The Man of Steel Sings! Superman Soars in Encores! Concert Revival

By Steven Suskin
21 Mar 2013

Jenny Powers and Edward Watts
Photo by Joan Marcus

Choreographer Joshua Bergasse (and Emmy winner for his work on "Smash") keeps his ensemble of 18 jumping — and fruging — with an especially fine job in the first-act finale "It's Super Nice." John Lee Beatty extends the comic strip touch with his cutout scenery, and provides a deliciously low-tech method of keeping the hero up in the Metropolis sky. Beatty and costumer Paul Tazewell manage to give the production a cartoonist's ink, popsicle-color look; and Ken Billington fills the stage with light beams. Rando's production, all told, looks as perky as the percolating score.

One of the problems with Superman from the present-day vantage point was its non-PC use of a team of Chinese Communist acrobats ("The Flying Lings") as terrorists. Two of the Chinese Lings are now clearly non-Chinese, and stereotypically offensive dialogue (if any existed in the past) is absent in Jack Viertel's swift-paced concert adaptation of David Newman and Robert Benton's original. What's more, their two big acrobatic scenes — impressive feats mixed with outsized laughs — earn ovations.

Composer Strouse has continually demonstrated, before and since, a gift for buoyant melody (from "Put on a Happy Face" to "Tomorrow"). Superman shows him in one of his jauntiest moods, as typified by "You've Got Possibilities," "You're the Woman for the Man" and "You've Got What I Need." His group numbers, which borrow the beat from TV's "Hullabaloo" and the like, are especially joyful. Adams, on the other hand, peaked here; this is one of the most delicious, pun-filled set of lyrics of its time. (Lois Lane rues her unrequited romance with the Man in the Cape, longing for "a guy with both feet on the ground" who wants more than just a "fly-by-night" affair.) The lyricist's career mysteriously faded after the 1970 musical Applause, with Strouse going on to work with a variety of other lyricists. Adams at his best, as evidenced by Superman, was a worthy peer to Harnick, Ebb et al.