It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman
|It's A Bird... It's A Plane...
Original Broadway Cast Recording
by Jerry Siegel
1975 ABC TV special
2007 Los Angeles Concert
2013 New York City Encores!
2015 West End
It's A Bird... It's A Plane... It's Superman is a musical with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, with a book by David Newman and Robert Benton. It is based on the comic book character Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and published by DC Comics.
The plot revolves around Superman's efforts to defeat Dr. Abner Sedgwick, a ten-time Nobel Prize-losing scientist who seeks to avenge the scientific world's dismissal of his brilliance by attempting to destroy the world's symbol of good. Additionally, Superman comes into romantic conflict with Max Mencken, a columnist for the Daily Planet newspaper, who resents Lois Lane's attraction to Superman, and later teams up with Sedgwick to destroy Superman.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on March 29, 1966. Directed by Harold Prince with choreography by Ernest Flatt, it starred Bob Holiday as Clark Kent and Superman, Patricia Marand as Lois Lane, Jack Cassidy as Max Mencken, and Linda Lavin as Sydney. The production received generally positive reviews, but it failed to catch on with the theater-going public and closed on July 17, 1966 after 129 performances. The musical received three Tony Award nominations, for Best Actor in a Musical (Cassidy), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael O'Sullivan, playing the main villain), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Marand). One of the songs from the score, "You've Got Possibilities" (introduced by Lavin), had some success outside the show as a nightclub and cabaret standard.
Two revivals were staged the very next year. Both the St. Louis Municipal Opera and the Kansas City Starlight Theatre re-staged the show, and Bob Holiday played Superman in both productions. Each was an open-air venue, requiring the use of a large crane to facilitate Superman's flights. Other well-known names in these two productions were Karen Morrow as Sydney and Charles Nelson Reilly as Dr. Sedgwick.
On May 14, 2007, the Reprise! Marvelous Musical Mondays program in Los Angeles presented a concert version of the musical. The cast featured Cheyenne Jackson as Superman, Jean Louisa Kelly as Lois Lane, Richard Kind as Dr. Sedgwick, Patrick Cassidy in his father's old role of Max Mencken, and composer Charles Strouse in a special appearance as Perry White. From June 15–17, 2007, the musical was presented in concert by the York Theatre's Musicals at MUFTI series in New York City, with Jackson, Kelly, and Strouse reprising their roles from the Los Angeles concert. Others in the cast included Lea DeLaria as Dr. Sedgwick, Shoshana Bean as Sydney, and David Rasche as Max Mencken. Bob Holiday, the original Broadway Superman, attended the June 16 matinee.
From June 18 to July 25, 2010, the Dallas Theater Center presented a revised version of It's a Bird..., starring Matt Cavenaugh in the dual role of Superman/Clark Kent, Zakiya Young as Lois Lane, Patrick Cassidy as Max Mencken, and Cavenaugh's real life wife Jenny Powers as Sydney Sharp (Mr. Cassidy developed laryngitis during the run of the show, and choreographer Joel Ferrell took over the role until Mr. Cassidy recovered). The new book for the show was written by playwright and comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Kevin Moriarty, the Dallas Theater's artistic director, believed that the show's campy, pop art-inflected book had "not dated well," and approached Charles Strouse in 2008 for permission to revise the musical. Strouse acquiesced, and Moriarty hired Aguirre-Sacasa, a "lifelong fan" of the musical. Aguirre-Sacasa moved the musical's setting to 1939, and made the show's primary focus the "love triangle" between Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Superman. Songs were cut, new songs commissioned, the order of songs changed, In November 2009, Moriarty and Aguirre-Sacasa held a private reading of the revised book with the show's surviving creators, Strouse, Adams, and Benton.
A staged production took place as part of New York City Center's Encores! series from March 20–24, 2013. Cast included Edward Watts as Superman and Will Swenson as Max Mencken, with Jenny Powers playing Lois Lane. Ms. Powers had played Sydney Sharp in the 2010 Dallas revival. On March 23, Bob Holiday, who originated the role of Superman on Broadway, attended the show and met with the cast.
The show's long awaited UK Premiere was played in London in March 2014 at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre and is Produced by All Star Productions. After tremendous reviews, the show transferred to the Leicester Square Theatre in the West End.
Still photos from the original Broadway production can be seen in the documentary Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman, as well as footage from the TV version.
It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman was made into a TV special on February 1, 1975. The show was significantly shortened, the script significantly changed, and the ethnicity of a troupe of evildoers was changed from Chinese acrobats to Mafia-style gangsters. The sound of the musical numbers was updated to a more contemporary 1970s sensibility. The show was broadcast on the ABC network under its Wide World of Entertainment late-night umbrella title to poor critical reception. It starred David Wilson as Superman/Clark Kent, Lesley Ann Warren as Lois Lane, Loretta Swit as Sydney Carlton, David Wayne as Dr. Abner Sedgwick, Allen Ludden as Perry White, and Kenneth Mars as Max Mencken. Viewers of this re-make felt that the TV production lacked the energy of the original Broadway show.
Original Broadway cast
- Max Mencken – Jack Cassidy
- Jim Morgan – Don Chastain
- Superman/Clark Kent – Bob Holiday
- Lois Lane – Patricia Marand
- Perry White – Eric Mason
- Sydney Carlton – Linda Lavin
- Dr. Abner Sedgwick – Michael O'Sullivan
- Father Ling – Jerry Fujikawa
- Suspect #2 – Dick Miller
Original West End cast
- Superman/Clark Kent – Craig Berry
- Lois Lane – Michelle LaFortune
- Dr. Abner Sedgwick – Matthew Ibbotson
- Max Mencken – Paul Harwood
- Sydney Carlton – Sarah Kennedy
- Jim Morgan – Charlie Vose
- Father Ling – Jonathan Chan
- Perry White – Andrew Truluck
- Tai Ling - Christina Harris
- Fan Po Ling - Thomas Widdop
- Ming Foo Ling / Ling Captain - Jade Nelson
- Ding Ling - William M. Lee
- Ensemble / Dance Captain – Charlotte Debattista
- Ensemble - Vicky Longley
Two of the songs have become notable outside of the musical. One, an instrumental version of the song "It's Superman" was used as the introductory music for all the newscasts on WTOP-TV/WDVM-TV (Channel 9, now WUSA-TV) in Washington, DC, from 1970 until 1982. The song "You've Got Possibilities" from the musical was recorded in 1966 by both Peggy Lee (on the album Big Spender) and Matt Monro (on the album Here's to My Lady), and was featured in a 2005 TV commercial for Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits.
- Cronin, Brian (February 15, 2010). "The Man of Steel returns to the musical stage". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved February 16, 2010.
- Bob Holiday and Chuck Harter, Superman on Broadway, c. 2003
- Klein, Alvin."Attention Clark Kent: Look Out for Batman!", The New York Times, June 21, 1992.
- Gans, Andrew."Superman! Concert — with Cassidy, Kind and Jackson — Presented May 14", playbill.com, May 14, 2007.
- Gans, Andrew.Jackson Is Man of Steel in Mufti It's a Bird. . . It's a Plane. . . It's Superman, June 15-17", playbill.com, June 15, 2007.
- Wilonsky, Robert (February 15, 2010). "A Musical Even the Fanboys Are Geeked Over: A Word With DTC's It's Superman Writer". Unfair Park (Dallas Observer). Retrieved February 16, 2010.
- Wilonsky, Robert (April 17, 2009). "The Singing Superman: DTC's Kevin Moriarty Talks About Tackling the Man of Steel". Dallas Observer. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
- Taitte, Lawson (2010-06-26). "Theater review: Dallas Theater Center’s reshaped ‘Superman’ is almost super | Lawson Taitte Columns and Reviews - Entertainment News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News". Dallasnews.com. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- Wilonsky, Robert (November 23, 2009). "Up, Up and Away: DTC's Kevin Moriarty on the Status of the "New" Superman Musical". Dallas Observer. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
- New York City Center "Encores!" Nycitycenter.org
- Superman Reviews & Ratings - IMDb
- It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman at the Internet Broadway Database
- It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman at the Internet Movie Database for the 1975 TV production
- Bob Holiday's web site