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It's A Bird... It's A Plane... It's Superman
The book by David Newman and Robert Benton is slight and will not leave you guessing what's next. But you'll find all the usual suspects — bad guys, good guys, man-hungry girls and the big guy himself.
Superman, played by Edward Watts ( Scandalous ), is a hunk with a heart. If he had room for a pocket in his tight blue costume with the signature "S" on his chest, the audience would tuck itself right in there with the first "Up, up and away," as he runs up a ramp and off stage.
Especially crowd-pleasing is the one-dimensional cut-out of the Man of Steel flying across the sky. No wires, no stunts, no flying humans and no need for them. This is a moving comic book without pretense to be anything more.
Superman's nemesis is Dr. Abner Sedgwick (David Pittu), a hyperactive Rumpelstilskin scientist, almost stamping his feet in frustration as he demands revenge because he's never won the Nobel Prize. He joins sleazy gossip columnist, Max Mencken (Will Swenson) to uncover Superman's real identity. This shouldn't be hard since Max works for the same newspaper, The Daily Planet, as his mild-mannered, bespeckled alter-ego Clark Kent. Also at the newspaper is spunky gal reporter, Lois Lane (Jennie Powers), who lusts after Superman (but not Clark Kent) who has saved her life numerous times.
The original production of Superman opened at the Alvin Theatre in 1966 for a lackluster run until the summer heat shut it down. Composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams had scored in 1960 with Bye, Bye, Birdie. Their Superman music, while zesty, does not match Birdie's memorable tunes. However, the deliveries are smart and confident.
Both Powers' Lois and Alli Mauzey as Sydney, Max Mencken's pepperpot assistant, have secure rich belts and well-honed comic instincts. When Lois, disillusioned in her quest for Superman, meets scientist, Jim Morgan (Adam Monley), she decides there are upsides to being a housewife and is heartfelt singing, "What I've Always Wanted." Sidney has her eye on Max while Max's eye is only on himself. She lets him know, however, "You've Got Possibilities," which was the original show's only successful song. She is especially a stand-out here with, "Ooh, Do You Love You!"
As Max, Will Swenson is a captivating scene-stealer, wrenching every unctuous facet from his smarmy moments on stage. You gotta love him. He joins Dr. Sedgwick in a brassy, over-the-top Las Vegas song and dance, "You've Got What I Need," complete with a sequined curtain. In contrast, Watts plays an admirable Man of Steel dedicated to, "Doing Good," right out of the comic pages. You will glimpse another side to the superhero, in his doleful, "Why Can't the Strongest Man in the World (Be the happiest man in the world?)."
John Lee Beatty's set is a Crayola cartoon Metropolis with sizzling lighting by Ken Billington. The pop-art simplicity is clean-edged imagination and rings true. Boosting the Sixties look are Paul Tazewell's on-target, bright mini-skirts for Lois and various cast members in Jackie shifts and haute couture.
Choreographer Joshua Bergasse ( Smash ) brings back snippets of the dance moves of the era and also brings in an acrobatic dance troupe, "The Flying Lings," Craig Henningsen, Suo Liu, Jason Ng and Scott Weber. They are not all that necessary but fun to watch.
Music director Rob Berman's orchestra percolates with Eddie Sauter's original orchestrations and everything moves crisply under John Rando's direction that is guided by a sense of fun and comedy.
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