So you wanna be a superhero?
Eric Foster had a head start on you, with his experience in stage combat, karate, gymnastics, diving, high falling and archery.
Plus, he was a pirate.
“Yeah, I sunk a ship every day,” the Las Vegan replies when people find out he was part of the bygone pirate battle in front of Treasure Island. “It’s always fun to tell stories to people about the pirate show.”
You’d think Foster would be a shoo-in for “Marvel Universe Live!,” which brings the comic book heroes to life as a Thomas & Mack Center arena show Thursday through Sunday.
And he was. He just wasn’t sure of that when he auditioned.
“They were looking for everybody. Every realm of talent,” says the Henderson resident, who has been on the road with the arena spectacle since July. “They were trying to investigate skateboarders, motorcyclists, gymnasts, dancers, aerialists, circus performers, stunt performers, karate, people who specialize in stage combat.
“The audition listing was huge,” he says. “I was really nervous going in, thinking there’s no way I’m going to get this. I didn’t know if there was another archer out there.”
But he suggested himself for Hawkeye at his audition, where he brought along his bow and arrow as a visual aid. And it didn’t hurt that during auditions he was paired with a performer he had worked with before, and the two agreed to kick their fake-fight up a notch: “Let’s really sell this for them.”
Seems logical that Las Vegas would be a deep talent pool for the Marvel show, which combines Feld Entertainment’s years of producing the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus with its acumen in bringing licensed characters to sports arenas in “Disney On Ice.”
Along with Foster, cast members Damir Mouzdybaev, Kirkor Kasparian and Matthew Elm grew up in the Las Vegas Valley or have work credits on the Strip.
“You never know where your career’s gonna go,” says Foster, a Southern Nevada Vocational Technical Center grad in culinary arts — like this dude needed even more skills — who now finds his career going down: 45 feet down to the stage from an overhead grid in every show.
Now they’re part of “something that’s bigger than anything we ever imagined it would be,” Foster says. “Anything Marvel now is so hot, and everybody’s dying to go see it.”
Indeed, the routing of “Marvel Universe Live!” may be coincidental after 10 months or touring. But the arena show does kick off a geek-tastic run in Las Vegas that includes:
■ The same weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con Las Vegas 2015, Friday through Sunday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Road. (Come back for Sunday’s Living section to read more on that one.)
■ The May 1 arrival of the long-awaited “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which again combines the big-screen versions of Marvel’s heroes. All of them and more are also part of the live show, with Foster’s Hawkeye joining the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Falcon and Black Widow as Avengers seen in both film and arena combat.
■ Free Comic Book Day on May 2 is a coordinated promotion by comic book retailers that grows every year. Some shops have lines out the door for giveaways and promotions aimed at both new readers and longtime fanboys.
The Marvel show comes after industry rival DC Comics put “Batman Live” on the road in 2012. In Las Vegas, that one took a sock on the chin from a live version of Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb” the same weekend, despite its ambitions to stage a show which appealed to more than kids by using live-voice actors and input from “Batman” comics writers.
Reviews from the road tend to place the Marvel show as more for the 12-and-under set, though Chris Nobles, director of show operations, says the target audience is “everything from the fanboy all the way down to girls and boys 4 to 10 with the moms and dads.”
Nobles has seen “whole families dressed up all alike in Wolverine gear.” And after the show went up in Tampa, Fla., creators made some “adjustments,” he says, based on input from comics fans known to be picky about costumes and other details. “We’re constantly striving to deliver what the fans are expecting. It’s all been really good feedback.”
Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain Marvel and other heroes (and villains) show up from the larger Marvel universe. Older fans may be happy to see that Wolverine is among those wearing his colorful comics costume the movies avoided. “We pull from the complete history of the character as opposed to the most current history of the character,” Nobles says.
“The minute the Hulk comes out, there is no amount of earplugs in the world that can cover up the sound of that crowd yelling,” Foster says.
Foster was drawn to Hawkeye through the archery connection, if not through a stack of now-valuable Marvel comics he bought from a neighborhood man years ago for $5. So it’s mostly a coincidence that his Las Vegas friends will see him as one of the few characters with a recognizable face. Whoever plays the Hulk? Not so lucky.
“My costume definitely breathes,” Foster says with a laugh. “I’ll walk backstage and go, ‘Man, it’s hot in there.’ And they’ll go, ‘Just stop talking.’ ”
Read more from Mike Weatherford at bestoflasvegas.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.