IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE, IT'S SUPERMAN

Superman LP

Commentary by Judy Harris

visit my home page at  http://www.goecities.com/evilduff/index.htm

or E-mail me at  foosie@bestweb.net

Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Lee Adams
Directed by Harold Prince

Cast

Superman/Clark Kent

Bob Holiday
Perry White

Eric Mason
Lois Lane

Patricia Marand
Max Mencken

Jack Cassidy
Sydney

Linda Lavin
Dr. Abner Sedgwick

Michael O'Sullivan
Jim Morgan

Don Chastain
Farther Ling

Jerry Fujikawa
Dong Ling

Bill Starr		
Tai Ling

Murphy James
Fan Po Ling

Juleste Salve
Ming Foo Ling

Michael Gentry
Joe Ling

Joseph Gentry
	
Musical Numbers

Doing Good
Bob Holiday
We Need Him
Jack Cassidy, Patricia Marand, Bob Holiday, Company
It's Superman
Patricia Marand
We Don't Matter At All
Don Chastain, Patricia Marand
Revenge	
Michael O'Sullivan
The Woman for the Man
Jack Cassidy
You've Got Possibilities
Linda Lavin
What I've Always Wanted	
Patricia Marand
Everything's Easy When You Know How
The Flying Lings
It's Super Nice	
The Company
So Long, Big Guy
Jack Cassidy
The Strongest Man in the World
Bob Holiday
Ooh, Do You Love You!
Linda Lavin
You've Got What I Need
Jack Cassidy, Michael O'Sullivan
It's Superman
The Company
I'm Not Finished Yet
Patricia Marand
Pow! Bam! Zonk!	
Bob Holiday, Flying Lings
Finale
The Company

    

I saw my first "Broadway" show through a papered house for the musical LA BELLE (1962), which was based on the Greek myth of Helen of Troy. This was during a pre-Broadway tryout in Philadelphia. The show starred Joan Diener as Helen, Menasha Skulnick as Menelaeus, an unknown youth called George Segal as Paris; and in a small role, John Zacherle, who went on to fame and fortune in Philadelphia as Roland and nationally as Zacherley, the horror host and DJ.

Even though the show was not very good and probably closed out of town without ever gracing Broadway, I enjoyed it and still have vague memories of some of the amusing stage business and bright costumes.

I began to go to all the stage shows that tried out in Philadelphia on their way to New York; back in the mid-60s, this was practically every show with Broadway aspirations. Prices were very low back then (it cost $5.35 to see this at a matinee at the Shubert theatre in Philly and $9 to see it in the evening at the Alvin in New York - orchestra seats!), and I saw nearly everything.

Eventually I got so hooked on Broadway musicals, I would take weekend trips to New York with friends just to see shows; and in 1972 I actually moved to New York.

Among the shows I saw that I completely fell in love with was IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE, IT'S SUPERMAN. I first saw this in Philly on April 23, 1966 and it made such an impression on me that I saw it again in New York on May 3, 1966. The original cast album was recorded on April 3, 1966, when the show was still in Philly.  Back in those days, very often the album was rushed into stores as soon as possible, and although my memory of this is hazy, I think I had acquired the album (and played it many times) by the time I saw the show again in New York in May.  I remember standing at the stage door and asking Don Chastain about the ending lyrics of WE DON'T MATTER AT ALL, which I had found hard to understand.

When I have written about other things which I published on the Internet, I had a video tape of them and could pause and write down my comments and I didn't have to rely on my memory, but with a Broadway show, all that is available is the original cast album and some photos and my memory. I feel SUPERMAN had an undeservedly short run of only 129 performances (it closed July 17, 1966) and the delightful score deserves to be recognized and admired. So I apologize for the fuzziness of my memory, but the following are my recollections and opinions about the show, which I would like to share with you.

Writing in ANYTHING GOES (Oxford University Press 2013), Ethan Mordden praised the orchestrations of Eddie Sauter, citing "snarly brass 'flutters' and a xylophone running amok in the overture. ... [Sauter's] contribution emphasized the craft with which SUPERMAN tackled an apparently artless subject."

"Though the show failed, it was nobody's fault, for the work trod that vast yet tiny line between spoof and camp, balancing the sturdy [Bob] Holiday with the flamboyant Jack Cassidy as a Walter Winchellesque columnist in league with Michael O'Sullivan's mad scientist:  dramatic conflict as a pie fight."

One of the things which has always struck me about SUPERMAN is its similarity in staging of some numbers to BYE, BYE, BIRDIE, which had been a great success on Broadway and had been sold to the movies (where it was virtually butchered, although at least they had the sense to keep Dick Van Dyke as one of the leads). The music for BIRDIE had also been written by Charles Strouse, as had BIRDIE's lyrics also been written by Lee Adams, and you can imagine their great wish to duplicate BIRDIE's success. Still, BIRDIE's director was Gower Champion, not Hal Prince, but there are undeniable similarities in the staging.

Bob Holiday looked physically right both as Superman and as Clark Kent. He begins singing the first musical number, DOING GOOD, in his Superman costume and, during the course of the song, he changes into his Clark Kent outfit. At the end of the song, he slumps his shoulders and the transformation into Kent is complete; and this, to me, has certain similarities in staging with the HOW LOVELY TO BE A WOMAN number of BYE, BYE, BIRDIE, where Kim changes her clothes into a tom boy outfit while signing about her feminine wiles and ambitions.  Click here to go to Bob Holiday's website and see some photos from the show.

OVERTURE

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  Click here to hear a compilation of songs from the show on Toni Collins' webpage about Bob Holiday, which she has illustrated with photos from the souvenir program.

First of all the overture is among my favorites. It atypically incorporates pre-recorded voices of Superman and Lois Lane. In just a few lines of dialogue, the whole background is revealed for anyone who might have no idea who Superman was. The fact that he's a superhero, that he's saved the life of Lois Lane on numerous occasions, that she pines for him but he always rushes off (Up, Up and Away!) immediately after the rescue, the fact that he's impervious to bullets (Bullets can't hurt me).  

DOING GOOD

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Every man has a job to do
And my job is doing good.

Every night when the job is through
I fold my tights, proud to know
I've done all I could.

It's a satisfying feeling
When you hang up your cape
To know that you've averted
Murder, larceny and rape.
Every man has a job to do;
	Well, back into the old Clark Kent disguise.
I'll never stop doing good.

Other men have their work to do
But as for me, I must live,
Not one life but two.
This disguise is really wonderful
For who would guess
That underneath this white shirt
Is a great big red "S".
Every man has his job to do
And my job is doing good.
I'll never stop doing good.

Oh, it's hard to keep on wearing
The old Clark Kent smile,
But I know I have to do it 'cause
My work is so worthwhile.
La-de-dum, it's a funny life.
Still and all, a life well spent.
So here you go, bravery gone,
Meek and mild, glasses on.
Superman, now you're Clark Kent.

The next number is one of my favorites in the show, although it's not the kind of song that can stand on its own out of the context of the show.  This number is sung by the chorus representing the Citizens of Metropolis and is meant to show how beloved Superman is in order to set up the character for the fall that will be the crises around which the plot revolves. The rhythm is very staccato and the lyrics compliment it by using short sentences, as do the lyrics of many other of these songs.

WE NEED HIM

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

In a world of evil and doubt

We need him, we need him.
In these times of misery and crimes
We need him, we need him.

Complications, accusations,
A world of cheap sensations,
A world with no foundations,
And so we need him.

Trouble looms and somehow he knows
We need him, we need him.
Down he zooms and that's the end of those
Who fight him
And that's why we need him.

He saved my baby from a fire.
He caught the thug who was mugging Uncle Meyer.
Yes, when a bad situation grows dire
We need him.  Him.

He brings the orphans Christmas turkey.
He flew my asthmatic son to Albuquerque.
Yes, when the world's moral standards grow murky
We need him.  

Max:	Who needs him?
Lois:	I need him.   
Clark:	They need me.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, in this world of moral decay
We know this he is good
And we need him!

The next number is the plaintive lament of Lois Lane who realizes it is hopeless to love Superman. I don't retain much about Patricia Marand who played the role, but she seems to have gotten all the thankless musical numbers (while Linda Lavin got the numbers that were bouncy and bright and could stand on their own outside of the context of the show). Nevertheless, she really puts over all of her numbers believably.

When I check the Philly playbill of the preview versus the New York playbill after the show had opened, I see this number was added.

IT'S SUPERMAN

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Oh how I wish I weren't in love

With Superman.
A wasted life is all I've got
With Superman.
To hope that it could ever be
Is just a schoolgirl fantasy.
Oh, is there no one else for me
But Superman?

Does he ever hold me?
Has he ever told me
He could care?
Tell me please when will he
Learn it's not some silly
Fly-by-night affair?

I know that I should find myself
Another man.
Someone to give my love to
As I know I can:
A homey type who'll stay around,
A guy with both feet on the ground
But till he comes my heart is bound
To Superman.

The following number introduces the love rival for Lois's affections, Jim Morgan, a lab assistant to Professor Abner Sedgwick of MIT (Metropolis Institute of Technology)  Sedgwick has come to the Daily Planet to ask Lois to get in touch with Superman because a nuclear reactor at MIT is about to blow and can't be turned off.  Sedgwick and Superman enter the reactor (Sedgwick in protective gear), leaving Lois alone with Jim.  . There is very little in the lyrics to let you know that Jim is flirting with Lois during this song.  He is so grumpy because he has recently been divorced and, while attracted to Lois, he is generally down on women.

WE DON'T MATTER AT ALL

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Jim sings:

What are we?  A pair of puny primates
On a very tiny planet
In a minor galaxy!
We don't matter at all.

One big boom! and it'll all be over;
Or perhaps the smog will finish
Our short, dull history.
We don't matter at all.

Oh sure, every hundred years or so
We come up with a Gandhi or a Michelangelo.
Hooray!  Ain't that dandy, we say,
Then we muck things up
In the same destructive way.

So, here you are:  an earnest girl reporter
And you think you're something special
In this vast eternity.

Baby, you and I
We're just about as special
As a walnut or a fly.
We don't matter at all.
We don't matter at all.
We don't really matter at all.

Am I getting through to you?

Lois sings:

Not yet!

What are we?  Two little specs of nothing
Just a couple of amoeba
In the universal sea
We don't matter at all.

What am I?  Some phosphorus and water;
I've heard chemically speaking
Worth a dollar eighty-three.
We don't matter at all.

I know, that my eyes aren't merely blue
They're just ophthalmic lenses,
Rather inefficient too.
I know, and I find it all a bore.
Oh, Professor, I have had this course before.

So here we are:  two herrings in the ocean
And the overbearing herring
Is coming on with me.

Wrong approach--to me I'm much more special
Than a walnut or a roach.
Oh, we matter we do.
What's the matter with you?
People really matter, they do.

Jim sings:

What's so great about people?
They couldn't matter less than they do!

The following number is another one of my favorites, although it's not at all melodic and is really more talked than sung. I don't think this is because of any lack of singing ability by Michael O'Sullivan because he sings OK later in YOU'VE GOT WHAT I NEED. The scientific terminology and names of scientists are so out of the ordinary for a song (except perhaps in the kind of clever revues that no longer seem to be around), that it really requires someone speaking them clearly in order to be able to appreciate all the humor.

I had never seen Michael O'Sullivan before this show (or since) but I am indebted to Carlotta Barnes who saw this SUPERMAN writeup while surfing the web and E-mailed me with some of his additional credits, which include appearances in the films HANG 'EM HIGH and YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW. O'Sullivan certainly did not have leading man looks, but he was so perfectly cast as the main villain in this show (Jack Cassidy was the lead, but more of a co-conspirator than the main baddie) and O'Sullivan was so extraordinary in these two musical numbers (the other being, of course, YOU'VE GOT WHAT I NEED), I feel completely baffled at how to convey to anyone who hasn't seen him, how terrific he was. The following number in particular, REVENGE, is not an easy number to "sell"; I really don't' know anyone else who could have put it over the way he did. He was just brilliant. For example, just the intonation of the name Richard T. Zsigmondy is enough to make me laugh.   O'Sullivan conveys such hysteria tipped with venom; it's just a hilarious combination.

I get so much pleasure out of this number, it's almost incidental that the plot is being advanced here, and we find out that Professor Sedgwick intends to destroy Superman, the world's symbol of goodness, because he's pissed off for never having won the Nobel Prize.

REVENGE

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Look at me: a ten times Nobel Prize loser!

In 1938 I earned my PHD
With a masterful hypothesis
In colloid chemistry.
I was getting set to publish 
When much to my surprise
Richard T. Zsigmondy won the Nobel Prize.
And for what?  For work on the heterogeneous nature of colloid solutions!  My field!  My colloids!

In 1949 I thought I had it made:
My work in light diffusion
Put my colleagues in the shade.
But then my hopes were shattered
By some Hindu in Ceylon.
They gave the prize in physics
To Sir Chandra V. Raman.
For work in light diffusion -- the Raman effect!  Damn it, it should have been the Sedgwick effect!

Revenge, revenge,
I'll have it on them all.
No single slight will I forget.
I'll show no mercy you can bet.
They'll all get theirs the day I get
Revenge.

That dopey Wolfgang Pauli
For his work in fission.
I used to help that punk
With long division.
And Fermi for his brilliant
Neutron system.
That bum, he wouldn't know a neutron
If it kissed him.

Ah, but the thing that really
Drove me to a fury:
They gave the prize to Harold Urey.
The shocking thing about the matter is
My heavy hydrogen was heavier than his.

Revenge, revenge,
Oh, it will taste so sweet.
A misanthrope, yes, I might be,
An outcast of society.
Think what you like, but just give me
Revenge, revenge!

It really goes way back,
My parents hated me --
You see, my birth surprised them.
Mom was sixty-three.

Nanny smelled of Clorox
And boarding school was hell.
I'll show you Dad, and Mom and Nanny
And Alfred B. Nobel.

Revenge, revenge,
That's all I live for now.
I'll make them wince and cringe and cry.
I spit in their collective eye.
I'll have one thing before I die --

And I'll have it by destroying the world's symbol of Goodness - Superman!

Revenge!

Finally, a song for the lead actor, Jack Cassidy. I'm very sorry to say this is practically the only live show I've ever seen Cassidy in. I admired him very much as a performer. He always seemed to play wise cracking egotistical guys who had their own agenda. Here he plays Max Mencken, a theatrical columnist on the same paper as Lois, who has the hots for her, and since it's obvious to everyone she's in love with Superman, this gives Max a reason to resent Superman and plot his downfall.  In addition, headlines about Superman are always stealing attention from Max's journalistic efforts, so he resents Superman for getting so much public adulation.

THE WOMAN FOR THE MAN

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

You know, you're really quite a dish.
You're what a guy might call delish.
You've got an awful lot of class.
You're packed as solid as a knish.

But every time I make a pass,
I get the well known freezeroo.
What's the bit, kid?  I admit, kid,
I can't figure you.

You're the woman for the man
Who has everything.
Let me show you how to live.
Girls who get are girls who give.

You're the woman for the man
Who has everything.
I'm a man who has everything.
Everything but you.

Ah, Lois, you're fighting it!  But you can't deny it; the old chemistry is getting to ya.  Hubba, hubba.

At every opening night, I'm there.
Headwaiters know me everywhere.
Of course, it's freebies all the way.
A check for me - they wouldn't dare.

A chick is seen with me today,
Tomorrow Zanuck starts to call.
So relax kid; this is Max, kid -
Don't give me a stall.

You're the woman for the man
Who has everything.
You're the type that I adore,
So why fight it anymore?

You're the woman for the man
Who has everything.
I'm a man who has everything;
Share it all with me.

Max:	Did you ever know I used to be a hoofer before I started writing a column?
Lois:	You killed vaudeville, Max; can't you leave journalism alone?  Break a leg, kid.
Max:	Sorry, never do requests.

I've got a color TV set
That isn't on the market yet.
I've got a hideaway in Quogue
It has a view you won't forget.

You have a drink and watch the fog,
I have this chef who cooks the end.
Let's drive out, sweets;
I've no doubt, sweets,
You and I will blend.

You're the woman for the man
Who has everything.
Why not give old Max a try?
He's a pretty decent guy.

You're the woman for the man
Who has everything
And for the man who has everything
Only the best will do
So why can't I have you?  Yeah!

This was the first show in which I ever saw Linda Lavin. When I look at photos of her in the show, I can't recognize her at all; she has become so thin and anorectic looking and the production photos show her to be plump with that kind of lacquered hair that women wore in the '60s. (Patricia Marand has a similar hairdo.) Considering how little she has been used in musicals subsequently, she has an amazing voice. She starts out this number with a tiny, little girl voice, and all of a sudden she moves into this much deeper, throaty register, which is humorous in itself. This is one of the numbers that can be taken out of the show and, in fact, is has been recorded by popular singers. I still hear the Matt Monroe version of it on WQEW every once in a while.

Lavin plays Sydney, Max's assistant and she makes a great play in this song for Clark Kent, not knowing he's really Superman. As she sings this, she is running her fingers through Bob Holiday's hair and flirting with him, and he's trying to be as stoic about it as possible.  Writing in OPEN A NEW WINDOW (2001), Ethan Mordden says:  "Lavin got the show's best three minutes:  YOU'VE GOT POSSIBILITIES:  her seduction of Clark Kent . . .  One of those quiet little belt jobs that keep getting louder and broader, the song was a comic number . . . It was all visual:  as Lavin pulled at Holiday's tie and unbuttoned his shirt, she unwittingly began to reveal those super-tights underneath his street clothes."

YOU'VE GOT POSSIBILITIES

Writing in ANYTHING GOES (Oxford University Press 2013), Ethan Mordden  calls this the show's "best number.  ... What Lavin is doing [while singing it] is fiddling with Clark's tie and undoing his shirt buttons, thus imperiling his secret identity as the famous red, blue, and yellow suit starts to appear.  [Orchestrator] Sauter rose to the occasion with a captivating scoring, giving each A of the number to a different combination:  first, clarinets and a thumping string bass, then sustained lower strings (the pit had no violins), then drums.  And Lavin made a banquet of the vocal, building very gradually from a baby voice to nobody-gets-out-of-here-alive belt, goofing with the words and even--just once--spinning one with vibrato." 

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Hair cut - simply terrible.
Neck tie - the worst.
Bearing - just unbearable.
What to tackle first?
Still, you've got possibilities,
Though you're horribly square.
I see possibilities;
Underneath there's something there.

Collar - pure Peoria.
That hat - oh no!
I'm not Queen Victoria -
This suit has to go.
Still, you've got possibilities
Let us give it a try.
I see possibilities
Maybe more than meets the eye.

Don't back away.
Come on, unbend.
Why can't I be
Your little friend?

Baby, you're improvable.
It won't take long.
Mountains can be moveable
If the spirit's strong.

You've got possibilities;
Takes a woman to tell.
I see possibilities.
Let me pry you from your shell.

Relax, sweetheart, I'm not going to bite you - yet.

You won't be shy
When I get through.
Come on and roar,
You, tiger, you!

Somewhere, way down deep in you
There's life, no doubt.
It's just been asleep in you.
Let me bring it out.
You've got possibilities,
Maybe even a lot.
Red hot possibilities -
Why be shy and ill at ease?
I see possibilities
You don't even know you've got.

This next number is another thankless ballad given to Patricia Marand, and one that didn't sit too well with me even back in 1966 when I saw it. In light of Women's Lib, and the concept of simultaneously having a family and a career, it is extremely politically incorrect, but it does serve to let you know that Lois is now leaning more toward Jim than Superman.

I'm not sure if the A&P is around any more, but for anyone who reads this and doesn't recognize the allusion, the A&P was a big supermarket chain in New York and, possibly, elsewhere along the East Coast. It stood for Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company originally, I believe.

WHAT I'VE ALWAYS WANTED

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Well, well, look at me:
The girl who wanted the
Unattainable man.
But now suddenly,
Life has handed me
A totally different plan.
One kiss and something in me melts
And what I've always wanted
Turns out to be something else.

What I've always wanted.
What I've always wanted:
Being just a wife; that corny life
Is what I've always wanted.

A dogwood tree; the A & P;
Conformity;
Green stamps in a book;
Making like a cook.

What I've always wanted:
Furnishing a nurs'ry;
Staying home at night
And candlelight on ev'ry annivers'ry --
It's what I've always wanted,
Haven't you?

Could that girl be me:
Miss Lois Lane,
Driving in the rain
To meet his train?
It's what I've always wanted
Coming true!

At this point, Superman attends a rally in his honor.  A new wing of the Physics Department of MIT is being named for him, in honor of his recent heroics.  It is the townsfolk and campus students who sing this song.  While Superman is receiving these accolades, City Hall Tower, 900 feet high, is blown up by Chinese acrobats, called the Flying Lings.  They have been recruited to be his henchman by Professor Sedgwick, who found out about them from a newspaper article Lois wrote about their plight; they can no longer get work as acrobats because no one will pay to see them when they can see Superman fly for free.  Sedgwick's idea is to embarrass Superman so that it looks like he's exercising his ego when he should be out saving the world, and turn the citizens of Metropolis against him, and it works.

IT'S SUPERNICE

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

It's supernice.  It's supernice.
To be with you.  To be with you
We only hope.  We only hope
You feel it too.
So glad you're here.
So glad you're here
All red and blue.  All red and blue
As supernice, nice, a person like you.

Fast like a super fan jet -
How speedy can a man get?
You knock us out when you say
Up, up, up and away.

How that cat can go!

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a -
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a -
You 'spose that's a bird?
You 'spose that's a plane?
'Splain me if you can:
Is that Superman?

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a -
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a -
There goes a Superman.  A look!
Look, up in the sky,
There goes Supe, baby, my-oh-my.

He gets the bad guys, rough guys,
Any size tough guys
Wooh yeah, wooh yeah, oh, oh
Come on, come on, come on now, baby.

When you're wingin', oh baby
Hey, you're swingin', oh baby

We love you, baby,
We love you, baby,
We love you baby,
Hey, you're coo coo

We love you, Supe.
You're really there
Big Superman, man, man, man
Up in that air
You're everywhere
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

ENTR'ACTE

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

If possible, I like this "second overture" even more than the first; it is
so peppy and brassy and has kind of a go-go beat to some portions. It's just
a blend of all the best numbers of the score, orchestrated in a very appealing
way.

This next number is sung by Jack Cassidy, gloating because Superman has been discredited. When I check the Philly playbill of the preview versus the New York playbill after the show had opened, I see this number was added.

SO LONG, BIG GUY

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

So long, big guy,
It's tough to say goodbye.
So long, big guy,
Here's mud in your X-ray eye.

Farewell, old pal,
You know we'll all miss you.
You had your day
So what is there left to say?

Sure, you were doin' swell.
Too bad you fell, big fella.
You might as well
Turn in those tights,
Big guy, take your last bow
And look who's the big guy now!

Ah, it serves him right.  All those superpowers and he gave 'em away.  Boy, I could make a million bucks with that kind of talent.  And that X-ray vision.  You know what I could do with X-ray vision?

Chin up, big guy,
And don't let it get you.
So you're a bum --
It's something to overcome.

Bye, bye, big boy,
You sure entertained us.
I'll think of you
Whenever I'm feeling blue.

You landed with a thud.
That's how it goes, old buddy.
Go on and cry; I understand,
Big guy; you're through and how
And me - I'm the big guy -
So long, ta ta and adios,
Chin chin, shalom and toodle-oo,
Areverderci, daddio - now!

After his DOING GOOD opening number, Bob Holiday doesn't get any song until the second act and it's his ballad, after he's been publicly disgraced and is hiding out, afraid to show his face in public. This is not one of the best numbers in the show and seems to overuse the word "strongest" (but that is just my opinion).

THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Why can't the strongest man in the world
Be the happiest man in the world?
Why does the strongest man in the world
Have the heaviest heart in the world?

Why must I, the Man of Steel
Feel as helpless as a man of straw?
They used to hold me in such awe;
Now their cheers have turned to jeers.
Why must the strongest man in the world
Be the bluest man, tell me why?
Don't they know the strongest man can cry?

Here am I, the Man the Steel,
Hiding out here like a timid mouse.
Why, I could lift up this whole house -
But what for; they care no more.

Why must the strongest man in the world
Be the saddest man, tell me why?
Don't they know the strongest man can cry?

This next number is another I always thought could have been taken out of the show and turned into a popular number, although it's certainly more of a novelty piece than a love song or a blues song. When I go to the theatre, I try to sit as close to the stage as possible and I keep the Playbill open on my lap and check what the next number is going to be, so I was possibly the only person in the audience when I saw this who realized the punchline immediately before the title was sung. It's still a very cute number and Linda Lavin really belts it over, singing to her boss, Jack Cassidy.

OOH, DO YOU LOVE YOU!

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Someone in this world thinks you're wonderful.
Someone sees how marvelous you are.
You don't know how much this someone worships you
And not from afar.

Ooh, do you love you.
Ooh, do you love you.
I've seen nothing to match
Such pure conceit.
You're so sold on yourself
It's sort of sweet.

You're what you enjoy.
Boy, it's boy meets boy.
You're just what you deserve
So stay true blue.
Ooh, do you love you.

From the moment you saw you,
How your heart began to pound.
It was not infatuation,
No, it was much more profound.

Then you smiled and you trembled
And the thunder rolled above.
From that day you can't forget
As you lit your cigarette,
You just knew it was love.

Ooh, do you dig you.
Ooh, you're gone on you.
It's so touching to see a love so deep
Sentimental old me can't help but weep.

Let them say it's wrong
Love like yours is strong.
You've found your Mister Right:
It's you-know-who.
Ooh, do you love,
Ooh, what true love
Ooh, do you love you!

I've bandied the word "favorite" around earlier, but the following is my top fave of this show. It was very exciting to watch on stage where both performers seemed to be enjoying themselves very much. Michael O'Sullivan wasn't a smooth dancer like Jack Cassidy, but he had a very loose limbed way of moving, and when he hoots in the song (after the Mickey Mouse lyric) it's just a riot. This toe-tapping number was sung on a kind of mad scientist laboratory set and my memory (which may not be very accurate) recalls there was a lot of "playing to the audience", that is, moving to the very edge of the stage for the dance number. The only reason I can think this bouncy, catchy, clever song hasn't become popular outside of the show is that it really is a duet; and aside from Steve and Edie, there aren't too many popular singers doing duets anymore (although Jason Graae and Kaye Ballard sing it on Graae's new CD YOU'RE NEVER FULLY DRESSED WITHOUT A SMILE, which is a compilation of songs by Charles Strouse).

What's happened at this point is that Sedgwick has programmed his oversized supercomputer, the Brainiac 7, to figure out who Superman is and has come to the conclusion it is Max, so he's had the Lings kidnap Max and brought to him at his lab to confront him.

Sedgwick has deduced Superman is someone at the Daily Planet who has never been photographed with Superman.  When Max convinces Sedgwick it is not him, they both realize it must be Clark Kent.  Max convinces Sedgwick that he wants to assist in Superman's downfall, and they sing this gleeful song.

YOU'VE GOT WHAT I NEED

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

My heart's pounding with the power now before me.
Gee, Prof; I'm beginning to see, Prof.
My soul quivers with the glory now in view.
Hell, Prof; it's beginning to jell.
We'll cut this town up like a great big cake, Prof.
Shake, Prof, when it's me and you.

You've got what I need, baby,
You've got it and how.
You've got what I need, baby.
Together we can scale the heights
And I mean right now.

You've got what it takes, sweetie,
All the way from A to Z.
You've got what I need, baby,
'Cause from now on, baby, you've got me.

Sedgwick:	You're a thoroughly immoral person, Max.  I like you.
Max:		Why thanks, Professor, it's mutual.
		Ah, we're going to make some team, Prof.
Sedgwick:	Call me Abner.
Max:		Abner, I love that name.

You're loaded with class, baby,
La creme de la creme.
Let's step on the gas, baby.
Oh, Abner, you're a million laughs.
Max, you're a gem.

You've got it in spades, lovey,
You're a pal, no ballyhoo.
I've got what I need, baby,
'Cause from now on, baby, I've got you.

Yeah!

You've got it upstairs, baby,
The best in the house.
You're tops in my book, cookie

Max:		Hit it, Abner; you're Mickey Mouse!
Sedgwick:	Woo!

Here comes the new team, Mister.
We'll be great, just wait and see.
You've got what I need, baby,
'Cause from now on, baby,
Don't mean maybe
Now on, baby, you've got me.

Max:	We're going home, Abner!

This next number was staged in a series of 8 contiguous boxes of unequal size that resembled the panels on the page of a comic book. The top left panel contained a lighted sign which said "MEANWHILE..."  Meanwhile

All the boxes were in darkness to begin with, then each one lit up as the actors in that segment performed their part of the song.  That extra tall area had the Flying Lings all standing on each other's shoulders.  It was very cleverly staged yet, at the same time, it reminded me of THE TELEPHONE HOUR number from BYE, BYE, BIRDIE, which was also similarly staged. It has a kind of relentless rhythm to it, and some of the individual lines are really funny.

The plot up to this point is having concluded that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same person, Max Mencken and Dr. Sedgwick try to lure him into a trap at a powerhouse.   Superman is still in disgrace for being at a benefit in his honor while City Hall was destroyed by dynamite nearby.   Lois is still in love with Superman and Sydney is still dating Clark.  The Lings also lurk on the fringes, as Sedgwick's henchmen.

IT'S SUPERMAN (First Reprise)

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Lois:		Do you have a minute, Clark?
Clark:		Sure.
Lois:		Have you seen Superman lately?
Clark:		Yeah, this morning.
Lois:		Did he ask for me by any chance?
Clark:		No, why should he?
Lois:		Oh, I don't know.
		I should be thinking just of Jim,
		Not Superman.

Clark:		He's got a lot on his mind, you know.
		That's all I hear from every side:
		It's Superman.

Sydney:		Hi ya, Clark, Baby.

Max:		She doesn't know who's kissing her:
		It's Superman.
Lings:		Why are we always out of job?
		It's Superman.

Superman, Superman,
Superman, Superman.
Who is the man you can't ignore
It's Superman.
From Budapest to Baltimore
It's Superman.

His figure whirling round our brain:
A creature science can't explain.
It's not a bird; it's not a plane;
It's Superman!

Clark:		She doesn't expect miracles; all she wants is Clark Kent.

Jim:		I find a girl and she's hung up
		On Superman.
Sedgwick:	Who will we soon have in our net:
		It's Superman.

Jim:		Will she ever love me?
Lois:		Will he ever love me?
Clark:		Could she really like me?
Max & Sedgwick:	This caper is incredible.

Perry White:	Superman has vanished.
Father Ling:	Superman is chicken.

Why's the sky so empty?
Superman, where is he?
How could he desert us?
Superman, how could you?

Who is the man you can't forget?
It's Superman.

Max & Sedgwick:	It's gonna bring back villainy

Who's faster than a superjet?
It's Superman
How could he desert us
Knowing it would hurt us?
Why did you do this awful thing?

Nobody knows how it can be,
A man as brave and good as he.
Where is the friend we used to see?
The flashing cape that kept us free,
Who is the man of mystery,

Max & Sedgwick:	The day will live in infamy
		When we show his identity
		Our enemy!

How we love him!	How we hate him!
It's Superman!

Patricia Marand's last number is yet another thankless one. She's been kidnapped and tied up and sings spunkily her belief that Superman will rescue her yet again and the villains will be overcome. When I check the Philly playbill of the preview versus the New York playbill, I find this number was added and a number called I'M TOO YOUNG TO DIE was deleted.

The whole purpose of previewing a show out of town was to fine tune it and often when I'd see a show in Philly, the musical numbers I saw were not in the playbill or, contrariwise, I'd see a number listed in the playbill that was not in the show. When the CD version of SUPERMAN was released, some of these numbers which fell beside the wayside were included. They are DOT DOT DOT, which was meant to be sung by Jack Cassidy; A WOMAN ALONE mean to be sung by Patricia Marand; and DID YOU SEE THAT, meant to be sung by the chorus. All of these are sung by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse on the CD as they are actually demo tracks which were recorded when the creators were auditioning the show to potential angels to try to get them to invest in it. Also included is a slightly different version of YOU'VE GOT POSSIBILITIES. None of the numbers that were dropped seems to be any great loss to me.

I'M NOT FINISHED YET

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

I remember leaving my apartment

To buy some Muenster cheese,
When suddenly I get kidnapped
By a bunch of Chinese.
They blindfold me and tie me
At the ankles, wrists and knees
And then this abandoned power house
And Professor Sedgwick and more Chinese.
Then I guess I was drugged
And now I wake up with a headache.
And, I almost forgot, Max Mencken's here -
He's in this too, the louse.
So, adding it all up, it's perfectly clear:
Help!  I'm a prisoner in a Chinese power house.

I'm not finished yet;
Superman won't let me die.
He will plummet from the sky.
Why he's on his way, I'll bet.
Any moment he'll appear
And he'll whisk me out of here.
No sir, I'm not finished yet.

You've tied my hands
But you can't tie my spirit.
You'll find we journalists are hard to scare.
You may be going home before you know it:
When Superman arrives, he'll throw you there.

No, I'm not finished yet.
You can giggle all you please.
Soon you'll all be on your knees.
Men like you will always fail.
You will end your lives in jail.
Good will triumph, don't forget.
I'm not finished yet.

This next number is really a choreographed fight between Superman and the Lings.  Professor Sedgwick has used psychobabble to convince Superman he is unhappy, deluded and has no super powers, but when Lois is threatened, Superman throws off  Sedgwick's programming and comes to the rescue.  At the time SUPERMAN premiered, BATMAN was very popular on TV and this is the lone allusion to BATMAN with its comic book expletives.

POW! BAM! ZONK!

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Don't panic, Lois, here I come.

Come on, pow! let's go, bam!
I need a little exercise.
Take that, pow! and that, zonk!
Let's see what you can do!

You boys! pow! are good, bam!
I like a crook who really tries.
Come on, pow! let's go, wham!
You'll learn a trick or two.

Gee, it's funny
But only a moment ago
Pow! Bam! Zonk!
I doubted myself
And all that was right
But now I see the light.

Oh no, whack! you don't! wham!
I'll show you babies who I am
Pow! Whack! Zonk! Crunch! Bam!

That's right! Oof!  Not bad,
Karate can be lots of fun.
Good shot - thank you!
Grunt! that's one that I forgot.

Let's not quit now;
I'll let you know when I am done.
Come on, what's wrong?
You kids don't look so hot.

Gosh, I'm hungry;
I'd sure like a T-bone steak.
Pow! Bam! Zonk!
I haven't felt this good
Since Krypton knows when.
Don't you do that again.

Good night, sweet dreams,
So sorry to mess up your plan.
But now you know - Pow!
Can't fool around - Wham! Zow!
With Superman!

FINALE

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

On February 21, 1975, a decade after the show flopped on Broadway, a 100-minute version of this showed up on late night TV as part of ABC's Wide World of Entertainment. David Wilson was a boyish Superman; Leslie Ann Warren was Lois Lane; David Wayne was angry scientist Abner Sedgwick; Kenneth Mars was columnist Max Mencken; and Loretta Swit played Sydney; also in the cast were Alan Ludden, Malachi Throne and Harvey Lembeck. A good portion of the music was eliminated and what was left was unmemorably flat. It was a misconceived effort from the gitgo and on no account do I recommend you track it down if it ever shows up in reruns.

Huge hunks of the plot also showed up in one of the SUPERMAN sequels with Christopher Reeve but I'm afraid I can no longer remember which one (I suspect SUPERMAN III - the first 3 SUPERMAN films were cowritten by David Newman and his wife; David Newman cowrote the book to the Broadway musical with Robert Benton) and, since the music was the best part of the Broadway show, the plot didn't work any better in the film. I'm not one of those people who advocate reviving on Broadway shows that flopped because I believe you can't duplicate the excitement of the original cast with today's Broadway musical performers who are, by and large, no match for the stars of yesteryear. I do think that shows of the '50s and '60s had lyrics that were cleverer and easier to understand and more melodious scores than today's musicals, which are, by and large, operettas of little interest to me. I'm just grateful the CD has been re-issued and is still available for people who may not have seen the show as well as its loyal fans.

On May 31, 2007, I had an email from BVallely@aol.com with these updates:

I saw a concert version of It's A Bird in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Charles Strouse played Perry White and read the stage production notes.

Jack Cassidy's son Patrick played Max Mencken - I sat a few chairs over from his mother, Shirley Jones.

A couple of changes in the score:

"We Need Him" has been moved up to opening number. It makes sense - it defines the world far better than "Doing Good".

The Chinese were turned into Canadians.

A very interesting lyric change:

And, I almost forgot, Max Mencken's here -
He's in this too, the louse.
So, adding it all up, it's perfectly clear:
Help! I'm a prisoner in a Chinese power house.

Was changed to:

And, I almost forgot, Max Mencken's here -
He's in this too, the slime.
So, adding it all up, it's perfectly clear:
Superman gets to save me one more time.

A very interesting plot twist, it winds up that the Professor Sedgwick (who was played by Richard Kind) ISN'T the mastermind. He was manipulated by his evil assistant, Jim. Jim was dating Lois to keep her away from embarrassing questions. I'm hoping the future revisions will reveal that Jim is, in fact, Lex Luther, and we can be treated to an evil reprise of "We Don't Matter."

In a July 4, 2010 New York TIMES article by George Gene Gustings about the Dallas Theatre Center revival, the show has been rewritten by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, to start on Krypton, and shift the story to 1939 to keep to the comic book origins.  Mr. Strouse and Mr. Adams have written four new songs, including a Kryptonian lullaby and “Even Men Like You,” in which Lois Lane sings about the benefits of having her as a wife.  With any luck, this revised version will eventually show up on Broadway.


lyrics posted copyright 1966, 2007 Charles Strouse and Lee Adams

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