Spiderman, Thor, and the Green Goblin will come to life in front of your eyes at the Marvel Universe LIVE! show, opening tonight at the Verizon Center. Expect explosions, pyrotechnics, motorcycle chases and much more at the live-action production. We chat with director Shanda Sawyer and casts members Moe Alafrangy (who plays Spiderman) and Chelsea Hough (who plays Storm) about what goes on behind the scenes, the actors' intense physical training, and more.
Tell us about the concept behind the show.
SHANDA SAWYER: Thor breaks apart the Cosmic Cube and scatters it to the corners of the earth, so that no one creature will ever possess its corrupting power, but Loki collects dust from the cube and creates his own Cosmic Clone. Marvel superheroes must battle their most iconic foes to find and re-connect the pieces of the original cube to combat Loki and his clone.
MOE ALAFRANGY: It’s an original, authentic storyline by Marvel. If you’re a fan of the Marvel comics, imagine this all come to life.
What was the audition process like?
CHELSEA HOUGH: The audition process was interesting. As a dancer I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really know what combat fighting was. Getting in there, I talked to them and I showed them what I could do. It was the coolest audition I’ve ever done.
SS: We cast throughout the U.S. for over 6 months, searching for real-life superheroes. Each cast member needed to have the right physical look for their character as well as be an extraordinary athlete and stunt person.
How did the cast prepare for such a physically demanding show?
SS: Each cast member came in with at least one area of extreme skill, but most needed to learn several other skills necessary for their character. We brought in top Hollywood stunt men to train the cast in high falls, fight skills, motorcycle stunts, climbing, flying, [and more]. We started with an intensive four week workshop period to train all the cast and develop the stunt sequences, then we moved into eight weeks of show rehearsal.
MA: The rehearsal process was barrier breaking for me in many ways, both physically and mentally. We all had to break out of our comfort zone as a cast, and for myself especially as Spiderman. They had me flying with a hand loop around my wrist 30 feet up in the air, swinging like Spiderman would.
Production wise, what was the most demanding aspect of the show?
SS: Technically, it's a very complicated show, and everything is prototypical. Our biggest challenges were designing and implementing the staging and stunt equipment. Our grid is the most elaborate traveling grid ever designed. It took many people to design and build it so it could do everything we needed in the show as well as be traveled efficiently.
Moe, you’re from the DC Metropolitan area. What are you most looking forward to about your homecoming?
MA: It’s going to be an experience I haven’t had. To be able to bring something I’ve been working so hard on back home in front of my family and friends and have them see me do my thing is going to be a dream come true for me.
What can comic book fans look forward to on the show?
SS: Expect to be taken on a high-octane journey through the Marvel Universe. There's plenty of humor, great action, effects, and excitement to keep the entire family on the edge of their seat.
CH: There’s a lot of pyrotechnics, motorcycles, flying, and projections. It makes it look like a comic book is literally coming to life.
MA: I think it’s a very entertaining show for families, for diehard comic book fans, or for people just looking to do something new and trying to be entertained. I think you can look forward to just being blown away. The idea is to catch you off guard with every show... and it will only get better.
Marvel Universe LIVE! heads to the Patriot Center in Fairfax September 12-21.