Conceived and Written by Aaron Thielen
Music & Lyrics by Michael Mahler
Directed & Choreographed by David H. Bell
Music Direction by Ryan T. Nelson
At Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire
Loveable characters populate Hero as the smartly crafted book carries the musical
Aaron Thielen grew up going to a comic book store in Milwaukee where he acquired a love for comics. That lead him and comic book designer and illustrator Charles Riffenburg to document the story of Hero in illustrated form. Thielen has crafted a excellent book that could easily stand on its own as a sweet, heartfelt comedy without any music or songs. That is a rare accomplishment since usually the music and lyrics carry a musical. That is not to say that Michael Mahler’s pop/rock music and lyrics aren’t fine- they are -it’s just that I feel that Aaron Thielen’s book is so compelling that is anchors the work. Director David H. Bell’s staging works nicely with Marriott’s in-the-round stage.
Hero tells the story of Hero Batowski (the charismatic Erich Bergen) a talented comic book illustrator who documents and expresses his emotions through his drawings and illustrations. After a live changing event in his senior year in high school, Hero ends up living at home with his dad – Al (the empathetic Don Forston) who runs the family comic book shop. Hero is now 28 years old and he is still brooding on events from 10 years ago. His pal Kirk (the loveable clownish ladies man Alex Goodrich) tries to get Hero out to meet the ladies. Young cousin Nate (Jonah Rawitz) is the cocky pal who loves to hang in the comic shop with Al and the two overweight nerds – Ted (Alex Goldklang) and Kyle (Michael Aaron Lindner). The many comic book superhero references will appeal to comic book nerds (of which I’m not).
When Hero meets his former girlfriend from 10 years ago, Jane (the terrific, charming Heidi Kettenring) sparks fly as the two still harbor feeling for each-other. The double date that finds Hero and Jane bonding anew also yields quite funny foibles from Susan (Dara Cameron), Jane’s friend and the quirky Kirk.
As the romance kindles for the two couples, complications arise to both add humor and pathos to the story. Told mostly through talk-songs (think William Finn) sung deftly by cast to Mahler’s Broadway pop/rock score, Hero contains some clever tunes to augment Thielen’s book. The contemporary talk song style singing is more popular with audiences than they are with me. That style works nicely here.
We grow to like and empathize with the characters through several whimsical songs such as “Wing Man” and ” My Superhero Life.” My favorite tune was the cute “That’s My Kryptonite” sung as a love song by Hero and Jane. Mahler also adds some rap/hip-hop tunes to add spice to his score.
Hero is an endearing , heartfelt musical that depicts extraordinary moments that get ordinary folks to rise to superhero-like status to overcome their fears. With strong performances from Don Forston, Heidi Kettenring, and Erich Bergen, Hero will live on. Alex Goodrich shows his zany, charm and comic aplomb.
Hero is a warm, funny and well sung new musical that, for a world premiere, is ready for life after Marriott Theatre. Kudos to Thielen, Mahler and Bell for creating such a fun new show.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 27, 2012
For more info checkout the Hero page at Theatreinchicago.com
At Marriott Theatre, Rt 22 & Rt 45, Lincolnshire, IL, call 847-634-0200, www.marriotttheatre.com,tickets $40 -$48, Wednesdays at 1 & 8 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 1 & 5 pm, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission, through August 19, 2012