Review: ‘Marvel Universe’ stunning spectacle at PPL Center
To say that “Marvel Universe Live! The Age Of Heroes” is not your son’s or daughter’s Marvel Comics is an understatement.
“Marvel Universe Live!,” seen opening night, Nov. 29, at PPL Center, Allentown, where performances are at 7 p.m. Nov. 30; 11 a..m., 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 1, and noon and 4 p.m. Dec. 2, is nothing short of spectacular entertainment for all ages, and the ages.
The multi-media theater-style arena show is one-part Circue du Soleil, for its high-wire aerial fabric work; one-part indoor motocross, for its whizzing motorbikes that fly through the air, zoom in front of each other in seeming near-miss collisions, with one even flipping a 360-degree, and one-part World Wrestling Entertainment, for its strategic wrestling holds and mixed martial-arts choreography.
Of course, “Marvel Universe Live!” is all-parts Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Michael “Movie Maven” Gontkosky put it, “You feel like you’re ‘in’ a movie.”
The stage comprises the floor of the PPL Arena, backdropped by huge screens of projections, films and animations that change to depict various locations for the one-hour and three-quarter (including intermission) show. Scenes are accentuated with pyrotechnics, explosions, fog and swaths of light that bathe the stage, alternately, in purple, blue, green, gold and red.
Above the stage is a huge lighting and equipment grid with catwalks from which Marvel characters descend on ropes. Iron Man drops so swiftly as to appear out of nowhere. Spider-Man is a hoot as he scoots down in his upside-down crouch. Several times, Spider-Man swings way out on a rope, “flying” over part of the audience.
The show is punctuated with several fight scenes of breath-taking precision. The costumed actors do backflips, front flips and all manner of gymnastics amazing to behold.
At one point, there’s a battle involving devices, each with three flames. The degree of danger is evident.
The storyline is simple: Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers aid Dr. Strange in getting back the Wand of Watoomb from Yondu.
To a pre-recorded soundtrack of dialogue, music and sound effects, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk (a really, really big Hulk) and other Avengers, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy’s Groot, Rocket and more throw themselves into the fray.
The character outfits and suits are superb and really look like the Marvel superheroes. Each actor portraying each character is fully-committed and believable. The eight Stone Soldiers are especially effective.
The action is complex. There are numerous scenes and sequences. In one, there’s even a full-size Ford Crown Victoria yellow cab wheeled out on stage, which then has its hood and grille “smashed.” The set also has other props that are placed and moved to depict certain scenes.
“Marvel Universe Live!” would do Broadway proud. It’s a visually-stunning show of amazing physical feats, skill and theatrical technique.
“Marvel Universe Live! Age Of Heroes,” 7 p.m. Nov. 29, 10; 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., Dec. 1; noon, 4 p.m. Dec. 2, PPL Center, Allentown. Tickets: PPL Center box office, 701 Hamilton St., Allentown; PPLCenter.com; 610-347-TIXX