Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

It's hammer time: A mesmerising display of acrobatics and special effects brings Marvel Universe to life

 

Ralph's son
Ralph's son

Awesome, that's the word I kept hearing most. Cool was thrown in there a lot as well and wow was muttered regularly - but awesome is the term that kept buzzing in my ear all night.

With the amazing Marvel Universe Live experience due in Belfast next month, I'd taken my 11-year-old son Dan along to the launch night in London and, it's safe to say, he was having the time of his life.

Perched wide-eyed in wonder on the edge of his seat from the first moment to the last, he told me it was "the greatest show I've ever seen". Watching him lap up the non-stop action that was unfolding on the arena floor before him, it was easy to see why.

Marvel Universe Live is a seriously impressive family night out. Aimed squarely at Avengers-obsessed youngsters like Dan, it's no surprise that it worked so well for him.

A quick glance around the crowd in the O2 Arena confirmed that just about every other kid in attendance, both young and old, were loving it too.

There were whoops of excitement as Spider-Man swung high above the crowd, roars of approval for the high-kicking, flame-throwing goodies and boos galore for the baddies as more than 20 Marvel characters battled it out across the expansive 3D-enhanced stage before them.

While all the kids' favourites get a warm reception, the biggest reaction of the night was reserved for the arrival of the Hulk.

The Hulk
The Hulk

When everyone's favourite jolly green giant thundered into view, the roar of approval that echoed around the O2 was almost deafening.

The story is classic over-blown Marvel magic as Spider-Man, The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy join forces with Doctor Strange in a race against time to recover the all-powerful Wand of Watoomb before it falls into the evil Loki's hands. The story hardly matters, though, when there's so much action to be enjoyed.

Just about all the major Marvel figures, from recent favourites like Black Panther to old enemies like the Green Goblin and even, for the very first time in Marvel stage history, those Guardians of the Galaxy characters (including the massive crowd-pleasing character of Groot) are rolled out in all their larger than life glory and the pace rarely lets up for the entire show.

There's all the wisecracks and backchat you'd expect but it's the action sequences that really deliver for the fans.

It wasn't just the kids who were going crazy for it all either.

All around me adults were on their feet applauding the action and cheering on the good guys with just as much fervour as the young ones. Even if, like me, you can take or leave those big screen superhero adventures, there's tons to enjoy here.

Marvel Live
Marvel Live

As these kind of elaborate stunt shows go, this is state-of-the-art stuff.

Alongside the awe-inspiring aerial acrobatics and seemingly endless fight scenes that involve an impressive mix of martial arts and dance skills there are breathtaking motorcycle stunts and fire-breathing dance moves to enjoy and enough explosive pyrotechnics to keep even the most easily distracted youngsters glued to the action.

As a special treat, Dan and I got backstage with the cast and crew the following morning to sample just some of the skills that are needed to put on a show like this.

While Dan hit the practice mats to learn some essential fighting skills with the resident stuntmen I got to lift, or maybe that should be try to lift, Thor's hammer and watch the bikers burn up some rubber on the deserted stage.

From the sheer physical effort and skill required from the key players who pound the stage every night to the level of professionalism displayed by all the backroom staff, it really is an eye-opener. The level of commitment, talent and hard work that goes into Marvel Universe Live! is frankly incredible.

Rivera Reese, who plays the blue-skinned villain Nebula in the production, told me the key ingredient was teamwork - with more than 100 cast and crew involved, that almost goes without saying.

Spiderman
Spiderman

"It's a huge team," she says as I grapple with Thor's heavy hammer that she's casually thrown into my arms. "We travel together, we all stay at the same hotel together, we eat together, we room together - so it's like a huge travelling family. We stay together for the whole tour so it's nice to have family travel with you."

It's a job that's taken her all over the world but she just can't wait to get to these shores in November.

Rivera Reese
Rivera Reese

"I'm so excited to come to Ireland," she says with a big smile. "I've been to Dublin before but I've never been to Belfast so that's super exciting for me and I'm excited to see what the audiences there make of our superheroes."

So what does the evil Nebula enjoy most about the live show experience?

"Personally for me," she says, laughing again, "I like taking my sword, lighting it on fire and fighting Black Widow. It's not a bad way to earn a living."

As Juliette Feld, the producer of Marvel Universe Live, explained to me, all the effort and energy that goes into delivering a show like this is directed towards one thing and one thing only, to make that magical world of Marvel come to life before your very eyes.

"We create an experience that immerses families in non-stop movie thrills and stunts," she says, as those same stunts are re-enacted right behind us.

"Even if you're not the biggest comic fan, you'll love it."

Love it we certainly did and as we drifted off into the London night, Dan regaled me with all his favourite moments, his most-loved characters and his top five fight scenes. Even now he's still buzzing from the experience.

So if you've an Avengers addict or a Spidey superfan in your house or even if you just fancy a spectacular night out packed with action and adventure, get along to the SSE this November. Trust me, awesome barely covers it.

  • Marvel Universe Live! hits the SSE Arena, Belfast from Friday 8th to Monday 10th November For tickets go to www.ticketmaster.ie

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