing the Batmobile to the stage and he did a superb job. The sleek, black vehicle opted for a minimalistic design, with an aerodynamic aesthetic that kept low to the ground, very much like a Formula 1 car.
Video screens and over-sized props helped to create the world of Gotham City, while the actors completely sold their characters. The show wasn’t campy or played for laughs, it was simply a live take on Batman, which respected the mythology and legacy of the world-famous character.
Batman Live was designed to appeal to audiences of all ages, with content that could entertain long-time fans, children, and families. It was imaginative, loud, and colourful, with a big focus on spectacle and action, as well as storytelling.
If you missed Batman Live, then you missed out. The sheer level of creativity that went into recreating Gotham and all its inhabitants was outstanding and truly awe-inspiring, and it was certainly a one-off.
While Batman movies might be the go-to way to see a live-action interpretation of the Dark Knight a show such as Batman Live proved other forms of storytelling could be just as captivating. Batman Live demonstrated that comic book characters can come to life, and in a way which enhances the original material and takes it to a whole new audience.
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