By Laurence Maslon
19 Mar 2013
Conventional wisdom has it that Batman's camp antics were box office Kryptonite to It's a Bird...It's a Plane…It's Superman, but that's neither accurate nor fair; the musical was far more charming and far less self-referential and contrived. The reality is that, back then, there really wasn't a strategy to create a market where both kids and their parents could enjoy the same show, a challenge clearly mastered in the 21st century by such giants as Disney and Pixar.
But, fittingly, "the Man of Tomorrow" was ahead of his time. Superman shrugged off the 129-performance defeat of his musical adventure and soon streaked forward to save the day elsewhere: five major motion pictures (the first two co-scripted by Benton and Newman; a sixth is on its way this May); two more successful TV series; a half-dozen animated adventures; and thousands of new exploits in print. Superman has evolved into the most triumphant character in American culture, and this spring's Encores! concert version of It's a Bird...It's a Plan...It's Superman allows fans of both musicals and comic books to see him once again in one of his finest two hours. As his adventures inconclusively conclude: "To be continued . . ."
(Laurence Maslon is an associate arts professor at NYU. With producer Michael Kantor, he is preparing a three-hour documentary, "Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle," for PBS in the fall of 2013.)