“Batman Live” opened its Oklahoma City stand Wednesday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W Reno.
The show, which continues through Sunday, features stunts, pyrotechnics, illusions and video screen sequences set in a three-dimensional Gotham City landscape.
An all-ages Batman adventure filled with acrobatics and theatricality is the focus the show, which is written by former Tulsan Allan Heinberg. The story of “Batman Live” is based on the comic-book origins of Dick Grayson, who becomes Batman's partner. Fans may have seen that story brought to live-action with 1995's “Batman Forever,” but “Live” tweaks it for arena presentation, and brings in a who's who of Batman's greatest foes.
The show begins with a recounting of Batman's origin, as young Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered. The show then skips ahead, when an older Bruce Wayne is hosting a benefit performance of Haly's Circus. But when acrobat John Grayson of the Flying Graysons refuses to pay protection money to Tony Zucco, tragedy strikes. It's up to Bruce Wayne to mentor the young Dick Grayson, and teach him that justice and vengeance aren't the same thing.
The use of the video screen and carefully placed props makes the stage take the form of many great Batman locations from the comic books — the Batcave, Wayne Manor, Arkham Asylum and Haly's Circus to name just a few. Each villain gets a brief moment to shine, but the star of the show is the Joker, who's out to get Grayson and Batman. The Riddler and Penguin are particularly appealing, with character bits that hearken back to the 1960s Adam West TV series, but performed in a way that fits in with the entire show's look and feel. The Scarecrow scene in Arkham — reminiscent of the recent “Arkham” games — brings in a bit more edge.
The show's visuals and costumes are reminiscent of the 1990s movies, with some “Arkham Asylum” visuals mixed in. The excellent video screen presentation pays homage to the Batman comics of artist Jim Lee. The sets are beautiful and detailed. The circus-style acrobatic performances throughout are dynamic. The Formula-1 style Batmobile, designed by Gordon Murray, is a stylish tweak on a classic concept.
From the moment you enter the arena, the design is meant to pull you into Batman's world, and it largely succeeds. There are a few minor nitpicks — some of the dialogue can be clunky; there's a Batman-Catwoman fight sequence that doesn't entirely work — but as a whole, if you go into it with an open mind, you'll find yourself immersed in the world of this slightly brighter Dark Knight.
Batman began as a vehicle for children's entertainment. While recent movies and comics have skewed much older, “Batman Live” shows there's still a lot of resiliency in Batman as children's entertainment. Kids in Batman masks bounced on the edge of their seats, cheering the arrival of new characters and whooping whenever Batman entered the stage. A broadly played visual spectacle, “Batman Live” is ultimately great fun.
— Matthew Price