Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Charles Strouse, Lee Adams|
It's A Bird ... It's A Plane ... It's Superman (1966 Original Broadway Cast)
Genres: Soundtracks, Classical, Broadway & Vocalists
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A Great Album of a Nearly-Great Show
Jaime J. Weinman | Canada | 04/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"SUPERMAN is one of those flop musicals that was just so, so, so close to being a hit. It had all the right ingredients: A very funny book (by Robert Benton and David Newman, who would hit it big the next year as screenwriters of BONNIE AND CLYDE), a tuneful score with at least one obvious hit ("You've Got Possibilities"), a fine cast, a distinctive production, and a rave review from the New York TIMES. So what happened? Basically, the story was weak. (Story counts; Strouse and Adams' next show, APPLAUSE, had a disappointing score and book, but the strength of its storyline helped carry it to the hit column.) The main plot hooks -- Superman doubting himself; Lois Lane considering marrying someone else -- weren't particularly interesting, and the show was dominated to an inordinate extent by characters who were really peripheral: Jack Cassidy as a Winchell-type columnist and Linda Lavin as his secretary. Maybe some of the show's problems were due to Harold Prince's relative inexperience as a director. If Newman and Benton would reunite to strengthen the story just a little (without losing too many of the hilarious lines from their book), this show really could be the hit it should have been in 1966.Until then, we have the album, and it's great. Except for one horrible number ("It's Super Nice," which apparently was even worse onstage), it doesn't sound like a flop; Strouse and Adams are at their considerable peak with wonderful tunes and witty lyrics (Lois sings of Superman: "Tell me please, when will he learn it's not some silly fly-by-night affair?"). The album is one of the best ever produced by Columbia's Goddard Lieberson, with great stereo sound, superb performances (especially from Cassidy and Lavin), and somewhat more dialogue than usual -- so we get such goodies as Cassidy's hilarious speeches in his two solos. Plus the CD has bonus tracks in the form of demo recordings of cut songs played and sung by Strouse, including the amusing (if dramatically irrelevant) "Dot Dot Dot." This CD was one of the best in the long-defunct Sony Broadway series, and it is one of the most entertaining cast albums of any flop show. It's too bad that the CD couldn't reproduce the brilliant back cover of the original LP (done in the form of an issue of the "Daily Planet"), but you can't have everything. Get the CD and enjoy."
Fast, funny and hip musical
Jim Jr | 07/08/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you didn't think that the tale of Superman could be turned into a musical, well, you are in for a surprise. This is an old-style musical with it's toungue firmly planted in its cheek-no melodrama here. Our high school performed this musical, and it was the most fun I ever had. The songs are goofy and funny, and the story is just as fun. This goes along side Charles Strouse's "Bye Bye Birdie" as a pure, fun-filled delight. It is a hip and cool musical, and this soundtrack is an excellent primer to the actual show."
Interesting Legacy Of A Broadway Misfire
Eric Paddon | Morristown, NJ | 11/02/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Because the book writers for this 1966 flop musical (only 129 performances) also co-wrote the Christopher Reeve movies, some like composer Charles Strouse have suggested that the idea was ahead of its time. Actually what this fails to take into account is that what made the Reeve movies a success were the elements that were totally lacking in the musical. The gritty straightforwardness of Superman's origins, and more importantly the faithful depiction of many Superman characters that the show also jettisoned (Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olson and the all but invisible in the show Perry White). The only element of the Broadway show that really made it into the film was the depiction of Clark Kent as a bumbling Harold Lloyd type. It's rather telling that when the Newmans became sole screenwriters for "Superman 3" the series tanked for all intents and purposes.
Back to the musical. There are some good songs, especially "It's Superman" and "You've Got Possibilities" but overall it's not one of Strouse's best. Also, the libretto suffers from serious structural problems, particularly in making Max Menken (Jack Cassidy) the centerpiece. If the show isn't first and foremost about Superman then you're ultimately cheating the audience. In addition, there is a very intrusive and pointless subplot of Lois becoming romantically involved with the villainous Dr. Sedgwick's assistant (note to the listener of the CD. This key subplot is totally missed in the liner notes making them very unreliable in terms of understanding the songs if one hasn't seen the show). All in all, Superman the musical seems to come off like an evening of fun but lacking the all important sense of understanding the character's background and the whole Superman mythos.
The bonus tracks of cut songs from an Adams and Strouse demo record are interesting not just for what they are but for what they tell us about how theater people sometimes haven't a clue as to the mindsets of their audience. The first song "Dot, Dot, Dot" meant for Max as a showstopping number that was also their send-up of Walter Winchell had to be cut after the first preview because it got no reaction whatsoever to everyone's shock. Actually listening to it it's easy to see why the audience didn't laugh or react because it is loaded with show biz inside jokes, naming people the average ticket buyer wouldn't have a clue about (case in point, a reference to obscure film producer Jennings Lang). Strouse and Adams forgot that what goes over with your friends at a cocktail party isn't going to be understood or appreciated by the mass audience who pays to see your final results performed on stage.
The Superman musical has lived on in a weak 1975 TV version, and is apparently still a favorite for the high school and community theater crowd, but don't ever expect Broadway to give it another chance again because this cast album reveals a show that for all its charms was seriously off kilter ultimately in its focus."