June 25, 2010: Exclusive Interview with Superman Matt Cavenaugh

Superman Musical Hal Ryder (a Professor of Theater at Cornish College) interviewed Matt Cavenaugh (Clark Kent/Superman) prior to the first preview of "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman", which opens in Dallas tonight. What follows is a transcript of their phone conversation/interview from the day of the first preview performance...

MC: Hi, this is Matt Cavenaugh calling...

HR: I'm writing for a fan site called Superman Homepage. As you're learning I'm sure there are a bunch of us in theater who are big comic book Superman fans.

MC: Yes. There are.

HR: And perhaps you're becoming one of them.

MC: Indeed.

HR: You're a very accomplished singer/performer/actor and have done some astounding work.

MC: Thank you.

HR: That you're being challenged and all of your skills are being used playing 'The Man of Steel'?

MC: Certainly. First off, it's a pretty demanding role because of all of the flying. I haven't quite mastered the flying without the assistance of wires or anything... Superman had it easy. He just had to levitate or something or shoot off the ground. I need a little help. We've been putting in lots of hours working on the flying system which is physically challenging.

Singing the score: what's great about Charles Strouse's music is that he writes for singers. A lot of composers can write beautiful music, fun music, hummable music, whatever it might be. Certain composers really write songs for singers, that are meant to be sung. This may sound silly... some composers... they would write for instruments or the piece as a whole whereas Strouse's music it really sits well in the voice. I think that's true for all of us, by and large, in the show.

Superman Musical HR: There's a history of men who've put on this costume before. How does it feel to be joining a mythological legacy?

MC: It's a bit overwhelming. Actually the first time we had a fitting for the supersuit as we call it it was the mock up they were fitting to me before the actual suit. I did have a bit of a moment, just sort of nervous laughter as I stared at myself in the mirror thinking "What have I gotten myself into?"

It'll be really telling and fun and interesting tonight, the first time I fly in as Superman and just what that feels like in front of people. Until now I've just been faking it in the studio or in the theater with all the cast around but this is my chance to fly in and see what the reaction is like and what it feels like for me on the inside. I'm really looking forward to that.

HR: Have they adjusted some of the orchestrations from the original? I've been listening to some of the Bob Holiday stuff.

MC: Definitely. In a lot of ways. There've been some new songs written. Some songs that have been reassigned to different characters. Some trunk songs from the Strauss and Adam catalogue that have gone into this. With that comes a lot of new orchestrating as well.

HR: You know way back on the radio show when Bud Collyer adopted some of the change of pitch to play Superman and Clark Kent and Chris Reeve used some of that. Are you incorporating some elements of that?

MC: Yeah. There are some elements of that. The thing with our story too is that Roberto (Aguirre-Sacasa) has set our Superman story in 1939 so that is a very different... a different acting style in rhythm and cadence and how that will be very different from the Christopher Reeve movies. I think that had a certain 70's feel. Certainly different from the latest Superman movie that just came out. "Superman Returns". That seemed to have a real "modern" feel to it in its acting. This is a musical comedy that we're doing set in 1939. It does have a feel of that. The dialogue has some of that snappy, quick repartee feel.

Not necessarily as fast as a screwball comedy like "His Girl Friday" or "My Man Godfrey" - type of quick witty banter would have but it certainly informs what I do.

Superman Musical There is you know a change in vocal pitch and direction - how Clark speaks as opposed to how Superman speaks. That's been interesting to see where and if and when and how much those two personas become one.

HR: That was my next question.

MC: That's been interesting to play with. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Kevin Moriarty, our director, have done a great job crafting a script where that happens dramaturgically for me to play around with from an acting standpoint.

HR: Right. I was going to ask you about the changes from Clark to Superman.

MC: They're very fast.

HR: I haven't seen your wife, Jenny Powers...

MC: Well, you'll see her steal the show tonight...

HR: Is that fun for you guys working together?

MC: Oh, it's a lot of fun for us and I think it's particularly fun because she's not playing Lois... it's more fun that she's playing the chickie who's trying to seduce Clark rather than the one who honestly loves Clark. That's a lot of fun for us to play.

HR: Is this the first time you two have acted together?

MC: It is. A proper show. We've done a couple of concerts together. We've collaborated on things like that but this is the first time we've done a proper show together. We're having a great time. We're both down here together. We're happy we're working together. In a way it's kind of like a family vacation.

Superman Musical HR: Do you feel like there are certain elements that long term fans of Superman are going to have issues with?

MC: I'm sure there will be. You know with any iconic property - such as Superman or West Side, like I did - and Jenny's done Grease which is an iconic film... with any iconic property that people know and love so much I'm sure some will have issues with this or that... it doesn't do me or our team as whole any good to focus too much on that. It isn't the most productive way for us to set out to achieve what we want to do. All we can do is be as faithful and true to the story we're trying to tell as possible... and think we have an incredible team leading the charge. Roberto and Kevin are huge, not just fans, connoisseurs, of the Superman myth and lore and very well versed on all of the comic books and all of the different .... Of Superman. I think we have a great team leading the way there and I put my full trust in them.

HR: One last question and I'll let you go as I know you have a rehearsal. Do you think that if this goes farther than Dallas you'd be interested in going with it?

MC: Oh, of course I would. I think it's just a great, fun musical comedy. Add to the fact that it's the Superman story that's such a great and beloved story that audiences worldwide know and love and for me I get to play the same person in different characters along the journey become less different. They become more and more similar... more and more one... it's a great role for me, I have a great time doing it and I certainly do hope that it has a life beyond Dallas. For one I think it's worthy of that. And we'll see what's really in the cards tonight when we start to have real people in the audience. I certainly think that it is worthy of having a life beyond Dallas.

We're not going to worry too much about those kinds of things at this point. We're just going to go out and have fun tonight.

HR: Good. I look forward to seeing you. And thank you.

MC: Thanks so much, Hal. I'm sure I'll see you tonight.

NOTE: The musical comedy, directed by Kevin Moriarty, opens tonight (June 25) and runs through July 25, with performances on most days except Mondays. Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. Friday's show is pay-what-you-can; tickets go on sale that morning at 10 a.m. and can be purchased in person at the Wyly. All other performances $15 to $86. 214-880-0202. dallastheatercenter.org.



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