“Batman Live” will showcase the origin of Robin in a theatrical setting next week at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W Reno Ave.
The show, which will have eight performances from Wednesday through Oct. 14, features stunts, pyrotechnics, illusions and video screen sequences set in a three-dimensional Gotham City landscape.
The show is written by Allan Heinberg, who grew up in Tulsa before becoming a writer and producer on TV shows including, “The O.C.” and “Grey's Anatomy.” He's written for the two biggest comic publishers, Marvel and DC Comics, and his relationship with DC Entertainment led him to “Batman Live.”
Heinberg, who had collaborated with DC Entertainment's chief creative officer Geoff Johns on the “Justice League of America” comic book, was asked to give feedback on the “Batman Live” project.
“We started riffing on ideas, and that quickly became him asking me to sit down with the director and producer of ‘Batman Live' to discuss some of those ideas,” Heinberg said. “And out of that meeting ... I very quickly ended up writing an entirely new script for ‘Batman Live.'”
The show uses Dick Grayson, the young acrobat who becomes Robin, as the point-of-view character for the audience.
“‘Batman Live' is a show for families. It's a show for adults to bring their kids in,” Heinberg said. “It's designed so that everybody in the family can find it accessible and can be entertained by it.
“So the Dick Grayson character is a great point-of-entry character into the Batman universe. He's a kid himself, so kids identify, hopefully identify with Dick Grayson. And if you don't know anything about the Batman universe, having this young character who enters into the Batman universe for the first time gives you a really nice way in.”
The fact that Robin's origin as Dick Grayson has him starting as a young performer at a circus makes it especially appropriate for an arena-venue version of a Batman story.
“The Dick Grayson story was actually perfect in terms of theatricalizing the Batman story,” Heinberg said. “Especially in an arena, because so much of the Dick Grayson story takes place at the circus. In trying to tell a very theatrical Batman story in a space that's as large as an arena, it's just a natural fit.”
Bringing in the circus gives “Batman Live” the chance to use even more theatrical stylings.
“We were all very excited about the possibilities of actually having a real circus in the show, with acrobats, and real trapeze artists, and all kinds of pyrotechnics,” Heinberg said. “It immediately is a theatrical story if you start at the circus with the Flying Graysons.”
The show features a 42-member cast and an original storyline with characters including Batman, Robin, Alfred the butler, The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and The Penguin.
Heinberg lived in Tulsa beginning at age 6.
“I was very fortunate. I knew what I wanted to do with my life from my earliest recollection. I started out as an actor and wanted to be a writer and a playwright and write movies and TV.”
Heinberg said he began singing professionally at age 6 and became an actor at 10.
“I got a part in the University of Tulsa production of ‘Oliver!,' the musical, as Oliver Twist, ... and it changed my life,” he said. “I had a huge mentor in Dr. Nancy Vunovich, who was with the theater department at the University of Tulsa, and she put me to work for the next several years until I went to college.”
Heinberg worked as an actor and singer at the University of Tulsa, American Theatre Company, Discoveryland! and others before graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1985 and heading to Yale for college. After college, he worked in New York as an actor and singer, where he appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway musicals. In the mid-1990s, he transitioned to writing full-time, and became a staff writer on “The Naked Truth” in 1997. Heinberg couldn't comment specifically on what shows he's working on now, but said he is developing two television series.
“Hopefully those things will move forward, and people will be able to watch them at some point,” Heinberg said. “But that's what's keeping me busy from now until Christmas, that and ‘Batman Live.'”