A troupe of Equity actors will be spinning the yarn of Spider-Man Live!, the new theatrical touring "stunt spectacular" that launches a 40-city tour Oct. 9 at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, CT.
What advice Uta Hagen might give about preparing to play the villainous Green Goblin or the amazing Spider-Man is anyone's guess. Writer-director Kevin Shinick, a Broadway actor and lifelong fan of the Marvel Comics characters, said he doesn't urge the actor playing the nefarious goblin to write long diaries about his character's past.
"More importantly," Shinick told Playbill On-Line, "I want him to work on his cackle."
The job of imagining, writing and directing the new 90 minute family-friendly show is a dream come true for Shinick, a veteran of Broadway plays by National Actors Theatre (Night Must Fall) and host of the popular PBS show, "Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?"
He grew up as a "Spider-Man" collector and followed the character's development over the years. "It's funny when your life's interest becomes a tax writeoff," Shinick said. Shinick got the job by chance, when he was discussing another project with the producers. After their meeting, they asked him if knew anything about "Spider-Man," and his face lit up. A company of 16 performs the now-classic comic-book tale of a high-school kid, Peter Parker, who gains superhuman strength and the ability to scale walls after being bitten by a radioactive spider. The 40-year-old character, created by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, earned a new generation of fans over the summer when the movie, "Spider-Man," hit cineplexes. Shinick created the stage show before the film premiered, and the tour does not a mirror the Hollywood picture.
"There are twists and turns," he said. "I really wanted to do something that would be perfect for all ages that would be a perfect introduction not only to Spider-Man but the theatre. And something for fans who are older, who are our age, who have kids."
Fans of the title will be happy to know that all the major early characters from the comic are part of the show: Aunt May, Uncle Ben, Betty Brant, Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson and pal Harry Osborn. True to the comic book, Peter uses mechanical web-shooters rather than spinning webs organically. Yes, there are pumpkin bombs; yes, there's a goblin glider; yes, webs will shoot across the stage.
Produced by U.S.E. Productions, in conjunction with Marvel Enterprises, Spider-Man Live! blends flying illusions, acrobatic and trapeze stunts, pyrotechnics and multimedia special effects to tell the story of how Peter uses his powers for good rather than evil, prompted by Uncle Ben's wisdom that "with great power comes great responsibility."
The cast includes Michael Souveroff, Patricia Wilcoxson, Julie Leedes, Gary Martin, Colin Follenweider (as Peter Parker), Sean Colon, David Hutson, Jon Bookout, Janelle DeMarzo, Ottavio Gesmundo, Kevin Shinick and Paul Rubin (in voiceover roles), Mike Withycombe, Eric D. Braun, Brian Hite, Aaron Vexler, with swings Naomi Brenkman, Michael Dean and Michael Moran.
The creative team was culled from the worlds of Broadway, the circus, ice spectaculars and theme park entertainment. The show features flying effects by ZFX Flying Illusions (Peter Pan and Dance of the Vampires on Broadway), special effects by WOW! Works (Disney spectaculars and Beauty and the Beast on Broadway) and stunt choreography by Ottavio Gesmundo (Saturday Night Fever and Aida).
The tour of Spider-Man Live! will include engagements at theatres, not arenas, including Radio City Music Hall, the Wang Center in Boston, the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, the Fox Theatre in Detroit and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa, among its 40 cities.
Following a tour in North America, Spidey and pals will leap across the Atlantic to play Europe, Asia and Australia.
For information, visit www.spidermanlive.com.
— By Kenneth Jones