Before he turned the comic Annie Warbucks into a stage show that just saw its third screen adaption in the cinemas early this year (2 film versions and one Disney TV Film), there was another Comic hero Charles Strouse gave his musical talents to. As a comic created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and published by DC Comics, Superman has been seen in many forms. Mainly, the highly successful film and series adaptations. But a musical? Does it work? It’s not Spiderman Turn of the lights! But instead, this 1966 musical called It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman is brassy, colourful and very funny. It has some of the most beautiful songs written for the stage, so, one wonders why it never was a hit. Although camp and outdated, its witty lyrics written by Lee Adams, “Tell me please, when will he learn, it’s not some silly fly-by-night affair? Or why must I, the Man of Steel feel as helpless as a man of straw? They used to hold me in such awe; now their cheers have turned to jeers” and Book by David Newman and Robert Benton It’s a Bird,… gives us a parody of the original 1950s Superman series which starred George Reeves as the Man of Steel and even more so the 1940s radio show starring Bud Collyer as the Man with the Red Cape.
London’s Leicester Square Theatre’s Man of Steel is Craig Berry, who brings the dual character to life with his good looks, baritone voice and his comical mimics. Dancing is not his strongest skill though even if the director (Randy Smartnick) puts him at the back of the number. Sadly a skill most of the cast members suffered with. One exception was Michelle LaFortune who played Lois Lane, she seemed to be dying to show off her dancing skills… if only the part asked for it. Vocally strong, she swayed over the stage like a ballerina missing out the meaning behind the lyrics and the characterisation of the score.
We know the basis of the story… if not, where have you been all your life?
Both working for the Daily Planet, Lois lane is in love with Superman. Clark Kent/Superman is in love with Lois Lane, but as Clark Kent, he can’t give away he is Superman and his alter ego, is a bit of a nobody. OK, now for the show’s thin story. 10 time Nobel losing Scientist, Dr. Abner Sedgwick (Jonah Hill Look-a-like Matthew Ibbotson), seeks vengeance for being snubbed by the scientific world, and his evil plan to destroy his nemesis, Superman, the symbol of good… Superman wins and gets the girl.
The evening belonged to Sarah Kennedy as Sydney. Gossip Columnist for the Daily Planet, Max Mencken’s Secretary, who, after giving up on Max, played by Paul Harwood, finds a crush in shy Clark Kent. Sarah Kennedy found the perfect balance between caricature, on which this production relies far too heavy on, and comedy yet with an underlining believability.
Having transferred from the little stage of the fringe theatre Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre pub in East End’s London to the much bigger stage of the Leicester Square Theatre, adjustments had to be made. That’s probably why there were moments, actors were left standing in the dark, lights were shone into the audience, blinding the view of what was going on stage. Sets reset at crucial solos. And Dances were out of sync.
My highlight of the evening didn’t come from the show, but from a lovely Scottish couple in the audience. The missus had given her very skinny husband, the musical as a Christmas present, because he dresses himself up as superman in the bedroom and they just had bought him his first Christmas present that day… Yes you’ve guessed it, A Superman outfit.
So all I can say is … This Musical is for everyone.
Review Danny Reyntiens
It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s Superman
Presented by arrangement with Tams Witmark Inc. (Based on the Comic Strip SUPERMAN)
Is the tale of Superman’s efforts to defeat the vengeful Dr. Abner Sedgwick, a ten-time Nobel Prize-losing scientist, who seeks to destroy the world’s symbol of good. Superman also comes into romantic conflict with Max Mencken, a columnist for the Daily Planet newspaper who is intent on revealing Superman’s true identity, as he resents Lois Lane’s attraction to Superman.
The dazzling score is by Charles Strouse (Annie) and Lee Adams (Bye Bye Birdie) and has a book by David Newman and Robert Benton who would go on to write the screenplays for Bonnie & Clyde and several of the Superman movies.
Following a successful Sell-Out Production of the UK Premiere of IT’S A BIRD… IT’S A PLANE… IT’S SUPERMAN at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre, Walthamstow, London, this high flying Musical Comedy transfers to the Leicester Square Theatre for a limited Run of just 10 Performances.
Cast: Craig Berry as Superman, Michelle LaFortune as Lois, Jonathan Chan as Father Ling, Sarah Kennedy as Sydney, Matthew Ibbotson as Sedgwick, Charlie Vose as Jim, Andrew Truluck as Perry, Thomas Widdop as Fan Po Ling, Christina Harris as Tai Ling, William M Lee as Ding Ling, Jade Nelson as Ming Foo Ling, Charlotte Debattista as Ensemble and Vicky Longley as Ensemble.
Director / Design: Randy Smartnick
Musical Director / Orchestrations: Aaron Clingham
Choreographer / Costume Design: Kate McPhee
Assistant Choreographer: Chrissy Cuttell
Production Manager: Kat Gagan
Stage Manager: Venus Raven
Lighting Design: Sky Bembury
Casting Director: Ben Newsome
Production Assistant: Angie Lawrence
Producer: Andrew Yon
Aaron Clingham, Ruth Whybrow, Maria Rodriguez Reina, Adam Storey, Greg Sheffield, Jacob Phillips and George Wrench
At Leicester Square Theatre 14th to 21st February 2015
Running Time 135 minutes
Saturday 14th February 2015