Durham native part of ‘Marvel Universe Live!’

Jul. 03, 2014 @ 09:55 AM

Joseph Cox has been using his skills in dance, acrobatics and other movement arts as a member of the Marvel Comics pantheon of heroes and villains. Cox, who grew up in Durham, will play both types of roles in the touring show of “Marvel Universe Live!,” which comes to PNC Arena this month.

The show features martial artists, aerialists, acrobats, precision bike riders, stunt performers and more. “I come from a dance background,” Cox said, and he also practices parkour (a type of movement based on military obstacle courses). Before signing on to the Marvel show, he was an acrobat in “Pirates Voyage” in Myrtle Beach, and he danced in the Broadway tour of “The Lion King.” “I was brought on primarily because of my background with acrobatics and martial arts,” Cox said. “All of these disciplines I get to utilize in the show.”
The basic plot of “Marvel Universe Live!” will be familiar to fans of “The Avengers” movie, and Marvel’s stable of comic book characters. Loki, Thor’s villainous brother, is on a mission to use the powers of the Cosmic Cube, a source of power. Thor shattered the cube into many pieces to prevent its power falling into the wrong hands.
To defeat Loki and his allies, Marvel heroes, including The Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and Wolverine) travel the globe to gather the pieces. They must battle Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Madame Hydra and other Marvel villains in their quest.
Cox plays a variety of roles, sometimes the allies of Loki, but he also is the understudy for heroes Nick Fury and Flying Falcon.
Flying Falcon requires him to do a lot of aerial work, but so does a scene when he is one of the villains trying to attack Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel is on a cat walk in this scene, “and we have to literally climb our way up to the platform to do battle with her,” he said. Captain Marvel keeps knocking them down, but they have to bounce right back. Cox said he found these “high fall stunts challenging and fun and interesting as well.”
The show will tour 85 cities (Raleigh is the second stop) and feature more than 25 Marvel characters. In addition to lots of movement, the show’s set will take up the entire PNC Arena floor. Projections and the set’s multi levels are meant to give the audience a 3-D effect.
Cox earned his bachelor of fine arts degree with a concentration in dance at the N.C. School of the Arts. He credits his teachers at Hillside High School for sparking his interest in pursuing a life in the arts. Dance teacher Lisa Wilder and drama teacher Wendell Tabb were “the first directors who set me on my path to being a professional performer,” he said. Cox had always been interested in the arts, but not necessarily as a career. Wilder “talked me into taking a dance class as an elective. … I actually learned I had a little bit of talent for it,” and he kept taking dance through high school, Cox said. Later, he auditioned for Tabb’s productions, and performed in several of his shows that traveled to South America and West Africa, he said. “I’m glad I had these two people early in my career to give me the tools and the confidence I needed,” Cox said.
Cox said he came to the Marvel Comics universe through television and games, rather than the comic books exclusively. Working on the production, Cox said he has enjoyed learning more about characters that are not as well known, and he thinks audiences will too. The audiences also will be wowed by the costumes, he said. “The costumes in the show are so elaborate and detailed. I don’t think I have been involved with any show that has this level of detail,” Cox said. The costume designers “put lots of emphasis on being true to the characters that people have come to love.”


WHAT: “Marvel Universe Live!”

WHEN: July 18-20. Shows are at 7 p.m. July 18; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. July 19; and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. July 20
WHERE: PNC Arena, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
TICKETS: For tickets, visit www.pncarena.com or call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000.