In the world of pop culture, there’s nothing bigger than superheroes.
San Diego ComicCon has become like the Super Bowl for sci-fi fans. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee is a rock star. Iron Man, the Avengers and – most recently – Guardians of the Galaxy rule the box office. The Flash and Arrow have given the CW network its biggest ratings ever.
And now we have “Marvel Universe Live!” – a live-action adventure that blasts into Time Warner Cable Arena Friday for a three-day, six-show run.
Bringing together heroes and villains who have never crossed paths before, “Marvel Universe Live!” gives fans a sort of greatest hits of comic book heroes.
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The storyline introduces Thor’s brother Loki as – once again – the source of trouble. Spider-Man, Iron Man and the other Avengers must join forces with the X-Men to keep a feared source of power called the Cosmic Cube out of Loki’s destructive hands. In doing so, they face other Marvel favorites like Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Madam Hydra and Red Skull.
“It is a comic book coming to life,” says cast member Chelsea Hough, 21, who plays X-Men’s Storm.
The multimedia show – which takes place on stage, in the air and on the arena floor – combines combat, flying, projections, stunts, motorcycles, explosions and car chases.
“Everything is happening right in front of your face live,” Hough says, “so you’re on the edge of your seat the entire time.”
A native of Nashville, Tenn., Hough was not a stuntwoman and had no stage combat experience, but landed the part due to her work as an actress and a dancer, the latter of which gives her the flexibility to re-create Storm’s high-kicking fighting style.
“In one fight, I actually used my adagio (experience) – this slow movement where you need a lot of control. That’s what this fight contains,” says Hough, who discovered Storm and other superheroes through the grocery store gateway of Archie Comics.
Although Hough is relatively new to the Marvel world, her first touring gig is a dream role. She steps into the boots of one of the world’s first female African-American superheroes. Storm was introduced in 1975 and has been played in four films since 2000 by Halle Berry.
It’s a role Hough takes seriously.
“I think about it a lot, especially when I see the other African-American kids in the audience,” says Hough. “Each show is a step for African-American females as well as dancers. I think about that every time I’m on stage.”
The experience has opened up Hough’s own possibilities for her career as a dancer and singer.
“You can go anywhere with dance. You can be in movies or music videos, commercials or even concerts dancing backup or on tour with someone. Although this is a stunt show, I’m learning so much about myself and all these other new backgrounds,” she says, mentioning the stuntmen and women, stage combat fighters and martial artists she works with. “I’ve always wanted to have superpowers.”