Details emerge on <i>Batman Live</i> arena tour [Updated]

Batman Live, the big-budget arena show that premieres in July in the United Kingdom before touring Europe and North America, will focus on the relationship between the Caped Crusader and his sidekick.

First reported in April but officially announced this week, the multimillion-dollar production uses 45 performers, a 100-foot stage and a 130-foot-wide video screen to recreate such Gotham City locations as Wayne Manor, the Batcave and Arkham Asylum.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the show opens with an Arkham jailbreak and pits Batman and Robin against such villains as the Joker -- a 26-foot giant Joker head is somehow involved -- Catwoman, the Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn. But at the story's core is Dick Grayson's transformation from traumatized orphan to Boy Wonder, and how Batman relates to his new sidekick.

"We want to bring out a whole other level to Batman by looking at Robin’s journey from a circus performer to an orphan after his parents are killed, to a superhero," Johns tells the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. (Update: Although the article identifies Johns as the show's writer, he isn't handling the script.) "Batman lost his parents, but he can cope with his pain and owns it. Then he sees this boy and it reopens all those wounds. Robin’s journey very much brings up Bruce Wayne’s journey. [...] I think very much that Robin brings out a whole new level to Batman. I actually think it is more about Bruce Wayne and Batman than almost any story."

"The thing about Batman is he can happen right now," Johns continues. "That’s the great thing about Batman Live, and showing the origin of Robin and looking at that in a modern way, trying to capture this audience who I don’t think have been exposed to Robin and that relationship with Batman. It’s an emotional one, a very real one and the story is uplifting, it’s tragic, it has everything."

Preparations for this production, from Warner Bros. Consumer Products, DC Entertainment and Water Lane Productions, shift into high gear just as Sony's $60-million Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark announced another delay, this time because of safety issues.

Batman Live opens on July 20, 2011, in Manchester, followed by stops in Newcastle, Glasgow, Sheffield, Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Nottingham, Dublin and Belfast. Tickets go on sale Friday.

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