It's a tricky job keeping children amused at the best of times and now that the summer holidays have started, filling the next six weeks with interesting and entertaining activities is a challenge faced by parents all over the country.
Fortunately, Batman Live will be touring the whole of the UK and Ireland (Dublin) this summer and after experiencing the show's world premiere in Manchester this week, I can confirm it is a spectacular holiday treat for all the family.
Just the news that Batman Live was coming to town was met with huge excitement by my twin eight-year-old nephews - they even put their Nintendo's down. Thus they were my specially assigned critics for the premiere at the Manchester Evening News Arena and tough ones at that.
Satisfying the sophisticated tastes children have these days is no mean feat for the producers of a giant stage show. You just can't fool kids - they have a super-sharp radar for a stinker! Thankfully, Batman Live is a staggeringly impressive experience and the wide eyes, whoops, yelps and gasps throughout (including the grown-ups) reflected the spellbinding performances, video animation, acrobatics and grand scale special effects.
The sets are truly magical and each is framed by the brilliant 100ft bat-shaped screen at the rear of the stage, which cleverly narrates the story using comic book style animation. A lot of money has gone into production (estimated at £12 million) and it shows. World renowned set designer Es Devlin, who has worked with Take That and Lady Gaga, brilliantly brings the mysterious world of Gotham City to life.
From a 14ft fibre glass model head of super villain the Joker (with sinister looking dancers making up his green hair), through to the unforgettable Arkham Asylum with its spooky strait-jacket clad residents hanging from chains, it is a triumph of imagination.
The big hit of the night, especially for the big and small boys, was the Bat Mobile. Designed by veteran racing car maker Gordon Murray, it got a round of applause all of its own.
Batman Live is an audio-visual thrill ride and so a special credit must go to the sound which my nephews were blown away by - it really mesmerized the young audience. But it is the cast of 43 dancers, acrobats and actors that enchanted us all. Always a favourite love-to-hate figure, the Joker stole the show with his menacing giggle. Followed closely by his adoring moll, the kooky Harley Quinn and of course, Cat Woman was deliciously purrfect in her skin tight leathers ... as far as the dads in the audience were concerned.
The story is thankfully not too complex and all ages got it without having to ask mum and dad what is going on, or getting tired, another danger with a 90-minute show for children. Revolving around young Robin's rise to superhero Batman's sidekick following the death of his circus trapeze parents, it is a terrific introduction to the iconic super hero, his colourful adversaries and Batman's double-life as millionaire Bruce Wayne. It certainly hit the spot for my nephews (and their friends) who have not stopped talking about it since.
Not surprisingly, the Batman and Robin merchandise was flying off the shelves after the show, so be warned. Not just the boys either, there were plenty of little girls donning their caps and masks with pride.
Everybody loves a hero and Batman Live brings the caped crusader and his assistant to life brilliantly. It is without doubt the highlight of my nephews' summer and that's saying a lot.
Tickets for UK and The Republic of Ireland are on sale now.
For more information go to www.batmanlive.com
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