|Bob Holiday as Superman|
By the mid-sixties Superman was fairly dormant, appearing mainly in (by then) bland DC comic books. The TV series starring George Reeves had been off the air for almost a decade and the Superman movies were still another decade away. A Broadway musical reviving The Man of Steel seemed like a good idea, after all, "Li'l Abner", a musical also based on a famous comic strip had been a huge hit a decade earlier.
The show starred Jack Cassidy as a new character, unscrupulous Daily Planet gossip columnist Max Menchen, (loosely based on Walter Winchell). Also featured were Linda Lavin, (fresh from The MAD Show), as Max's Girl Friday Sydney, Patricia Marand as Lois Lane, manic Michael O'Sullivan, (overly sweaty & spitty), as a lunatic-professor bent on Superman's destruction, 10 time Nobel prize loser Dr. Abner Sedgwick, and a 6 foot/4 inch, square-jawed baritone, the imposing yet throughly likable Bob Holiday as Superman/Clark Kent.
|Linda Lavin, Bob Holiday, Jack Cassidy,|
(sitting) Joan Hotchkis, originally cast
as Lois Lane
The campy script was funny and witty, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The score by Adams & Strouse was clever, (a song that actually references Quogue, Long Island), brassy and melodic, much like their earlier score for "Bye Bye Birdie". I saw a matinee of the show, (at age 7), along with my two brothers in mid-1966 and we loved the show and the music, especially the effect of Superman flying back and forth across the stage, growing smaller as he faded into the sky (miniature prop versions of Superman replaced the wired Bob Holiday in the foreground).
|Bob Holiday channels Mary Martin|
The main problem might have been that the talented and appealing star,
actor/singer/dancer Jack Cassidy was actually the star of the show, playing a charming but nasty, spiteful character, (he loathes Superman, seeks his destruction and has a crush on Lois), and had far more stage time than Superman/Clark Kent. In a show supposedly about Superman, kids simply wanted more... Superman, I know I did. Still, even with Jack Cassidy in the lead, even with overall positive notices, most adults just weren't ready to pay for an evening out at the theatre to see a show about a comic book super hero who had basically always been aimed at children. It was perhaps ahead of it's time. The other dilemma was that in January of 1966 the BATMAN TV show had premiered on ABC and by March BATMANIA was sweeping the country.
|1966 LIFE which|
included the Superman
Still, the musical has been revived a number of times, (including a watered-down version for ABC TV in 1975, with many of the songs cut), is fondly remembered by adults who saw it as children, and has developed a cult following. The first-rate original soundtrack is available on CD/MP3 to discover and/or rediscover.
Newman & Benton would later co-write the first Superman film, (along with Leslie Newman and Mario Puzo), borrowing several plot devices first used in their Superman Broadway script.
Charles Strouse would have far greater
success writing the music for the
hit musical comedy "Annie" in 1977,
another show based on a comic strip.
|"Dynamic Duo", David Newman &|
Robert Benton, from Newsweek
One sad note, no mention was made, nor any credit given in any of the show's advertising or publicity to Superman's actual creators, writer Jerry Siegel & artist Joe Shuster who conceived the character as teenagers in the mid- thirties. Using incredibly poor judgement, they had both signed away all their rights to Superman decades earlier and after several unsuccessful lawsuits, their credits were completely severed from the character. Neither was invited to the opening and both of them were so broke at that point that they supposedly couldn't even afford the price of a ticket to see the show.
Barrie Chase dings and dances to "You've Got Possibilities" on "the Hollywood Palace", 1966...
|Patricia Marand dances with Jack Cassidy|
|From LIFE magazine: Bob Holiday posed as Superman flying over Times Square|
|The front of Broadway's Alvin theater on W. 52nd St (now the Neil Simon theatre) in early 1966|
in the NY Times on Sunday, March 27th,
two days before the show opened.
|a newspaper ad for the show|
greets the audience...
into Clark Kent while singing the show's opening number
"Every Man Has A Job To Do"
one of the shows (Chinese) villains
the Alvin (photo courtesy Barry Mitchell)
Members of the Vienna Boys Choir meet Bob Holiday backstage after a performance
Backstage with famed art director Herb Bleiweiss
Patricia Marand, Jack Cassidy, Michael O'Sullivan, Linda Lavin, Don Chastain
Bob Holiday, Patricia Marand, Shirley Jones (Mrs. Jack Cassidy), Jack Cassidy
Superman within comic strip panels
Clark Kent & Superman
a 1966 Aqua Velva commercial with Bob Holiday as Superman
Got a Secret"
Uh, Oh...Logo Theft!!
and all the contents...
"Dino, Desi & Billy" had a moderate hit singing " It's Superman"
calling themselves "The Supermen"
Visit Bob Holiday's fun Website here:
It's a Plane, It's Superman"
Thanks to Richard Bleiweiss and Barry Mitchell