When 7 p.m. Jan. 8; 11 a.m. and 3 and 7 p.m. Jan. 9; noon and 4 p.m. Jan. 10 • Where Scottrade Center, 1401 Clark Avenue • How much $25-$120 • More info marveluniverselive.com
Randy Foster has his dream job. The company manager for “Marvel Universe Live!” has been a Marvel fan for as long as he can remember, starting with the X-Men and Thor comics that his dad loved.
Now he travels the country to work on the first arena show featuring the superheroes he grew up with.
“Marvel superheroes, and superheroes in general, are America’s mythology,” Foster said in a phone interview as he was traveling between Columbus, Ohio, and Memphis, Tenn. “We have Thor, Iron Man and Spider-Man. They are superhumans. They will last as long as the myths.”
The live-action show, which comes to Scottrade Center this weekend, brings these superhumans to life. Favorite heroes fight famous villains for the powerful Cosmic Cube (aka the Tesseract that has appeared in several Marvel movies). The production features 25 iconic characters and surrounds them with high-tech visuals, motorcycle stunts and aerial tricks.
Feld Entertainment, which also produces Disney on Ice and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey shows, brought in Shanda Sawyer to create, direct and co-write “Marvel Universe Live!” With her past experience, including circus shows with Feld, “The World’s Greatest Stunts” and the 69th Academy Awards, Sawyer knows how to do large-scale productions.
She didn’t have a childhood connection to superheroes, but once Sawyer immersed herself in their world, she understood the appeal of them.
“The beauty of these characters is they speak to us as humans,” Sawyer said by phone last month from Los Angeles. “They are wonderfully flawed. Who hasn’t felt like the Hulk some days?”
Sawyer consulted Joe Quesada, Marvel’s chief creative officer, when she was writing the arena show. “He has an encyclopedic knowledge,” she said of Quesada. “He made sure the story was true to the present incarnations of the characters.”
Foster says Marvel and parent company Disney have done a remarkable job of giving each branch its own personality. “I really love that the movies focus on worldwide catastrophes,” he said. “The TV shows’ (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Agent Carter”) focus is more local, more like a soap opera. The Netflix superheroes (“Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones”) are focused on midtown Manhattan. All the universes have found niches. Marvel brings together live action, the cinematic universe and the TV universe.”
The niche for “Live!” may be seeing the mashup of different characters combined with the stylized production. Foster credits the evolution of special effects with the explosion of the Marvel franchise over the past decade. “The CGI and stunts are more than you could do 10 to 15 years ago,” he said. Technological advancements have also made “Marvel Universe Live!” possible.
“We can do Hollywood-style stunts in a way that’s never been done onstage,” Foster said. “We can flip cars, blow them up and them put them together for the next show.”
While the effects are grand, the show is designed for a family audience. “There are no PG-13 instances like in the movies,” Foster said. The production is aimed at kids of all ages and for parents who read the comics when they were kids.
Plus there’s the treat of seeing different Marvel characters in the flesh, in one show.
“We were able to combine the Avengers and X-Men and Spider-Man all together and team them up in fun ways,” Sawyer said. “Spider-Man and Thor are teamed up; Falcon, Captain America and Black Widow, too.
“I’m very happy with the amount of show time each character gets. They each have their own special moment.”
After the U.S. run of “Marvel Universe Live!” the show will tour abroad. After that, could a sequel be in the works?
“Oh, yes, absolutely,” Sawyer said.
After all, that is the Marvel way.
Who you’ll see in ‘Marvel Universe Live’
Loki: Thor and his bad-guy brother set the story in motion. “It’s going to be a good day if Loki gets booed (by the audience),” said Randy Foster, company manager of Marvel Universe Live!
Captain America and Red Skull: The two enemies fight each other on wheels. “Keep your eye on the motorcycles,” Foster said. “You never know where they’re going to end up.”
Spider-Man: “Every kid loves him because Spider-Man is a kid,” Foster said. “To see him swing in the sky is every kid’s dream.” The performers who play Spider-Man also are masters at tricking, an acrobatic form of martial arts.
Wolverine: The contrarian is an audience favorite. “He goes rogue against the plan of the other heroes,” said Shanda Sawyer, concept creator, director and co-writer of “Marvel Universe Live!” Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk) is assigned to help keep him in line.
Captain Marvel: She doesn’t have her own movie yet, but she should. Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, has all the abilities of Iron Man but doesn’t need a special suit. “I worked hard to make sure the female characters are as strong as the male,” Sawyer said. “The women do stunts that are as hard as the men’s — some harder.”