Chicago Theatre Review
Hold Out for This "Hero" at The Marriott Theatre and Go!
By Lazlo Collins
The Marriott Theatre’s “Hero” is up, up, and away entertaining.
This new musical is inspired by the world of comic book superheroes. The world of the actual paper comics; and the world within family owned comic book shop. Set in Milwaukee, the comic book store is the womb for all the characters in the story. It is the heart of this lively story of love, loss, and ultimately, the acceptance of one’s own feelings.
This new musical is filled with songs that are sweet and energetic. The cast is perfect as they move through the fairly basic story, but keep the action crisp and fresh. “Hero” is a musical that will appeal to a wide range of theatrical tastes. The men will enjoy the comic book bent of the story, while the ladies will enjoy the love relationship between our main characters. All will enjoy the poignancy of Hero’s relationships that we all can identify.
“Hero” tells the story of a comic book creating artist who lives with his father, Al, and works at their family comic book store. Since his mother’s passing during his senior year in high school, Hero cannot move on from this event; that is, until he gets reacquainted with a long lost love. With Jane on the scene, Hero has reawakened. After a series of life’s funny setbacks, he must adjust his outlook and ambitions once again. With Jane and friends, Susan and Kirk, in tow; Hero must realize decisions must be made without the help of anyone to the rescue.
And yes, our main character is actually named Hero. From the first notes of his pleasant tenor tones, Erich Bergen, as Hero Batowski, commands the stage and never lets up. His singing and acting confidence keeps this show moving through the story’s seasons of time. Strongly opening with “My Superhero Life” all the way to the stunning “Powerless”, Mr. Bergen deserves high praise. Mr. Bergen lets the audience see all his sides; as a man forced to come to terms with his mother’s death and the death of a relationship so long ago. This character is key to the success of this story and Mr. Bergen shows us a performance worthy of a place in the Hall of Justice.
With capes aflutter, the rest of the cast is not far behind with talent and comic timing. Heidi Kettenring makes a charming and lovable girlfriend (Jane) whose rein
troduction to Milwaukee
removes the cloak of grief from behind Hero’s eyes. There scenes were sweet and delightful, keeping it saccharine free but with just the right amount of puppy love. Her reprise of “Your Darkest Place” was wonderful.
As Hero’s dad, Al Batowski brings the best with his singing, and easy acting style. His combination of tough love and gentle wanting for a wife long gone, played well against the mostly youthful background of the show.
As the friends of our lead players, Alex Goodrich as Kirk and Dara Cameron as Susan Schmitty, bring their BEST to these rolls. Their timing and playfulness was a key in enchanting the audience. They gave their scenes the punch they needed, without losing sight of the sentiment and playfulness of the show. Their transformation from superhero sidekicks to “lovesicks” was a joy to watch with every scene. Their energy was celebrated by the audience with each of their scenes and songs like “By Our Powers Combined”.
A shout out to Jonah Rawitz , Alex Goldtang, and Michael Aaron Linder for rounding out the comic book store gang with great singing and perfect timing. Their collective uncomfortableness, as female kryptonite in comic book t-shirts, brought a smile to my face. Well done.
David Bell did an amazing job keeping the action moving on and around the great mobile set (Thomas M. Ryan). Keeping any show moving is never an easy feat; but Mr. Bell shows his exacting perfection from all angles. I enjoyed the staging of the songs and scenes. He kept the pages turning for the audience, and made a familiar story interesting to watch.
The story (Aaron Thielen) seemed like we had been down this road before; but, the superhero spin gave it a fresh appeal to keep the audience engaged. The music (Michael Mahler) was bright and driving. The songs were perfectly suited for the characters and scenes. Of course, there were many superhero references throughout the show; but, The haunting melodies of the more quiet pieces took me to a thought provoking place of contemplation.
Comic book superheroes are certainly in fashion these days and “Hero” takes full advantage of this trend with its successful musical homage to those men in tights. I applaud Marriott for producing this new musical. “Hero” is a story that reminds us of the superhero within. I like that. We all deserve to feel like Superman now and again.