This past March, I was lucky to catch a three-day revival of a Superman musical. There’s a reason it’s not on your radar.
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams and a book by David Newman and Robert Benton, debuted on Broadway in 1966 and closed 129 days later. No surprise — it’s kitschy as hell, and likely, there was a demand for a new take on the Big Blue Boy Scout of the Golden Age (audiences would get it when the film adaptation rolled around in 1978).
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane has Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and… Dr. Abner Sedgwick? The writers ditched members of Superman’s recognizable rogue gallery in favor of creating a German nuclear physicist tired of losing Nobel Prizes. His retaliation to the word: kill Superman. To do so, he employs a Chinese acrobatic team with their own vendetta against the Man of Steel. Apparently Communists aren’t big fans of truth, justice, and the American way. Over the course of the musical, Lois falls for Superman, a smarmy gossip columnist plots his own diabolical plan, and a secretary named Sydney tries to turn Clark Kent into a dashing playboy (one of the few song that’s stood the test of time is Sydney’s “You’ve Got Possibilities” — a feisty solo number).
In 1966, it would make sense that the comic book format didn’t translate to the stage. The show is beyond silly, with paneled ensemble numbers, WHIZ BANG POW bubbles, makeshift flying stunts, and songs about Superman’s duty to do good in the world (It’s a satisfying feeling when you hang up your cape / To know that you’ve averted murder, larceny and rape!). But looking back, and what was entrancing about New York City Stage’s recent rendition of It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, is that it now functions as ’60s kitsch. What didn’t work in the moment is a sublime, retro experience a la Hairspray (with even less manufacture thanks to the simplistic sets, costumes, and “special effects”).
What disappeared behind the critically-panned production are some fairly snappy tunes. Hear the original cast album below, courtesy of Spotify. This album is hoot.
My copy of Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea from 1968, with inscription from 1978.
First look footage of The Legend of Korra: Book 2.
Nickelodeon’s abrasive graphics and muzac don’t really set the tone here — but I like what I see. While it doesn’t have the majesty and unexpected elegance of Book 1’s Republic City setting, Book 2 promises a Miyazaki-style fantasy arc. Maybe that’s why it looks a bit more “cartoony” than Book 1. The spirit animals are bubbly and the backgrounds play to that aesthetic over the hyper-detail of RC. I’m glad their taking risks rather than replicating what worked in the first season. - Patches
What do you think?
Federal Cylinder Project sound technician and folklorist Erica Brady, in the Recording Laboratory of the Library of Congress (circa 1980), makes a copy of a wax-cylinder recording using a reel-to-reel tape machine.
A link to the “ask” section. CUZ.
This week David Ehrlich, Matt Patches, and Jordan Raup of TheFilmStage.com play themselves in a review of Seth Rogen’s directorial debut This Is the End. Rogen alongside James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Emma Watson in the apocalyptic comedy, but does the meta-approach work wonders or signal the end of the Apatow era?
“They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you. My only son.”
Call that number. Drop the Operation Kino team a talking point, opinion, or retort. We’d love to feature YOU on the show.
This week, Katey, Dave, and David are all MIA — so it’s up to Patches to pick some topics and wrangle the Internet’s best to talk them out. First up, Patches and James Rocchi of MSN Movies profess their love for Cosmos and discuss Carl Sagan’s influence on movies. Then, Mike Ryan of Huffington Post joins the show to slam this weekend’s two hour Google commercial, The Internship. Our mini-segment piggybacks off We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks to dig into the trail of Bradley Manning. We wrap up with a look at the film talk that’s happening on Tumblr, with Chad Perman and Michelle Said of the successful blog/magazine Bright Wall Dark Room. We kick it off with a lightning round question inspired by the documentary, Dirty Wars.
Taking the reins on Vulture’s weekly “Streaming” column. Basically asked to find cool stuff that you can watch RIGHT NOW.
This week: Are people watching BBC 2’s The Fall. It’s a crazy good procedural starring Gillian Anderson. And it just premiered on Netflix. Once you watch, what did you think?
Can you tell the difference between these Black & White movies?
I spoke to the cinematographer behind Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing on the future of monochrome and it was eye-opening.
Allen Hughes, Guinness World Record holder for being the youngest person to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar, is the man behind a god awful Häagen-Dazs commercial starring Bradley Cooper.
The more you know!