Saturday, March 23, 2013

"It's a Bird... It's a Plane..."

Laurie and I attended a performance of "It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman" last night. The play, given a five-day Encore run at the New York City Center, was well done and quite entertaining. The cast members, some of whom Laurie has seen in other plays, were not big-name stars, but they were more than worthy of  the cheers and applause they got at the final curtain.

To be sure, this play is not deep drama and the characters are mostly two-dimensional. The Man of Steel is the Super Boy Scout we knew and loved in the 60s; Lois Lane is the plucky yet love-smitten gal reporter. The bad guys are, well, bad guys. (One lyric has them singing, "We're gonna bring back villainy!") Of course Superman triumphs in the end and the audience leaves in a happy mood.

The staging is excellent; the orchestra, which is superb, actually gets more of the stage than the actors. The action goes quite well with a bit of background and minimal props. And there is a bit of fun for longtime comics fans: The "statue" that is erected at the Metropolis Institute of Technology is a piece of art -- from the cover of Superman #16.

Unlike "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," which has characters swooping around the theater on wires, Superman's flying is done by a cardboard rendition of the character rolling across the stage. In fact, the acrobatics by the members of the Flying Lings are perhaps more impressive than anything in "Spider-Man" because they do it all without any wires.

One disappointing note: The art used on the ads -- as well as t-shirts, mugs and fridge magnets -- has a distinctive Kurt Schaffenberger-esque look to it, but there is no art credit given anywhere. (In fact, the copyright is a rather puzzling "1938 Nat. Pub.") And that means there are probably no royalties being sent.

In his rave review in The New York Times, Ben Brantley calls it "an affable throwback to the old-style song-and-dance show that asked only to entertain you." Indeed, it was two very entertaining hours and well worth seeing if you can get there.


  1. I wanted to see this, but a couple of people told me that the City Center Encore performances are little more than readings, done without sets or costumes. Now I wish I had gone. Oh, well... at least I got to see the play performed at Theater Three about 20 years ago. And I have the original cast album on DVD, with the fantastic voices of Linda Lavin and Jack Cassidy (not in the title role, of course).

  2. Good to see the Answer Man is back, just found this blog. I'm guessing the picture used on your post was by Bob Oksner and Vince Colletta?

  3. Mike, I'm thinking Kurt Schaffenberger, inked by someone else. My old pal Anthony Tollin suggested it could be from the DC Style Guide art that was penciled by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and inked by Dick Giordano.

  4. BobRo,

    While I'm no pro, it looks as if the art you posted has a Mike Sekowsky Lois Lane and a Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez Clark Kent, maybe both inked by Dick Giordano. Of course, at this late date, who can ever tell?

    I remain,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Silver Age Fogey

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