August 17, 2006: Review - Superman: The Musical
By Toni Collins
"A merry musical comedy spoof by the 'Bye Bye Birdie' songwriters!" And a merry, musical spoof is exactly what was presented by the young performers of San Jose, California's Actors Theatre Center in their August, 2006 production of It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman!
From the moment the curtain opened, excitement filled the theatre. The production captured the color and exuberance of the 1960's with mini skirts, go-go boots, and sweet young dancers in a gilded cage. The teen-age actors poured all their youthful energy into this performance, and carried the audience straight into Metropolis. Maintaining the 1966 timeline was a wise choice by the director, Jeff Hicks; doing so maintained the integrity of both the musical style and lyrics.
The plot of It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman! is driven by its musical numbers.
Strong, blaring brass, bass and drums contrasted with delicate wind instruments and keyboard, successfully carrying Superman through heart-wrenching travails and dangers. The orchestra was forceful enough to thrill the audience, yet it never overpowered the young actors. Again, the director hit exactly the right balance with the music in this show.
Our show opens with Superman changing into Clark Kent in a clever musical number, and the citizens of Metropolis singing of their love for Superman. We then meet the brilliant professor Dr. Abner Sedgwick, who seeks Lois Lane's help in locating Superman. Hence begins the dual plot lines of Dr. Sedgwick planning to destroy Superman, while Lois falls for Sedgwick's assistant, Jim Morgan. Sedgwick manages to turn the town against Superman at the same time that Lois gently lets Superman know that she's fallen for "a guy with both feet on the ground." The double blow is more than Superman can stand, and he wilts away. Of course, Sedgwick teams up with every nefarious citizen of Metropolis, including arrogant reporter Max Mencken who pines for Lois, and his plucky secretary, Sydney, who falls for Clark Kent.
This convoluted set of characters may be alien to Superman fans, but the costuming and characterizations of these adept, young actors kept the playcard straight. Sedgwick was maniacal, Mencken was egotistical, Sydney was sassy, and Lois was the sweetest woman on earth. So great were their portrayals that the audience completely forgot that these actors hadn't even earned a high school diploma. Lois Lane was only twelve years old, but had a voice that filled the theatre and a stage presence that belied her young age.
So in a production full of cartoon characters, how does a play become a spoof? That, as they say, is a job for Superman. Given that the only recording of the play is a 1975 adulterated rendition featuring a befuddled and lackluster Superman, all future productions had to think this play was a spoof. Fortunately, director Jeff Hicks didn't fall into the trap of replicating the 1975 Superman. He instead cast a sweetheart of a Superman, blond and goofy, with the widest smile on Earth. The audience loved him the way you love a golden retriever puppy. Superman may have been spoofed, but the show was so full of energy and spunk that we loved it anyway.
There were a few rough spots. Dr. Sedgwick's Brainiac 7 computer accidentally fell flat onto the floor. But the brilliant young actor lifted it and kissed it ceremoniously, proclaiming, "There, that's better." You couldn't ask for a funnier moment. A deeper flaw in the staging occurred after Lois Lane falls in love with Jim Morgan, and sings a ballad about how much she's always wanted a normal life. Unfortunately, a creative dance was added in the background, making Superman look like the "normal" husband she wants. This destroyed the audience sense that Lois was newly in love with Jim, and made her plot-critical announcement of this love to Superman seem incongruous. (Of course, we still discover how devastated Superman is. Though Lois has walked out the door, we fans finally get to hear Superman say, "I love you.")
One of the funniest moments of the Broadway staging seems to have been lost to history. Linda Lavin, who'd played Sydney, flirted delightfully with Clark Kent, and on Broadway began to unbutton Clark's white shirt, singing, "Underneath there's something there." Miss Lavin's perfect comedic timing had the audience in suspense that Clark would be exposed, until trumpets blared and Clark jumped away. The musical cue is still in the score, but there must be no record of that moment in the script.
Of course, none of that ruined this show. Superman saved Metropolis, and the teen-age energy of all the performers carried the night to an exciting conclusion. Then, a fabulous touch was tagged on to the end. The curtain calls for It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman! are written right into the last song, so the show ends with the audience cheering madly. But Jeff Hicks took us one step further, reprising the signature song of the show, "It's Superman," after the curtain calls ended. Cast members poured into the audience, roused us to our feet, and we all danced and sang one last number together. How can you help but love this show?
Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
Every die hard Superman fan in America needs to see this It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman! It's an important part of Superman lore, and it can't be captured on video. We owe it to the Man of Steel to make this show a part of our lives.
If you live on the West Coast, try to get to San Jose to see it this last weekend. Tickets are still available at the Theatre Center website.
If you can't make it this weekend, don't despair. Two more West coast performances of the show are planned. Northwest Superman fans can catch the musical on October 7-8 in Kirkland, WA. And a single performance is offered for fans in Southern California on November 20.
Time for full disclosure: I had to love this show. You see, I'm one of the original "Superman Kids." Who are we? We're the lucky kids who got to meet Superman after Broadway's It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman. Bob Holiday, the most gracious actor under a yellow sun, invited children to meet him and get his autograph after every matinee. I was in awe of him then, and I've never forgotten how wonderful he was to us kids.
How did Bob feel about us? Interviewed in 1966, Bob said, "It's one of those little added pleasures to see those faces light up, to say 'Hi, there, son' - in a big low voice - and hear the kid go "Uhhhhhh!' This is my kick." Even today, Bob says, "Something is alive in me when I think back on the love I had holding you kids and watching your expressions." We've never forgotten him, and he's never forgotten us.
Bob was the absolute epitome of Superman. As columnist Norman Nadel wrote in 1966, "Bob Holiday ... has the Superman instinct like no other actor who comes to mind." But this doesn't mean he was boring, far from it. As Nadel wrote, "Holiday has this directness, this acceptance of perfection, down pat, and it becomes the funniest single element in the whole production."
If you, like me, were one of the lucky "Superman Kids," please drop me a line. I'll make sure that Bob Holiday hears from you. He'd love to know that you still remember him.
2006 Merchandise & Miscellaneous News
Listed below are all the Merchandise & Miscellaneous News items archived for 2006.
- January 6, 2006: A Rare Superman Kiddy Ride
- January 11, 2006: Fossil Superman Tattoo Watch Review
- January 19, 2006: Superman iPod Case Available
- February 5, 2006: Superman Helps Children Understand Religion
- February 6, 2006: New Phone Wallpapers From Verizon
- February 10, 2006: Nestle Superman Sticks Ice Pops
- February 16, 2006: Warner Bros. Launches Super Fashions
- February 16, 2006: Six Flags St. Louis Announces New Superman Ride
- February 20, 2006: Superman Merchandise Update
- February 25, 2006: Jim Lee Talks DCU Massively Multiplayer Online Game
- February 28, 2006: Superman Escape Competition for Aussie Fans
- March 8, 2006: Kelloggs Superman Fruit Flavored Snacks
- March 10, 2006: Who Wants To Be A Superhero?!?
- March 11, 2006: Superman Musical Returns to the Stage
- March 11, 2006: MonSFFA to Examine Superman Mythos
- March 11, 2006: Justice League Showbag at Sydney Easter Show
- March 14, 2006: More Superman Merchandise Revealed
- March 20, 2006: Superman Homepage at the Emerald City Comic Con
- March 21, 2006: Justice League: Heroes Videogame Announced
- March 22, 2006: Ovo Surpresa Superman from Nestle Brazil
- April 3, 2006: Justice League: Heroes Game Trailer
- April 8, 2006: Justice League: Heroes Site Launches
- April 9, 2006: Showtunes Theatre Puts On Superman Musical
- April 10, 2006: Bridge Tech Customs Superman Wheels
- April 14, 2006: Jakk's Announces Superman and Justice League Consoles
- April 15, 2006: SuperGuy - Behind The Cape Review
- April 18, 2006: Superman, Superman Everywhere - So What Exactly Are You Going to Buy?
- April 26, 2006: Kurt Adler Unveils Superman 2006 Holiday Collection
- April 28, 2006: Justice League Video Game Interview
- April 28, 2006: In A Single Bound at Tribeca Film Festival
- May 3, 2006: 2006 Superman Celebration in Metropolis Illinois
- May 4, 2006: Justice League: Heroes Video Game Agreement Announced
- May 6, 2006: Join The AMF Superman Bowling Club
- May 6, 2006: Justice League: Heroes Video Game Voice Talent
- May 10, 2006: Alienware Superman Edition Computer Chassis
- May 11, 2006: New Justice League: Heroes Video Trailer
- May 12, 2006: One-on-One Interview with Stephen Skelton
- May 12, 2006: The Man from Krypton Returns!
- May 14, 2006: Superman Bowling Club Information
- May 16, 2006: Justice League: Heroes Website Updated
- May 16, 2006: DC Direct at ToyFair 2006
- May 18, 2006: Kotobukiya Announce Up-Coming Superman Statue
- May 18, 2006: Superman Tower of Power Ride Opens at Six Flags St Louis
- June 1, 2006: Superman Father's Day Promotion at Wal Mart
- June 2, 2006: Exclusive Interview with Crispin Freeman
- June 4, 2006: Build-A-Bear Superman Weekend
- June 5, 2006: Superman Products from Creative Tops
- June 5, 2006: Superman Effervescent Multivitamin for Children
- June 5, 2006: Superman Colgate Toothpaste Promotion
- June 5, 2006: Elliot S! Maggin Opinion Column in LA Times
- June 6, 2006: Alienware's Superman Systems Take Flight
- June 7, 2006: INHD to Feature Metropolis Illinois
- June 8, 2006: Creative Tops Reveals Superman Merchandise
- June 13, 2006: MTV on Superman Movie Merchandise
- June 14, 2006: Metropolis Illinois Superman Celebration Report
- June 19, 2006: Real Superheroes in a Real World
- June 20, 2006: Superman Bottled Water
- June 20, 2006: Superman and Supergirl Microman Figures
- June 22, 2006: Download a 3D Superman Returns Screensaver
- June 26, 2006: Press Mixer at Superman Celebration
- June 30, 2006: Geraldo Looks at the Superman Legacy
- July 12, 2006: Superman - The Man of Butter
- July 18, 2006: DC Comics Superhero Stamps
- July 18, 2006: Jason Ades Talks Justice League: Heroes Video Game
- July 27, 2006: Is Lex Luthor the Best Literary Villain of All Time?
- July 31, 2006: Superman Promotion in Rite Aid Stores
- August 1, 2006: Wizard World Chicago - August 3-6
- August 1, 2006: Joey Fatone's Superman Collection
- August 9, 2006: Superman Musical at the Historic Hoover Theatre
- August 10, 2006: Thousands of Fake Superman T-Shirts Seized
- August 11, 2006: Dark Horse Deluxe announces DC Comics Statuette Series
- August 17, 2006: Review - Superman: The Musical
- August 18, 2006: Atomic Comics Holds Special DC Stamp Event
- September 1, 2006: Aquaman Joins Justice League: Heroes Video Game
- September 5, 2006: Superman Exercise Flash Cards for Kids
- September 5, 2006: Superman Sketch TV Investigation
- September 6, 2006: Superman Features in Baltimore Entertainment Museum
- September 13, 2006: Playing the Justice League: Heroes Video Game
- September 15, 2006: More Superman Returns Videogame Screenshots
- September 17, 2006: Superman Costumes on Display in Indianapolis
- September 21, 2006: Superman Musical Performance in Utah
- September 27, 2006: EA Shows Off Superman Returns Videogame at Microsoft's X06
- September 29, 2006: Unlockable Costumes in Justice League Heroes Game
- October 4, 2006: Getting an Inside Look at Superman Returns: The Videogame
- October 5, 2006: Superman Toy Sale at Toys R Us
- October 8, 2006: Superman TV/DVD at Toys R Us
- October 9, 2006: Sociology of Superman Poll Preliminary Results
- October 10, 2006: EA Ships Superman Returns: The Videogame on November 20
- October 10, 2006: EA Concept Art Team Talk Superman Returns Videogame
- October 11, 2006: Superman Returns: The Videogame Hands-On Report
- October 11, 2006: Toyota Yaris Superman Limited Edition Car
- October 17, 2006: Fossil Ion Blue Superman Watch
- October 18, 2006: GamePro Reviews Justice League Heroes for PS2
- October 23, 2006: The History of Superman Video Games
- October 26, 2006: Justice League Heroes Podcast Online
- October 26, 2006: Fighting Examined in Superman Returns Videogame
- October 26, 2006: New DC Comics Super Hero Tonner Character Figures
- October 29, 2006: More Superman Returns Videogame Images
- October 31, 2006: EA Games Wallpaper Contest - Win an Alienware Superman Notebook
- October 31, 2006: Fans Celebrating a Super Halloween
- October 31, 2006: Review - Fossil Ion Blue Superman Watch
- November 1, 2006: Superman Returns Videogame Audio Talk
- November 1, 2006: Superman Musical at Alex Theatre, California
- November 2, 2006: Superman Returns Videogame - Bizarro and In-Store Ads
- November 2, 2006: Justice League Heroes Unlockable Heroes and Outfits
- November 3, 2006: Review - Superman on Broadway
- November 4, 2006: Superman Returns Videogame Goes Gold
- November 8, 2006: Review - Justice League Heroes for PS2
- November 9, 2006: Superman & Justice League Jigsaw Puzzles at Shop.com
- November 9, 2006: Superman Returns Videogame Bizarro Mode
- November 12, 2006: Firefly to Sell Superman and Supergirl Phones
- November 13, 2006: Superman Returns: The Videogame - Flight Online Video
- November 15, 2006: Superman Returns Videogame Demo on Xbox Live Marketplace
- November 15, 2006: Firefly Superman Mobile Phone
- November 15, 2006: HotToys to Release Clark Kent Figure
- November 15, 2006: Superman Returns: The Videogame TV Commercial
- November 15, 2006: Noble Collection Releases Superman Merchandise Range
- November 18, 2006: Anderson to Write Last Days of Krypton Novel
- November 20, 2006: Superman Returns: The Videogame Hits Stores
- November 20, 2006: Superman Returns DVD & Videogame Launch Party Report
- November 21, 2006: Bizarro Cheat Mode for Superman Returns Videogame
- November 22, 2006: Brandon Routh Talks Superman Returns Videogame
- November 23, 2006: NY Theatre Group Puts On Superman Play
- November 23, 2006: Superman on Thanksgiving Day
- November 26, 2006: New Superman Returns Videogame Trailer Online
- November 29, 2006: Kevin J Anderson Talks The Last Days of Krypton Novel
- December 4, 2006: Winners Announced for the 2006 SHIELD Awards!
- December 4, 2006: Superman Returns Videogame Cheat Codes
- December 6, 2006: Noel Neill & Other Superman Guests at Phoenix Comicon
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