Spider-Man vs. Batman: Musical theatre’s biggest fight since West Side Story

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source: MEN Arena

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source: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

An unlikely battle between two unlikely foes will take place in an unlikely arena; musical theatre. Spider-Man and Batman are the most recognizable superheroes in the world, and have made a huge impact in almost all forms of media (I’m still waiting for the vaudeville rendition). Now the web slinger and caped crusader are featured on a medium that many people thought we wouldn’t see.

Batman made his first appearance in 1939’s Detective Comics #27 by DC Comics. The character became one of DC Comics most famous heroes. Not to be outdone, rival comic publication Marvel Comics published the first Spider-Man comic in 1962, and Spidey became a commercial success. The cultural impact by these two comic book heroes is only matched by Superman. Spider-Man and Batman have adapted very well into various forms of media including: television, movies, and video games (Superman’s kryptonite). Now the world’s most famous superheroes are trading in their boots for dancing shoes, but keeping the tights in their musical spectaculars.

Spider-Man musical, titled Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark debuted on Broadway in 2010, which initially ran as a series of previews. The musical is based on the 2002 film about the web slinger which includes his origin, romance with Mary Jane, and battle with the Green Goblin. The production costs, and rehearsal accidents and injuries made bigger headlines than the news of U2’s Bono and the Edge writing the music and lyrics for the musical.

After a year and half of previews and revisions to the production and story, the rock musical officially opened in June 2011. With a budget of $75 million, exceeding its initial budget of $52 million, and $1 million weekly running costs, the Spider-Man musical is the most expensive Broadway show ever produced. The show took in over a million dollars in ticket sales from its first full week in 2011, but soon staggered to between $100,000 and $300,000 a week in the fall.

Despite a strong box office showing, and music and lyrics by U2 frontmen, the musical fared poorly in critic’s minds. The Broadway spectacular was only nominated for two Tony awards, and they were for their visuals: Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design (the red and blue tights lost to a musical featuring aging showgirls and ghosts). The musical spectacular will be at the Foxwoods Theatre for the time being, with no off-Broadway production tours announced.

Batman Live is a touring stage production which opened in United Kingdom in Manchester in the summer of 2011. The production has toured across the U.K., Europe, and South America. American fans shouldn’t fret because the production will reach North America this fall. Unlike Spider-Man, Batman Live is performed in a large arena stage instead of a traditional stage. The musical is based on the origin story of Robin and his mentorship under Batman. The dynamic duo will face many recognizable villains such as the Penguin, Two Face, and the Joker.

The play is described as a mix of traditional musical theatre, circus performance, and stage magic. The costume and set design look similar to the designs of Joel Schumacher’s film adaptation, but without the plastic nipples and Mr. Freeze’s puns. So far the play has been seen in 28 cities in Europe and South America, and performed in six languages.

The play has been heralded by critics as a visual spectacular for the whole family. Following the success of the recent Batman film, the stage production is one of the most anticipated stage events this fall. Batman Live will begin its one-month North American tour in September 27th in Anaheim, California and end October 28th in Loveland, Colorado, 46 miles north of Denver.

In a side-by-side comparison, Batman Live seems to be the better deal. The price range for the Batman Live World Arena Tour is $13-$299 with an average ticket price of $95, while the price range for Spider-Man is $99-$284, with an average ticket price of $191. Although the cheapest Batman ticket is $86 less than the cheapest Spider-Man ticket, fans should consider the settings. For $13, Batman fans will probably pay for nose-bleed seats in 5,000-10,000 seat arenas compared to the $99 paid by Spider-Man fans in the more intimate, 1,829-seat Foxwoods Theatre. For $284, Spider-Man fans could get the best seat in the house compared to Batman fans shelling out $299 for a similarly positioned seat.

Batman Live is the better deal for your wallet, but Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark has longevity. Batman Live is only scheduled for 65 performances this fall, while the Spider-Man musical is scheduled for 256 performances.

Batman fans in the Southwest and Minnesota have a chance to see the musical when it comes to their area, but Spider-Man fans wherever can visit New York City and watch the play in the world famous Broadway theatre district. The convenience of a production coming to your area versus the chance to visit New York makes the location debate a tie.

Critics seem to side with Batman Live more than Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. Both musicals have been lauded for their visuals, but Spider-Man has been panned by critics for its convoluted story. However, critics gave Batman Live positive reviews for its story, despite being less dark than the recent Christopher Nolan film adaptations.

Ultimately the choice between a $13-nosebleed seat to a critically praised visual spectacular in the Southwest versus a $99-intimate seat to critically panned visual spectacular in Manhattan is up to the fans.

Batman Live Trailer:

Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark Trailer:

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