Encores! continues its 20th anniversary season with Lee Adams & Charles Strouse's It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, the 1966 musical which Harold Prince produced and directed just prior to Cabaret. The show was a quick failure in its time, but in its present incarnation Superman leaps, bounds and soars.
Leading the way is a brightly tune-filled score, in some ways a musically-updated companion to the authors' 1960 hit, Bye Bye Birdie. Superman is a comic-strip musical, not only based on a strip but constructed in broad strokes with breathless, comic-book dialogue. There is even a second-act scene — leading to the climax — that takes place in six separate comic-book panes, which is simply but effectively staged here.
Director John Rando (A Christmas Story, Urinetown) captures just the right tone for this spiffed-up concert version: the music, the cast and the physical production all work together to create two hours of drolly off-beat joy. Edward Watts, who earlier this season had the ignominious task of playing Adam-with-fig-leaf as Aimee Semple McPherson's lover in Scandalous, makes a fine showing as the invulnerable but conflicted "man of steel." He is matched by Jenny Powers (Little Women) as a feisty Lois Lane.
But the central duo is overshadowed by three hams. Will Swenson (Hair, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) essays the nasty gossip columnist Max Mencken. This role was written around Jack Cassidy, who in some ways seems still to inhabit it, but the silkily snaky Swenson reveals hitherto hidden comic talent. David Pittu (LoveMusik, Is He Dead?) provides antic fun as mad scientist and "ten-time Nobel Prize loser" Abner Sedgwick. They are matched by the lesser-known Alli Mauzey — the present Glinda in Wicked — as the on-the-make secretary Sydney who sees sexual possibilities in the asexual Clark Kent.
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