Robot 6

‘It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane …’ it’s the musical revival’s Superman

superman-broadwayThe first photo has surfaced of Edward Watts as a rather old-school Man of Steel in the Encores! revival of It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman, which opens tonight for a five day run at New York City Center. (Cue complaints about DC Comics’ New 52 redesign.)

Yes, long before Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark wreaked havoc on cast members and production budgets, or even ads for the aborted Captain America musical puzzled comics readers in the mid-1980s, Superman soared to Broadway in 1966 in a show directed by none other than Harold Prince. OK, “soared” is a bit of an overstatement, as It’s a Bird … closed after 129 performances (still, it garnered three Tony nominations).

While it’s been revived on a handful of occasions, the best-known version is the abbreviated television adaptation starring Lesley Ann Warren, David Wilson and Loretta Switt that aired in 1975 on ABC. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the stagings, don’t feel bad: Watts wasn’t either.

“I only knew that it existed, actually,” he tells Broadway.com. “Quite frankly, I never really thought I would play Superman. I used to work for a company that would hire out actors to play characters at their company picnics during the summer, but it wasn’t really a show — you just put the costume on and walk around and take pictures with the kids.

Watts is joined by Jenny Power as Lois Lane and Alli Mauzey as Sydney Carlton.

(photo via Captain Action’s Page)

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6 Comments

I heard some comics writer was writing a new book for this show. Is that the one they’re using?

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote a new book for a Dallas production in 2010, moving the action back to the 30s: http://theater.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/theater/04superman.html

Unfortunately (I think), Encores! Has chosen to use the 1965 book, which I find weak and terrible campy.

Jenny Powers played SIdney in the Dallas Theatre Center’s production and was AMAZING, esp. singing “You’ve Got Possibilities.”

It’s too bad they are not using the DTC’s script, because it was really good.

Yes, Encores! is using the original book. Since they are essentially a preservation vehicle, it’s been their policy to present the show as originally staged on Broadway unless the original creators have continued to evolve the show and consider more recent versions more “authoritatively original.” That’s the case for MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, where Sondheim, Furth, and Lapine have continually reworked it. In the case of BIRD!, the new book by Roberto is a separate revision, and Encores! doen’t go there.

I saw it in July ’66. My camp group went. I still have the Playbill. Bob Holiday was Superman/Clark. Patricia Marand was Lois. But the real stars were Jack Cassidy as Max Mencken and Linda Lavin played Sydney.

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