Batman is generally considered to be the world’s most or second most popular superhero. But which Batman? The original comic book crime fighter, the campy 1960s TV show version, or the brooding vigilante of later films?
For George Turvey, star of the “Batman Live” production coming to Wichita next week, the answer is all of the above and more.
“The stage show certainly takes elements from everything in the Batman universe – the comic books, the animated series, the films, the computer games," Turvey said by telephone from Loveland, Colo., where the show recently played. “It’s a family show, so it can’t really be as dark as the later films. It’s kind of pitched somewhere in between."
It’s also a spectacle for the senses. The production takes 19 semi-trailer trucks to move and two days to put together at each arena on the tour. It employs 100 actors, acrobats, stunt performers and crew members. Cast members go through 490 costumes, while the stage itself features a 105-foot-wide video wall for additional effects.
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The “Batman Live” North America tour lands at Intrust Bank Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s a little odd to hear Turvey, a 30-year-old native of Bristol, England, discussing Batman. After all, neither the superhero nor his super-rich alter ego, Bruce Wayne, ever sported a British accent. But the classically trained actor can easily sound like an American, and he makes it clear that he was as familiar with Batman growing up as any boy (or girl) here.
“He is popular (in England), yeah," Turvey said. “I’ve certainly been aware of him my whole life. I grew up watching reruns of the old Adam West TV show, then the Tim Burton film came out. But it wasn’t until I got here until I realized how popular he is here."
The stage show follows the usual storyline of Batman and his sidekick Robin fighting crime while Batman hides his true identity. All the usual good guys and bad guys – from Alfred to Catwoman, Joker, Riddler and Penguin – are on hand. But because it’s acted live, without the opportunity for retakes or green screens, playing Batman involved much more than just memorizing lines.
“It’s very physically demanding," said Turvey, whose costume change into the Batsuit requires four people. “There’s the fighting, the flying and what-not. The suit itself is quite heavy. We had to do a lot of fight training, and a lot of cardio, so we could really sell the fights. The image of Batman is that he’s strong and powerful. You can’t look like you can’t get your breath."
He said he’s suffered “a lot of bruises, luckily no black eyes. You wake up the next morning and you say, ‘Oh, luckily nothing serious.’ ”
Turvey trained at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in London and has starred on stage in roles written by Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. Comparing those roles to Batman, he said, “It’s so different. But it’s fun. To me, it’s probably the most fun I’ve had, that I can imagine have acting. It’s such a strange thing when you catch yourself in the costume and you say, ‘I’m Batman.’ One minute you’re flying. The next minute you’re in the Batmobile."
Turvey says his favorite part of the show is “a big fight sequence with sticks that I do," but he knows he’s up against some tough competition in the aforementioned Batmobile, which was designed for the show by race car designer Gordon Murray.
“It’s the newly designed Batmobile," Turvey said. “It gets an amazing reaction from the audience when it comes onstage. I get quite excited when it comes out as well."