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Dallas Theater Center Staged "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman"

A whole new script was written to fit the existing songs of our favorite musical. It was an ambitious project that flew!

Lois Lane and Superman

As hundreds of theatre-goers can attest, "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" was an exciting show, and its star, Bob Holiday, deeply touched the lives of many. Staff here at were quite excited about the revised script staged in 2010 at the Dallas Theater Center.

From the producers:
With music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, and original book by David Newman and Robert Benton, the musical based upon the comic strip “SUPERMAN” and originally directed by Harold Prince, DTC’s production features a revised book by comic book writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty directs with choreography by DTC Associate Artist Joel Ferrell.

It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman is a heart-felt story about America’s greatest superhero,” says Moriarty. “Featuring a stellar cast and fresh material from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Superman is both an action-based superhero story and a classic romantic musical comedy for audiences of all ages. It's the once-in-a-lifetime, not-to-be-missed event of the summer,” says Moriarty.

Web Hostess Toni Collins agreed. Making the trek from California to Texas, she reviewed the show for all Bob Holiday fans.

"There's no good theater after you're 18 years old," said the great acting teacher Clayton Liggett. Given that I'd seen "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" when I was eleven, would a revised script be "good theater" when I was 55 years old?

It all began when Kevin Moriarty, lifelong Superman fan and Artistic Director for the Dalla Theater Center (DTC), had a chance to chat with composer Charles Strouse and was given the green light to "revise" the original 1966 "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" script. Feeling that the original storyline "had not aged well," Moriarty collaborated with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to set the original 1966 songs inside a new plot. Kevin Moriarty and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa are both huge comic fans, and they came up with a terrific idea: re-write the story set in 1939, one year after Superman started fighting crime in Metropolis.

Webmaster Toni Collins attend 2010 Dallas Revisal

They came up with a fun story. It was amazing that an entirely new script could work with a set canon of songs. Admittedly, there were some tensions for the audience. Villians were utterly cartoonish, outfitted in hats as large as kangaroos; the rest of the storyline strove for realism. Though set in 1939, vocabulary was notably modern—Superman's secret identity might get "outed"; a child's doll was repeatedly called "an action figure." The worst faux pas of all was the confusion when an audience full of Texans saw Clark Kent (who had just lost his super powers via the wrong color of Kryptonite, making this a double faux pas) carrying a bale of hay dangling from one hand—not humanly possible, and every Texan knew it. Had Superman regained his powers? The next ten minutes on stage were simply confusing until dialogue made clear that Clark was indeed weakened. But overall, these things could be overlooked and you left the theater, well, joyously flying high.

Jenny Powers and Matt Cavenaugh

Casting had its issues. Superman was played by Matt Cavenaugh who in real life was the newlywed husband of Jennifer Powers, who in turn played the Clark-Kent-pursuing gossip columnist Sydney Sharp. They were both terrific and their chemistry understandably sizzled. Not so much the Clark/Superman chemistry with Lois Lane. Newly-wed actors vs newly-met actors? Sorry, but Lois Lane never had a chance.

Speaking of Lois, she was played admirably by Zakiya Young. She was funny and had an amazing voice and perfect comic timing. You just had to love her. But DTC widely touted that Ms. Young was the first African-American Lois Lane in the canon's history. This "It's a Bird" fan has to quibble with them, having seen my first African-American Lois Lane in November, 2006, at Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA.

Most significant were the changes from the original script.

Original, 1966

Dallas, 2010


Metropolis, 1966

Metropolis, 1939


Bob Holiday, Baritone

Matt Cavenaugh, Tenor

Max Mencken

Newspaper columnist who's jealous of Superman, played by Jack Cassidy

Billionaire Businessman, played by Jack Cassidy's son, Patrick


Max Mencken's secretary played by power singer Linda Lavin

Man-eating gossip columnist played by power singer Jenny Powers, real-life wife of Matt Cavenaugh


Max Mencken, Dr. Abner Sedgwick, and disillusioned Chinese acrobats

Max Mencken and a cast of wildly dressed cartoon ne'er-do-wells

Lois Lane's

Plaintive Ballad "What I've Always Wanted"

Sadder-than-plaintive Ballad "A Woman Alone" brought to life by a comic tenor who feels for Lois

Opening Scene

Superman saves the day by stopping the robbery of Metropolis Bank

Jor-El and Lara send baby Kal-El off in a rocket, singing a Kryptonian Lullaby
(kudos to composer Charles Strouse who actually created believably alien music)

"We Don't Matter
At All"

Sung by Lois Lane (People are Wonderful) and love-interest Jim Morgan (We Don't Matter at All)

Sung by Clark Kent (People are Wonderful) and man-eating Sydney Sharp (We Don't Matter at All)

"It's Superman"

Jazzy 1960's Rhythm

1930's smooth jazz, complete with Andrew Sisters' harmonies

Was it worth the drive from California to Texas to see this revisal? Was it good theater? Oh yes! It was a wonderful production and I actually sat so close to the orchestra pit that I could read Charles Strouse's notes on the music director's score. (Sadly, I missed Patrick Cassidy. He was struck with complete and total laryngitis, and was admirably replaced by choreographer Joel Ferrell.)

A week later, I had great fun talking about the show at length with Bob Holiday. Who better to compare notes with, contrasting the original production with this revisal? Would anyone ever top Bob Holiday's Superman? I've seen a lot of revivals and so far, Bob's the winner. But make no mistake, Matt Cavenaugh did a marvelous job.

Matt Cavenaugh with Toni Collins

Sadly, if you didn't see this 2010 Dallas production with its revised script, you probably never will. During the production, DC Comics issued an official statement:

When DC Comics became aware of the Dallas Theater Center production of It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!, we advised the producers that the show must remain faithful to the original 1966 production. The Dallas Theater Center, a not-for-profit organization, understands that this production is limited to a one-time run in Dallas. DC Comics wishes the Dallas Theater Center a successful summer season."

One last note for "It's a Bird" fans who can't get enough of the details:
The original 1966 production was titled "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" while the 2010 revisal dropped both the quote marks and the copyright symbol, and then added ellipses: It's A Bird ... It's A Plane ... It's Superman. Charles Strouse, during a Q&A at the 2013 Encores! Revival at the New York City Center clarified that the quote marks were, in fact, an official part of the title; DC Comics had required this to protect the copyright of the name Superman.
OK, one last, last note:
Jenny Powers, who played Sydney Sharp in this Dallas revisal, was later cast as Lois Lane in the above-mentioned Encores! production. Both Bob Holiday and Patricia Marand's widower Irv Salem attended the Encores! production.
Text © 2010, 2019 Toni Collins
Dallas Production Photos by Brandon Thibodeaux, ©2010, used with permission
Other Photos courtesy the Estate of Bob Holiday and personal collection of Toni Collins
SUPERMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics. TM & © 2019
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Bob Holiday as Superman Bob Holiday as Clark Kent