It's one of the enduring truths of American pop culture: Superman is indestructible.
It’s one of the enduring truths of American pop culture: Superman is indestructible.
Bullets can’t bring him down, and nor can a less-than-successful Broadway run. So while the 1966 Broadway musical “It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman” ran for only a disappointing 129 performances, it’s back – for a superbly performed, deliciously silly, utterly delightful revival by Encores! at New York City Center.
And no matter what they thought decades ago of this Charles Strouse-Lee Adams concoction, if you don’t leave the current production with a huge smile on your face, sorry, but your heart may be made of Kryptonite. Yes, that other flying superhero, Spider-Man, may be whizzing up to the rafters every night at the Foxwoods Theatre. But this Superman, played with winning sincerity by Edward Watts, doesn’t need that hi-tech wizardry. He’s too darned charming.
Speaking of charming, let’s stop and give a shout-out to the talented Will Swenson, who, as the oily, self-adoring Daily Planet gossip columnist Max Mencken, exudes so much cocky charisma and comic verve that you just don’t want him to leave the stage.
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What hits you first, though, is the set by John Lee Beatty – a pop-art inspired, comic-book cityscape of vivid colors. Everything here is meant to recreate a comic-book feel. At one point, characters stand before a series of dialogue boxes, as in: “Moments later…” When Superman flies, it’s a tiny, cardboard, one-dimensional version of the Man of Steel – funny in its simplicity, but effective, too.
But it’s the cast that makes this show really soar, pun intended. It’s anchored by Watts, seriously buff in his superhero tights, but also sweet as he tosses off lines like “You look swell, Lois. That dress is nifty!” And, ladies and gents, he has the cowlick, too.
Lois’ dress IS nifty – the `60s style is captured neatly in the bold colors of her mini-shifts – but even niftier is the golden singing voice of Jenny Powers, who displays the Margot Kidder-like gumption that we expect from Lois Lane.
As good as the central couple is, though, the showstopping performances are in three character parts: Swenson as Mencken, David Pittu as the nutty evil scientist Dr. Abner Sedgwick; and the terrific Alli Mauzey as the lovelorn secretary, Sydney.
Just watch Prittu, his mad-professor gray hair flying, howl and preen his way through “Revenge,” the angry anthem through which we learn about Sedgwick’s dastardly ambitions. As for Mauzey, she’s the quintessential brassy secretary of musical comedy, with great comic timing, a perfect belty voice, and two juicy solos: “You’ve Got Possibilities” and “Ooh, Do You Love You?”
The whole affair moves swiftly and entertainingly, thanks to director John Rando. Also notable is the choreography by Joshua Bergasse, from the Frug and the Swim performed by the top-notch ensemble, to the high-flying acrobatic troupe played by Craig Henningsen, Suo Liu, Jason Ng and Scott Weber.
At the end, one of those dialogue boxes appears onstage: “To be continued…” it says.
If only this show, which runs through Sunday, could be continued. Hey Broadway, do you have room for two superheroes?
Follow Jocelyn Noveck on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP