IN the Royal Horticultural Halls and Conference Centre in London's Victoria area, journalists are gathered for the launch of Batman Live.
There has been much hype, but when full details of the tour are disclosed, the general sentiment within the packed room is one of surprise. It seemed few realised just how big this really is.
The show, which will be coming to Dublin's 02 at the end of September, before embarking on a European and North American tour, is an ambitious £12m stage production.
Whether you love or hate the world's biggest and most profitable superhero, you cannot help but be impressed by what the creative team -- who are all leaders in their respective fields -- have put together.
It will take 20 trucks to transport the performance area alone -- which spans 100ft in width and is 60ft deep. There will be helicopters flying around the arena as part of the show. The iconic Batmobile has been designed by none other than Formula One designer Professor Gordon Murray.
At the launch, the production team was keen to point out that Batman Live is not a musical. In fact, with everything from dare-devil stunts, to illusions, to circus acts, to video sequences on a 100ft screen, the show is hard to pigeon-hole -- but one thing that is for sure is that it is being sold as an event for the whole family to enjoy.
It is based on the story of circus performer Dick Grayson (Robin) who, after losing his parents to organised crime, begins a quest for justice, which leads him to follow in the footsteps of his hero -- Batman -- much to the dismay of his guardian, Bruce Wayne, who secretly happens to be Batman.
"I am very much a purist and so I am always going to go back to the canonical version, which we reinterpreted, but we are definitely faithful to the original stories. There is a reason that the character has been around for 75 years," Batman Live writer Allan Heinberg tells me.
All the usual villains will feature, including Catwoman, Penguin, Poison Ivy and The Joker -- who undoubtedly stole the show at the launch.
Heinberg, whose CV includes Sex and the City and Grey's Anatomy, admits to having been initially "very sceptical" about getting involved in the project, but as soon as he was given details he simply couldn't resist.
"When I was told what producer Nick Grace was going for, that it was sort of a Cirque De Soleil-style spectacular that was story-driven, and emotionally connected -- then I really got excited about it. I became very compelled by the idea of how to tell this very simple, very emotional story on an arena scale but still keep it very connected. It's very easy in a big-budget spectacle like this for the human heart of the character to get lost. For everybody in Batman Live, it's about putting the heart of the characters first and foremost, so if that's not there then the pyrotechnics don't really mean anything."
Batman Live lighting director Patrick Woodroffe, who has worked on all the biggest concert tours in the world, including Garth Brooks and The Rolling Stones, describes the show as a "big deal".
"This is a new genre of spectacle. For many years I just did rock concerts and operas and ballet, but this is a hybrid of all of those things."
Tickets for Batman Live are on sale. The event takes place at Dublin O2 Arena (0818 719 300) from September 28 to October 1, 2011, with daily showings at 8pm, and at noon and 4pm on October 1; and Belfast Odyssey Arena (028 9073 9074) from October 5 to 8, with showings daily at 8pm and at noon and 4pm on October 8. For more information, visit www.batmanlive.com
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