TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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bat-rss
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TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by bat-rss »

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Just a couple of months after Batman hit the airwaves in 1966, another superhero emerged from the comics, as Superman arrived at the Alvin Theater on Broadway in It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman. How did the musical's creators approach the same question William Dozier and Lorenzo Semple, Jr., dealt with in 1965: how to make a "children's character" appealing to adults? We compare and contrast the two shows' approaches. After a good start, the musical closed in less than four months; was Batman to blame? And, what's the deal with that late-night 1975 TV version?

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Larry A.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by Larry A. »

I got to see Bob Holiday in the road company of "It's a Bird...."at the St. Louis Muny Opera. Forget about the 19975 version. Personally, I think that the real blame was the script: One song was, "Don't they know that they know that the Strongest Man in the World...can Cry." Even as a 13 year old, I knew that Superman just didn't let things get to him. I think they played, IMHO, somewhat fast and loose with the character. In my opinion THAT's why it tanked!!

So, yes, I'd say they were playing it for "camp"!!!!!!!!!!!
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Therin of Andor
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by Therin of Andor »

I am one of the many, I assume, who never saw the TV version of this (not sure if it ever had TV airings in Australia?), although I did find the LP from the stage musical in a record store during all the media excitement being generated between "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II". ("Superman II" premiered Down Under a good six months before the USA!)

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Superman musical LP by Ian McLean, on Flickr

I do really like most of the songs. I remember playing the LP quite a lot in the next few years after buying it.

Somehow, I missed a one-night-only revival on stage in Sydney in 2014. :(
https://www.stagewhispers.com.au/stage- ... s-superman
("Neglected Musicals", at the Hayes Theatre, presents musical theatre that has never, or rarely been seen in Australia. "Neglected Musicals" presents a reading of a chosen show with scripts in hand, with the musical numbers sung through, after only one day's rehearsal. I did see a friend of mine in "Baby: The Musical" at the theatre, also for one-night-only, and that was wonderful, even though a stand-in had to stand beside a female performer who had developed laryngitis just before the show started and couldn't reach the high notes.)
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BATWINGED HORNET
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by BATWINGED HORNET »

I will never know how anyone who attended the Broadway musical or watched the TV version did not loose their minds & run into the streets with crossed eyes while they bit people. Its that loony and just awful. If there's anything good about the TV version, it was Lesley Ann Warren as Lois--she read for the part in Donner's film, but as we all know, Margot Kidder landed the role...as the most annoying version of the character.

..and if you think i'm being harsh in my comments about the concept of a Superman musical, just let Not-such-a-Superman's "Ohh mommy! mommy, I didn't mean it!" ricochet around your mind for a minute or two, then you'll be ready to toss It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman in the same outhouse bowl next to Legends of the Superheroes...the other production where a so-called hero (Green Lantern) was subjected to psychoanalysis (by Sinestro in disguise).

The fact the musical was unearthed to be a TV version in the 70s was a comment on how superheroes were largely considered a joke by networks (the way the '66 Batman was viewed at that time, and the reason Electra Woman and Dyna-Girl and Legends of the Superheroes ended up in front of cameras. The only exceptions to that terrible rule were The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man or the 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie with Cathy Lee Crosby.

Tim, I have to disagree that Xanadu's leading man was "unknown," as Michael Beck was becoming known at the time of that film's release, and is still well-remembered today for starring in Walter Hill's 1979 gang action/drama The Warriors. Beck arguably has a greater pop-culture footprint thanks to decades of love for the characters, scenes and dialogue from The Warriors than the leads in the Broadway or TV version of It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by SprangFan »

I remember staying up late to watch this and record it with a cassette player (as I did Batman" and Star Trek, the latter of which actually works surprisingly well as a "radio drama"). Mostly I remember it because it took a lot of wheedling and bargaining to be allowed to stay up that late at age 10 when every responsible adult was convinced I watched "way too much TV" as it was.

The whole affair taught me the wisdom of the advice: "choose your battles." Whatever I had to promise in exchange for staying up wasn't worth it. I stuck with it til the end, partly because I'd started the recording and was determined to finish it, come what may, but it never really did get better. Naturally I've long since lost the tape and probably never listened to it, anyway. All I remember from the show itself was cheap sets, a pipsqueak Superman in a badly fitting costume and way too many commercial breaks advertising a horror movie that utterly creeped me out as the only person still awake in a dark and quiet house.

This of course was on the heels of Cathy Lee Crosby's "Wonder Woman," with Nicholas Hammond's "Spider-Man" still in the offing. It was a crummy time to be a young superhero fan, for sure.
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High C
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by High C »

Great research, guys. I can see you put a lot of work into this.

Yes, only one 'Wide' in 'Wide World of Sports.' :D

Just listening to some of the tracks and even with Holiday's obvious enthusiasm, I suspect one of the problems is much like Dozier with Dick Tracy and Mr. Memory. You've got the recognizable hero but no recognizable villain for him to play off. But, as you noted, Lex Luthor certainly doesn't fit in this universe.

I must admit, just in that one cut from the 1975 version, David Wayne still had 'it'--he sounded menacing. It might have been interesting had he done the role in 1966, and he did a lot of Broadway around then. He could've given it some 'oomph.'

BTW, in He & She, which ran in 1967-68, Jack Cassidy played the hero, Jetman, of a TV show born from the comic strip created by Richard Benjamin's character.

(Semi-off-topic, BWH, I do agree that I would have preferred Warren to Kidder in the Superman movies.)
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by Kamdan »

Someone will have to further convince me on why Lesley Ann Warren would’ve been suitable for the Christopher Reeve Superman. Her screen test with Reeve displayed a broad theatrical sensibility that wasn’t suitable for the verisimilitude tone that Richard Donner was striving for. There’s an interview with her that states that she wasn’t trying to be as broad as you would be allowed to in the musical, but I don’t think she fully recalls just how broad she was displaying herself in the screen test.

It’s a shame in regard to the Superman musical that we will probably never have a fully realized depiction of an unauthorized revision of the musical that played in Dallas of 2010. Instead of sticking to the antiquated 1960’s era of the original production, the musical was rewritten to take place in the late-30’s and early-40’s with an aesthetic that emulated the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. There are several pictures and a few reviews of this production on the Internet, but I’ve had no luck in attempting to find the script. As I understand it, this production did unauthorized revisions that weren’t cleared with the rights owners and that caused it to not be produced further elsewhere.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

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Kamdan wrote: Tue Jul 12, 2022 10:25 am It’s a shame in regard to the Superman musical that we will probably never have a fully realized depiction of an unauthorized revision of the musical that played in Dallas of 2010. Instead of sticking to the antiquated 1960’s era of the original production, the musical was rewritten to take place in the late-30’s and early-40’s with an aesthetic that emulated the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. There are several pictures and a few reviews of this production on the Internet, but I’ve had no luck in attempting to find the script. As I understand it, this production did unauthorized revisions that weren’t cleared with the rights owners and that caused it to not be produced further elsewhere.
Some clips of the Dallas show



Some pics
Jenny-Powers-and-Matt-Cavenaugh-photo-by-Brandon-Thibodeaux-cropped.jpg
Matt-Cavenaugh-photo-by-Brandon-Thibodeaux-crop-1.jpg
DTC-Superman-Zakiya-Young-and-Matt-Cavenaugh-2.jpg
And a review:
https://artandseek.org/2010/07/01/revie ... er-center/
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by P “Junior Batman” Y »

Thanks for posting this material, Scott. Tim and I found this Vulture piece on the Texas “rehab” of the show, which also includes great info on the original run:
https://www.vulture.com/news/it%27s-a-b ... -superman/
It’s behind the New York magazine paywall, but can be read for free if you haven’t read any other Vulture stories this month!
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #187: "Superman" musical: It's not a bird, but is it camp?

Post by Scott Sebring »

P “Junior Batman” Y wrote: Fri Jul 15, 2022 10:21 am Thanks for posting this material, Scott. Tim and I found this Vulture piece on the Texas “rehab” of the show, which also includes great info on the original run:
https://www.vulture.com/news/it%27s-a-b ... -superman/
It’s behind the New York magazine paywall, but can be read for free if you haven’t read any other Vulture stories this month!
Cool articles. Thanks!
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