REVIEW: Batman Live at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena is Bat-tasic - VIDEO

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BAT-TASTIC! Or put another way, Holy Arena spectacular...Batman Live is the greatest family show on the planet, writes digital editor Graham Walker.

That may sound too bold a statement, especially coming from a biased, lifelong Batman fan, especially when you consider the other many magnificent shows out there, from the always hugely entertaining Disney On Ice to the death-defying Cirque du Soleil..

Cast of baddies: The Joker

Cast of baddies: The Joker

But after more than 30-years of reviewing the best and worst in family entertainment, I’m standing by my words after I sat spellbound through the opening gala performance last month in Manchester.

At the start of a five-year world tour, which will take in Europe and America, South Yorkshire fans now have the chance to be among the first in the world to see the show which begins a five-day run at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena from Wednesday to Sunday, August 10 to 14, 2011.

And here’s three top reasons why you can’t afford to miss the live-action story of Batman and his sidekick Robin...

Kapow! Batman Live, a unique one-off arena show, is a stunning visual and audio masterpiece, with brilliantly colourful costumes, sets and lights, enhanced by a magnificent orchestral score, a huge 100ft x 60ft stage set, which fills most to the arena floor, and an 100ft LED bat-shaped video wall.

Batman

Batman

Bam! It doesn’t just look and sound good, there’s a fast paced story-line, which tells how Robin joins the Caped Crusader in a crime-fighting battle against the greatest Batman baddies of all – including The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.

Biff! With ticket prices from £20 this is superhero value for money. Even the merchandise stand is well priced. A Batman mask is £6 and a kid’s cape a tenner.

The programme may be £15, but it’s more a coffee table book, with a free activity book, 3D poster and glasses.

Audiences entering the arena are greeted by a Gotham City landscape, complete with buildings, soundscape and video animation, setting the scene for the story to come.

Arena spectacular: The cast of Batman Live

Arena spectacular: The cast of Batman Live

Unlike the Spiderman musical on Broadway, Batman Live is West End theatre meets Las Vegas show but on an arena scale, with lavish helpings of spine-tingling stunts, flying, magic, circus routines, humour, all out action and quality drama.

It’s reported to have cost £7.5 million to produce.

And it’s not hard to see where the money has been spent on this spectacle, which boasts a 43-strong cast of actors and circus-trained acrobats

There’s as many again working behind the scenes.

Sneak preview of the �7.5 million show which has a stage cast of 43

Sneak preview of the �7.5 million show which has a stage cast of 43

The A-list team includes Take That and Lady Gaga set and props designer Es Devlin, U2 and Rolling Stones technical manager Jake Berry, Sex In The City writer Alan Heinberg, Mamma Mia and Sister Act choreographer Anthony Van Laast and executive producer Nick Grace – who brought Walking With Dinosaurs to life in arenas two years ago.

Legendary Batman comic book artist Jim Lee’s designs have been used to create the show, including the battle-ready armour-like suit for the Caped Crusader, as the producers aim to please everyone – from Batman aficionados to young families.

The original Batman story is dark and edgy, but this show owes as much to the bright and camp 1960s TV show as it does the Tim Burton re-launch of the movie franchise.

But while Batman is the rock star, taking centre stage from his first jaw-dropping appearance as he flies in from 30ft up across the Gotham City stage, the biggest star of the night is the huge backdrop video wall, which fills one side of the arena.

Like flicking through a comic book, the screen blends real-life with animation and instantly transforms the entire arena from the streets of Gotham City one minute to Haly’s Circus big top the next, from Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge to Arkham Asylum and from Wayne Manor to the subterranean wonders of the Batcave – when the entire arena appears to descend for the

Batmobile reveal.

In a world gone 3D crazy this is the ultimate experience – with larger than life characters and outrageous sets emerging from the Imax size screen which dominates one end of the area.

Highlights include various Joker entrances, including him springing to life as a giant human Jack-In-The Box and another which sees him emerge from a 25ft-high Joker head, which consists of hair, eyes and teeth made of squirming acrobats.

This is a thrill-a-minute spectacle, with so much going on that it can’t fail to grab and keep the attention of fans young and old. In truth you probably need to see it twice to appreciate the full scale of this epic extravaganza.

It doesn’t hang around. The two hours, with a 15 minute interval, flies by. I wanted to rewind and watch it all over again.

Batman Live is a must see ticket. So... to the bat arena folks. Beg, borrow or buy a ticket. But don’t miss it.

Tickets are £20 to £45 but may be subject to a booking fee, with eight shows in Sheffield from August 10 to 14. Buy in person, call 0114 256 5656, book online at www.motorpointarena.co.uk or www.arenaticketshop.co.uk

Watch our Batman Live video reports, including highlights from the show - plus download a FREE Batman mask and playset at thestar.co.uk/video

We’ve combined theatre, film, music and bangs!

MAMMA Mia! Batman Live is no musical but it is set to hit the right notes with families, says creative director Anthony Van Laast.

He should know.

Anthony choreographed the stage and film versions of Mamma Mia, Sister Act and has worked with some of the biggest names in showbusiness in Las Vegas. He’s directing the Royal Variety Performance later this year.

“Batman Live is going to be a visual spectacle. There are many, many great shows but I hope people will think it’s the greatest show on Earth.

“We believe Batman Live will be the family event of the summer. Nothing like this has ever been done.

“We’ve drawn on people with experience in the world of rock, legitimate theatre and musical theatre. We have film, projection, fantastic music, not dance but really stylised movement. We have flying, pyrotechnic explosions and bangs. Then we have the Batmobile

“But, at the heart of this, is a really good story. It’s designed for kids, families and Batman enthusiasts.”

Producer Nick Grace, who last year filled arenas with the Walking With Dinosaurs tour, added: “It’s exceeded my expectations. Our vision was to a comic coming to life and we have done that.”

Actor Sam Heughan, who has been seen in TV series including Doctors, plays Batman and Bruce Wayne. He says he’s got the quick change down to 40 seconds - with the help of a team of 10 dressers.

“When I put the suit on I become Batman. It does a lot,’’ says Sam, aged 31, from Scotland.

Join in with all the action

HOLY giveaways!

The Star has gone batty to celebrate Batman Live at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.

We gave away a FREE Batman Live poster with the paper on Saturday and each day this week we’re printing a show character to complete it – and today, right, it’s Catwoman.

And you can also download and make our free Batman Live playset and Batman mask.

The playset includes six standee characters from the live show, with three on each A4 sheet. Get Batman, Penguin and the Riddler at http://bit.ly/oHkeQm and the other sheet, with Robin, The Joker and Catwoman, at http://bit.ly/p5imW3

Get your free Batman mask to download and make at http://bit.ly/pEZbXW

Send in a jpeg photo of you or a pal wearing the mask to staronline@sheffieldnewspapers.co.uk, with Batman Mask in the subject bar.

We’ll publish the best.