This isn’t polite tea-and-crumpets theater. This is high-adrenaline live spectacle for fans of comic books, blockbuster movies, video games, and martial action.
“From the very beginning, there’s a car chase with about 15 to 18 guys and girls jumping onto moving cars on the stage and the car will flip over you’ll see an explosion.” Zachary Huber, a Jersey City, resident, is talking excitedly. He plays the character Loki in the show “Marvel Universe Live!”, coming to the IZOD Center from July 31 to Aug. 10.
The two-hour show (with intermission) brings together a collection of Marvel’s most popular superheroes – and most despised super villains – in a brand new story complete with high-tech special effects and physical stunts.
Fight or flight
The evil Loki is a central character in the show, striving to collect the pieces of a shattered “cosmic cube” with the power to destroy the universe. Fighting against him is Loki’s superhero brother Thor, who brings in his pals The Avengers, Spiderman, and Wolverine. On Loki’s side are classic Marvel nemeses including Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Red Shull, Electro, and more.
“It’s like having the recent films right in front of you,” said Huber. “They have a top of the line new rigging system that helps people fly. There’s fight chorography, motorcycles doing a 19-foot jump. There’s a lot going on in front of you, a lot of characters, a lot happening.”
The show was developed by Feld Entertainment, producer of touring extravaganzas including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice, and Monster Jam.
“I believe it was about two years ago that Feld Entertainment decided it wanted to come up with something cutting edge and new, to get people out of their seats,” said Huber.
“If you’re an 8-year-old boy, this will be the coolest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” – Meg McMahon Stagaard
Marvel was highly involved throughout the entire development process, according to Huber, from the script to the sets to the look and actions of the characters. “They were the ones with the final word,” he said.
“Diehard fans will enjoy the show. It’s true to the characters,” said Stagaard. “It’s a challenge to bring those to life in a live venue, but they’ve done a really nice job.”
As to the target audience, Huber said, “It’s a show for all ages, it’s not angled just for kids. It’s for the generation that grew up with comics and the generation that’s now growing up with comics. It’s really for everyone.”
Stagaard agrees, adding, “It’s fun for whole family but if you’re an 8-year-old boy, this will be the coolest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
A hard role
Zachary Huber is a 27-year-old New Jersey native, born in Denville and raised in Mendham.
“I took a stunt class in a Hollywood stunt school in New York two years ago,” said the former construction worker. “And once I took the class I fell in love with every aspect.”
He auditioned for the Marvel show last October and got the job in February. In April he began training for his role as Loki.
And what does training consist of? “Conditioning your body to consistently take a beating,” he said. “This is not a circus act. There are people doing real stuff, hitting a real floor. You’ve got to have a certain level of internal strength to keep moving. These guys are tougher than most people I’ve ever met in my life.”
The show is scheduled to tour for a year, playing 85 cities. Perhaps the hardest part for Huber is being separated from his family. “I do have an expectant wife with a child on the way,” he said. “She’s due Aug. 25, coming up very soon.”
He heads home whenever there’s a break in the touring schedule, then it’s back on the road, performing stunts and getting walloped by the good guys.
“The Hulk beats up on Loki at the end of the show,” he revealed. “But we’re not aiming for blood. It’s more of the excitement of an action film.”
Ironically, while Huber was a comics fan growing up, his favorites were Marvel’s arch-rivals, DC comics, with their standard-bearers Superman and Batman. It was only later that he discovered X-Men and the whole Marvel stable of characters.
“That was really cool. It was everything I want to be,” he said. “I wanted to grow up and be a superhero.”
Although that didn’t happen, he came close. “I can say I grew up to portray a super villain,” he said with a laugh.
Marvel Universe Live! Will be at the IZOD Center from July 31 through Aug. 10. For information on the show visit www.marveluniverselive.com. Tickets are available from ticketmaster.com.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.