Bob Holiday, Broadway's First Superman
Bob Holiday's Publicity Portfolio

Long Lost
Just Found in the Archives!

Before Toni Collins Became Bob Holiday's Webmaster,
The Two of Them Sat Down for an Interview

Bob Holiday as Superman

Recently [actually, 2/13/2007] Bob Holiday, who created the role of Superman in the original 1966 Broadway production of "It’s a Bird It’s a Plane It’s Superman", sat down with a loyal fan, Toni Collins, to talk about the Opening Doors Theatre Company’s upcoming “Living Cast Album” recreation of the original play.

TC: It’s exciting that a new production of "It’s a Bird It’s a Plane It’s Superman" is being staged in New York. What were some of your thoughts when you heard about it?

BH: I immediately wondered who’d be able to stage the show, where they could do it, and whether they’d be able to recreate the flying. In 1966, we brought in the people who made Peter Pan fly, and we even took the apparatus to Steve Allen’s game show I’ve Got a Secret. You can see how it worked at my web site.

TC: It sounds like Opening Doors will be doing a version that’s a little less elaborate.

BH: Yes. A three-day run doesn’t lend itself to such expensive special effects. This “Live Cast Album” production sounds like a great way to introduce the marvelous music of this show to a new generation of New York theatre fans.

TC: The show had a big musical hit, “You’ve Got Possibilities,” sung by Linda Lavin. I hear she still uses the song in her concerts.

BH: Linda’s character sang the song to Clark Kent. On the rebound, she starts to think there might be a little more to Kent than first meets the eye. The song’s still floating around out there, by the way. There’s a Pillsbury ad that has the Dough Boy dancing up a storm to the tune.

TC: Your show had an incredibly talented cast in 1966. What are your favorite memories of working with them?

BH: We had a lot of fun in the show. Linda Lavin was supposed to “try” to unbutton my white shirt during “You’ve Got Possibilities.” The audience was scared she’d see the big red “S” underneath. I always made it tough for her to get hold, so there’d be a little tug of war between us on stage.

My favorite memory was an ad lib from the late Jack Cassidy. During the curtain call, I’d proclaim my trademark, “Up, up and away,” and fly across the stage. One night, when I was about three feet off the ground, Jack blurted out, “Hey, Supe! Would you mail this for me?” and held up a letter. I actually managed to grab it as I sailed past him. It was classic.

TC: You were the first person ever to portray the Man of Steel in front of a live audience. You had to convince them that Superman was super-strong and could fly. That must have held some special challenges. Did anything ever go wrong?

BH: One night a shackle broke when I was about six feet off the ground. Thank God I’d been working out, because I bounced right back up and said, “That would have hurt any mortal man!” The audience burst into both laughter and applause. I think those were the biggest cheers I ever got as Superman.

We tried to show Superman’s strength throughout the show. I bent a lamp, smashed a coffee table, and even lifted a platform of Metropolis citizens with the help of a hidden forklift.

Best of all was the big fight scene in the finale. Unlike the Batman TV show, where “Pow, Bam, Zonk” was superimposed over the TV screen, I had to actually sing those words in the middle of a fast-paced, tightly choreographed number. We were dancing, fighting and singing, all while I was hooked up to the flying harness. It was tough, really tough, and I loved every minute of it.

[Note from TC, 2019: Some of the actors who played Superman in revivals of "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" found out just how difficult it is to sing and fight at the same time. You'll occasionally see productions where the song "Pow, Bam, Zonk" left out the words "Pow," "Bam," and "Zonk"! Presumably, this is because it's just too difficult to keep up with the action, the fighting, the flying, and the singing at the same time. Even Superman needs time to breathe! Kudos to Bob Holiday for managing it all for 129 performances.]

TC: That was probably the greatest fight scene ever staged on Broadway. Any other thoughts?

BH: The kids who came to see the show were so important to me. Over 200 kids would come back stage after every matinee for autographs. Seeing their faces and the awe they held for Superman was just exotic. Some of them would ask to punch me in the stomach, not knowing I was still wearing that harness. I loved watching their reactions. The memory of the kids and their wonderful faces has lasted with me for forty years.

Hope you enjoyed reading this long lost interview! It was a delight to hear Bob Holiday reminisce about his time as Superman. After this interview took place, Bob and his daughter Kelly decided to drive to New York and see the show. Patricia Marand, who'd played Lois Lane, also attended. Click here to read about the show and Patty and Bob's reunion.

Text © 2007, 2019, 2022 Toni Collins
Photos courtesy the Estate of Bob Holiday
SUPERMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics. TM & © 2022
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