A ‘Hero’ for Marriott
Alex Goodrich, Erich Bergen, Heidi Kettenring and Dara Cameron rehearse for "Hero." | Photo by Peter Coombs and the Marriott Theatre
‘Hero the Musical’
Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays; June 27-Aug. 19; previews June 20-24
$40-$48 plus tax and handling fees; senior and student fees and dinner/theater packages are available
(847) 634-0200 or visit www.MarriottTheatre.com
Updated: June 16, 2012 9:41AM
Aaron Thielen’s secret is out. He loves comics and superheroes.
Fortunately, Marriott Theatre’s co-artistic director also loves to write so he has combined his interest with one of his many talents to create “Hero the Musical,” a new musical about an aspiring comic book artist whose life isn’t moving in the direction he had hoped.
Hero Batowski is 28 years old, still living with his dad and working in the family’s comic book store. The musical challenges our Hero to confront his fears and move forward.
Thielen, who adapted the film, “For the Boys,” for a run at Marriott last year, said he decided to write a new musical from scratch after working with David H. Bell on “The Bowery Boys.” Bell, who wrote the book and lyrics for that original musical, which premiered at the Marriott in 2008, is directing and choreographing “Hero.”
In terms of the musical’s location and story, “There’s a store in Milwaukee that kind of inspired the idea in that it looks like an amazing set,” Thielen said. “It’s an antique store and in the back there’s a door that leads to a very small yard and then there’s a house behind it.”
Once he had the setting in mind, Thielen began asking himself questions. “Who lives in that house and who owns the store? What’s their life? What kind of store would it be?”
One answer quickly came to mind. “I always thought it would be cool to have a comic book shop so I decided, ‘Well, it’s a comic book shop.’ ”
Then the self-questioning continued. “Who works there?” Thielen wondered. “What’s their relationship? Where are we?”
Because he’s from Milwaukee, Thielen said, “It seems very easy to put myself in that world of life in Milwaukee so I started creating characters that I really liked and building relationships between the father and the son, and the cousin and the ex-girlfriend. It started to evolve and became what it is today.” Michael Mahler came onboard in 2009 to write the music and lyrics.
In 2010, there was a staged reading at the Marriott. “It was really helpful,” Thielen said. “We had about 600 people. They were really honest and very positive.” As a result of audience feedback, a character was cut and a new one added. In addition, a large plot point from act two was eliminated.
Still more changes were made following a staged reading last year at Northwestern University through the American Musical Theater Project. “We did a ton of rewrites during that process and got the show much closer to what it is today,” Thielen said.
Bell gladly agreed to direct and choreograph the show because he has written shows with both Thielen and Mahler. “I think they are both extraordinary collaborators — wonderful people to work with — and have a really unique aesthetic,” he said. “I would never turn down an opportunity to be in the room with either one of them.”
True to form
Bell thinks audiences will enjoy experiencing “Hero.” “It has a lot of heart,” he said. “So many of the new musicals have a sense of either send-up of the musical form or deconstruction of the musical form. Essentially, they are creating musicals by making fun of how musicals are made. What I love about this show is that it actually honors and believes in musical theater storytelling.”
In addition, Bell added, “It honestly believes in the story that it is telling. The sincerity, rather than the cynicism that accompanies most musicals today, is something that I really find addictive. People are really going to love being around it.”
The Marriott Theatre is carrying through the show’s comic book theme in a big way. They have been charting the development of the musical in comic book style with illustrations by website and comic book designer and illustrator Charles Riffenburg of Grab Bag Media. For a good time, visit www.heromusical.com.
For an even better time, go see the show.