TAMPA — James Hadley has a passion for the human performance, whether it's singing, dancing, parkour or watching superheroes defeat villains.
This year, in his first time directing the Feld Entertainment show "Marvel Universe LIVE! Age of Heroes," Hadley has found a way to combine it all into one narrative. The elaborate production runs Jan. 5-7 at Amalie Arena, filling a period of the year once held by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The new show builds upon, yet is different, from the original that debuted in Tampa in July 2014.
"It is a completely different show," said Hadley, who has more than 25 years of experience in directing large-scale events, circus shows and professional theater, including a successful stint as Cirque du Soleil's senior artistic director for North America. "We've got a whole new story.
"The goal is to bring in a lot of different characters, each with their own special skill set, into the show."
The Guardians of the Galaxy characters will be joining forces this year with some of Marvel's most beloved superheroes.
The narrative follows Spider-Man, the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy as they join forces with Doctor Strange to recover the Wand of Watoomb before it falls into Loki's hands. This ancient artifact holds immeasurable mystical power that would allow Loki to achieve his eternal quest to crown himself ruler of Asgard and Earth.
For Hadley, combining the two brought another human element — comedy — to the show that he said he believes will make the event more memorable for audiences.
"I really do like a narrative," Hadley said. "I think that's what was really fun about putting this show together. The writer just knew this universe inside and out, but we also have a team of actors with these amazing skills who turn that into a story. I think that combined spectacle is true to the story and the Marvel Universe."
Feld Entertainment Company Manager Joshua Rothschild says audiences should expect more depth to this show.
When Marvel Universe LIVE! Age of Heroes debuted, the company used projection mapping to display scenes throughout the story. Fans were taken to Tony Stark's lab or the top of the Statue of Liberty.
That same imagery will be on display, but in more than one place, including the Amalie Arena's floor and balconies. A runway that goes out onto the audience floor and two additional platforms that can raise the characters up and down from the upper grids have also been added to the show, Rothschild said.
To get the cast of nearly 45 actors ready for a new show, Hadley held sort of a "superhero boot camp" to test their skills. Each already came with a special skill set, but the director wanted to also cross train them to be able to perform in other scenes.
"We looked all over the world to find these actors," Hadley said. "We needed a specialist quality in these actors."
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