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

By Steven Suskin
21 Mar 2013

David Pittu and Will Swenson
Photo by Joan Marcus

Adding to the excitement is the chance to hear jazz great Eddie Sauter's original orchestrations. While few theatre fans can separate the work of orchestrator from composer, Superman is a good example of what an inventive orchestrator can do (and Strouse has been generous in his praise of Sauter's work). The overture is a mix of growling brass and blaring saxophones goosed by a wild xylophone, with exotic touches from a Chinese gong. One of the songs — "We Don't Matter at All," set in a scientist's lab — makes uncanny use of woodwinds, which seem to bubble like boiling-over test-tubes. Rob Berman and the Encores! orchestra make it all sparkle; one wonders how Berman was able to keep his inner-metronome ticking, rehearsing Superman by day and conducting the acclaimed revival of Sondheim and Lapine's Passion (at Classic Stage Company) by night.

This is a comic strip musical, the sort of self-kidding, broadly written lark that Broadway audiences have become accustomed to. Back then, though, people didn't get the joke; youngsters did, but middle-aged, middle-class ticketbuyers couldn't begin to understand the appeal. Superman fit right in line with what was then one of television's biggest hits, the drolly tongue-in-cheek "Batman" (which offered two new episodes a week). But teenagers needed parents to buy tickets at a steep $12 top for Superman, while "Batman" was free TV.

Superman was initially announced by Encores! for the 2002 season but was hastily canceled after the events of Sept. 11. (The first act ends with a terrorist bombing of City Hall.) A new version of the show, with the score grafted to a new libretto by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, was presented in 2010 at Dallas Theater Center. The Encores production demonstrates that the original Superman, presented with the right slyly-gleeful attitude, is just dandy.



(Steven Suskin is author of the updated and expanded Fourth Edition of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," "A Must See," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's The Book Shelf, On the Record and The DVD Shelf columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)

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Suo Liu, Edward Watts and Scott Weber
Photo by Joan Marcus