Saturday, February 21, 2009

[Cryptopopology] It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman

Musicals are the new thing, right? I mean, we've already got "Evil Dead: The Musical," "Repo: The Genetic Opera", and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long." So why not a Superman musical?

"It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman" is a Broadway play with instrumentation by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, revolving around Superman's attempts to defeat Dr. Abner Sedgwick, a bitter scientist who is out for revenge against the world by destroying its primary symbol of good: Superman himself. Just so that Clark Kent has something to do, there's also a Daily Planet columnist named Max Mencken who is competing for Lois Lane's affection.

Many of you are probably wondering why you haven't heard of this yet. Surely it would have been all over the internet by now, right?

It would, if the information superhighway existed back in the late sixties.

That's right. "It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman" opened on Broadway way back on March 29, 1966, and despite its generally favorable reviews, it didn't catch on with the theater crowd and closed on July 17th of the same year after only 129 performances.

Here's a glimpse at the Playbill:
Superman/Clark Kent...Bob Holiday
Lois Lane...Patricia Marand
Max Mencken...Jack Cassidy
Perry White...Eric Mason
Dr. Abner Sedgwick...Michael O'Sullivan
And, finally, Suspect #2 was played by Dick Miller!
There's absolutely no hope of us ever seeing this play, unless Superman flies backwards around the world and turns back time (which we all know he can't really do). What I'm more concerned with is a medium that does have a potential to be re-viewed.

You see, despite the lackluster shelf-life of the play, ABC released a TV special of "It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman" under its Wide World of Entertainment banner that aired on February 1, 1975, but it was panned by the vast majority of its viewers.

IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE, IT'S SUPERMAN - The Lost Superman MusicalIt was adapted for television by Romeo Muller, who was best known for writing licensed seasonal TV specials, such as "The Little Rascal's Christmas Special", "Thanksgiving in the Land of Oz", and "Nestor the Christmas Donkey"--not to mention the classic "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". The director was Jack Regas, who had contributed to such stinkers as TV's "Out of This World" and "The Brady Bunch Hour".

This time around, the Man of Steel was played by David Wilson who hasn't really done much of anything beyond one-shot appearances on programs like "Magnum P.I." and "CHiPs". His parents were portrayed by Elvia Allman and George Chandler, two more perennial one-shoters. Daily Planet editor Perry White was played by Allen Ludden, host of gameshows "Password", "Password Plus", "Matchgame" and "Matchgame PM". Lois Lane was played by Lesley Ann Warren, who had played Dana Lambert in 23 episodes of "Mission: Impossible" and later went on to recurring roles in "Desperate Housewives" and "In Plain Sight." The weaselly columnist Max Mencken was played by Kenneth Mars, popular voice over artist who later went on to play rancher Otto in many episodes of "Malcolm in the Middle." And finally the evil Dr. Segwick was portrayed by David Wayne who had appeared in four episodes of the "Batman" TV series, and later went on to play Inspector Richard Queen on the "Ellery Queen" series.

Oh, and the narrator? Gary Owens, of course!

Unfortunately, DC doesn't seem too keen on replaying the much-maligned special, which only places it higher on the often-sought-but-seldom-found bootleg market. I suppose that it may be some consolation that the original Broadway soundtrack is still available for purchase. So feel free to snag it, close your eyes, and let your imagination do the rest.

Oh, fine. Here's a little less-than-legal snippet to give you a taste of what you're missing.

Up, up and Awaaaaay!

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