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

The BRITISH Interview with Dr. Darren Reid

Approached to Participate in a Podcast, Here are Bob Holiday's Contributions to a British Audience

Dr. Darren Reid Interview

In 2014, Bob was contacted by a British professor from University of Edinburgh, Dr. Darren Reid. An expert on American cultural trends with a particular interest in comics and culture, Dr. Reid sent Bob a set of interesting questions.

Interview with Dr. Darren Reid

Dear Mr. Holiday, First, please accept my sincere thanks for agreeing to this interview. I understand that health issues prevent you from speaking to me directly but I am, nevertheless, honoured to be able to speak to someone who embodied the Man of Steel in the manner that you did. For what it is worth I told my three year old son I was interviewing Superman (and showed him the advert in which you appeared) and received a wonderfully excited response. As to the actual interview, I have included a list of questions for ... you; I plan on having an actor read your responses so that I can present your answers in as natural a way as possible in my podcast. Again, I want to thank you for kindly agreeing to this interview - it is a great thrill for me.

First, can we start with your earliest memory of Superman? How and in what circumstances did you first encounter the character?
      I used to read the comics when I was eight years old. All that came back to me when I heard about the audition for Broadway. I really wanted that role! My mother wasn’t surprised that I got the part because I’d been such a Superman fan. As a kid, I always played that I was Superman. And I grew up to BE him.

Were you interested in comic books other than those in which Superman appeared? If so, can you you remember which characters interested you the most?
      Yes, I liked Batman, too. Superman was always my favorite.

Did you read Wonder Woman?
      [With a deep chuckle] Oh, yeah!

What did Superman mean to you in your youth, what aspect of his character most appealed to you?
      I was fascinated that he lived as two people. I was inspired by his strength. Most of all, like in the song I sang on Broadway, I liked that he was always “Doing Good.” Superman’s integrity was always important to me.

What, in your view, was it about Superman that appealed to other children and young people when you were first encountering the character?
      The same things. I loved that, the Superman thing for children. That’s why I met with them backstage after the show. Children were always awestruck. I got a real kick out of how they’d see him as myself. We’d joke back and forth. I never broke character. Today I hear from fans who saw me as kids, and they are all so nice to me. I’m told that they remember me as Superman. That’s a good feeling.

Why do you think Superman plays so well to international audiences? He may have started life as an American icon but he certainly has a global audience today. Why do you think that is?
      If Superman’s popularity has grown, it’s because he’s always loyal to his friends. That appeals to folks. Superman represents the ultimate strength, the ultimate goodness. Everyone is yearning for those kinds of good things.

How did the possibility of playing Superman in "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" first come about?
      Well, I’d been in show business for quite a few years. And on Broadway, I had played Neil for two years in a Hal Prince show, Fiorello! I heard Hal was doing a new musical, called his office, and found out that auditions were on the horizon, but I didn’t know it was for Superman. There was this great moment in my life, when I was walking into Hal’s building. The elevator doors opened, and Hal walked out and saw me. “Bob Holiday! Bob Holiday!” he said. I didn’t put it all together that he was considering me for his new play, but I knew he was glad to see me.
      Then I read the paper and saw that this new show was about Superman. The article said that the actor needed to be 6’4”, 200 pounds or so, handsome, and in his mid-30s. It gave me the chills. I’d always been a huge fan of Superman, and I wanted to capture him as an actor. I poured myself into reading about Superman, including Jules Feiffer’s book, The Great Comic Book Heroes.
      Well, auditions rolled around. I sang a couple of songs from Camelot (I’d played Sir Lancelot with Howard Keel as King Arthur). I worked out at the gym hoping for this role. I got called back once, then a second time, and it was down to just one other guy and me. They ran us though our paces, and then dismissed the other guy and told me I had the part. Again I got chills.

How did you approach playing the character of Superman? Did you have ideas of your own, did you have anything you wanted to capture in your performance?
      I took the role very seriously. I knew I was playing an American icon. I never drank in public. I never wanted a kid to think that Superman was drinking; it didn’t go with the character. I never did anything that would disgrace the character. I also wanted to have fun with the character. And I tell you what, I think that paid off. Today I’m 81 years old and, just like Superman, I have a full head of brown hair. He must have rubbed off on me some!
      As for playing the part on stage, the producer, Hal Prince, was terrific. As I said, I’d worked with him for two years, and that previous part was an idealist, do-good kind of guy. Hal and I both thought that I should bring that to Superman. We had no conflict in our views.
      It didn’t hurt that they hired a great gal to play Lois Lane, Patricia Marand. Patty and I—and her husband—became good friends, which helped us to capture the romance between Superman and Lois Lane.
      There was also a new aspect to Superman’s character that hadn’t been done in the stories before. Superman goes from being content with his life, happy to be “Doing Good,” and he goes into complete despair when the people of Metropolis turn against him. There I was, trying to do a good thing, and they turned against me. There’s a song in the show, “Strongest Man in the World,” where I sing about how bad it is that the people I tried to help “care no more.” So the show took Superman, who’s always happy and upbeat, and showed how important people are to him.

What about the role of Clark Kent? Was there anything specific you wanted to capture in your portrayal of that aspect of your character?
      He’s just nice little guy; well, not “little,” but quiet. To go back and forth, I changed my physicality, slumped my shoulders, and managed to look shorter. It was different from the way George Reeves had played Clark Kent; his Kent was strong. I tried to show a huge contrast between the two. It felt good to see Christopher Reeve do the same kind of thing in the movies. Kind of, there’s one, and there’s two.
      There’s another fun aspect, I was a live-action Superman. I had an audience in front of me, and they worked with me. The Clark Kent/Superman thing? It’s the little secret between me and the audience. That’s part of the joy of live theatre. The audience and I know, but no one else on stage knows.

How would you describe the tone of the Broadway show?
      By no means was it serious, it was light hearted and funny. We were always having a good time, even the villains. Yet there’s a sadness that was new to Superman. You see something like that in the Superman III movie. In the Broadway play, the evil Dr. Sedgwick destroys Superman psychologically, and he loses his powers because he thinks no one cares.
      You’ll often hear the Broadway show described as “campy.” But that ignores the depth of the plot. The show was fun. If that’s what you mean by “campy,” then that’s good. But we always made sure to treat Superman with respect.

In your opinion, what worked about the show and what did not?
      We had a great cast, and we all got along well. Everyone was a top-notch performer. Some people say that Superman being destroyed psychologically wasn’t what audiences wanted in the Sixties. There was some thought that the show was viewed as being only a kiddie show. I’ve really never known why the show didn’t keep going. It’s a shame it didn’t last longer, because we all loved what we were doing.

How do you feel Superman has been represented on screen since your tenure playing the character? Is there a high point and a low point about his on screen career you can identify for me?
      Hey, I loved Christopher Reeve. I was devastated when he died. I liked the way he played Clark Kent, sort of the way I did, very, very different from the way George Reeves did. And I had good time watching Brandon Routh. I went alone, ate a box of popcorn, and reminisced. It was good to see Noel Neill in that one, too. As for low points, well, I don’t criticize Superman!

Have you seen the latest Superman movie (Man of Steel)? If so, can you share some of your thoughts on it?
      I actually didn’t go see that one. Probably should have, but I just never made it. My web master told me it was pretty intense.

Finally, I'd like to ask you to take a moment to reflect upon the character of Superman once and summarise, in your view, what are his defining characteristics.
      Superman is the ultimate. He’s the person I try to be in my head. Always do it the right way, because Superman stands for what is right. You can see a clip from the show on my web site, and at the end I give a speech to the children of Metropolis. That captures, for me, what Superman stands for, and what he wants for the world.

Once again, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking part in is interview. It is a real thrill to be able to pose these questions to you. I would also like to thank your assistant, Toni, for acting as our go-between.
      It has been my pleasure. Thanks for a fun set of questions.

I hope that this letter finds you well,
Very best regards,
Darren Reid
University of Edinburgh, School of History, Classics, and Archaeology
[As of 2023, Dr. Reid is now a lecturer in history at Coventry University.]

Text © 2014, 2023 Dr. Darren Reid, Bob Holiday, and Toni Collins
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 & © 2022
Site optimized for Google Chrome
Original Site developed by Steve McCracken
Current caretaker: Cross that "T" and Dot That "i" Editing and Web Services
Contact Web Master:
Bob Holiday as Superman Bob Holiday as Clark Kent