Celebrating the Anniversary of Superman with a Musical Revival

by Mariah Castillo

Not the strongest female character
of the 60s, that’s for sure.

2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of Superman, probably the most well-known American superhero, and a lot of events are happening this year to celebrate. Aside from the new movie coming out this summer, a revival of a 1960s musical It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman played at New York City Center a few weeks ago.

Wanting to do something other than play catch-up with all my school work during spring break, I saw the first show on a Wednesday night. From the moment I entered the lobby, I knew I was going to have a good time. Projections of old Superman man comic panels and cartoons lit up the walls, and people were either wearing formal outfits or Superman t-shirts (I didn’t see anyone dressed as the Man of Steel himself, to my dismay).

Overall, I was happy about the musical. The plot reminded me of an arch in a comic book, drama, crime fighting, and internal struggles, with music and comedy thrown in between. However, as it is about the most cliché superhero in American history, there were a lot of corny moments. But the musical stayed true to the Superman mythos. Superman doubles as Clark Kent, the small-time reporter for the Daily Planet, who changes personas in a telephone booth. He has an unreciprocated crush on Lois Lane, the big time reporter in Metropolis who only has the hots for the man in blue. While I’m a big fan of some Superman-Lois Lane love, especially after the current DC comics reboot where their relationship is friendly at best, it made me bristle to see how Lois Lane’s character was handled. In one of the early scenes in the musical, where Superman stops a nuclear reactor from exploding, Lois Lane asked why the scientist wasn’t concerned about the safety of the world. The man laughs off her worry, saying, “You’re one of them feminists, aren’t you?” Since when was the well-being of the world merely a “feminist” concern and not a human one? It was also saddening to see how Lois, the nitty-gritty reporter I loved when I watched Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League down played into a woman whose biggest conflict in the whole play was her love for Superman.

It took me a while to remember that this was a revival of a musical that came out in the 1960s, not a show created in this day and age, and that my confusion about the hot topics of the day (one of the villains was a supporter of Mao Zedong) was more of a generational one. However, the musical itself was fun to watch. The songs were catchy and the set was bright, reflecting the optimism of Metropolis knowing that Superman will always save the day.

Mariah Castillo is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of Backstage.

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