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

What Did the Critics Say?
Take ONE

Critics in New York can make or break a Broadway show. And the critics loved "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman." Here's a look back in history!

'Superman,' Airy, Merry
by Norman Nadel
Dateline March 30, 1966

"It's a Bird It's a Plane It's SUPERMAN" tells more than the title of the broadly comic musical which exploded on the state of the Alvin Theater last night. The name pretty well sums up the show; whatever else happens, it's Superman who makes the evening airily, nonsensically satirical.

I don't just mean Bob Holiday's performance as the comic strip hero, though Heaven knows, he has the Superman instinct like no other actor who comes to mind. But a lot of people connected with this merry adventure into the ridiculous have the Superman instinct, and know just what to do.

"Every man has a job to do, and my job is doing good," explains the broad-shouldered Adonis in the form-fitting blue outfit with the big red "S" on his sinewy chest. From the boyish curl hanging down over his forehead to the red-footed feet set solidly on the floor, the man is all sincerity.

This is the way that Holiday plays the incredible being from the planet Krypton, who disguises himself as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent of the Daily Planet (following a merger of the Daily and the Planet, I assume). There is absolutely no guile to Superman; he answers my compliment with an utterly straightforward "yes." Holiday has this directness, this acceptance of perfection, down pat, and it becomes the funniest single element in the whole production.

Obviously, these touches are available to Holiday through the abilities of David Newman and Robert Benton, who wrote the play-book [and went on to pen the script Superman: The Movie]. Anyway, they, the people who rigged the harness which sends Holiday flying off on his missions,

Florence Klotz who designed him the ideal Superman suit and all involved succeeded brilliantly in this central character. It's really a "Superman" show.

As gleefully wicked as Superman is wholesome Jack Cassidy blends oily smoothness, unshatterable conceit, staunch singing and all the vaudeville razzamatazz in the book into his part as a Daily Planet columnist. Note—and enjoy his "The Woman For The Man," in a style reminiscent of the stage and screen musicals a generation ago. Slick.

Linda Lavin, playing Cassidy's secretary is another one who knows what to do when she is firing out a song. "You've Got Possibilities" demonstrates this.

Lois Lane, the girl reporter, who loves Superman, naturally has to be symmetrically beauttiful, feminine in the nicest way, and utterly trusting. Patricia Marand conveys these qualities; along with a vigor of personality, but I was especially pleased with her voice. Not only is it clear, strong and accurate; it contains a variety of tonal colors, and she knows how to fashion them to each song.

Miss Marand probably would look lovely garlanded in artillery shell casings, but it's good that Miss Klotz, and fashion designer Bill Blass, have dressed her to look pretty, rather than flashy. Miss Klotz's costumes are pleasing on all the girls of the cast.

As the evil scientist from MIT (Metropolis Institute of Technology), Michael O'Sullivan is entertaining now and then, rather than all the time. He was funnier as Tartuffe. Don Chastain does bravely in his role as a Lois Lane admirer, even if it is overshadowed by the wilder characterizations surrounding his [boss].

The show has trouble sustaining its comic level when Superman (or Clark Kent) isn't around and busy. It seems that producer Harold Prince usually has the right idea, but director Harold Prince can't quite put it into effect. Also, ensemble scenes tend to look routine, with some exceptions. The reprise of "It's Superman," with the cast cuddled in comic strip boxes, works the way you'd like everything to work.

Bob Holiday
Bob Holiday
To The Rescue

Composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams have written the direct-action songs which a lightweight show such as this requires. I got a kick out of the way Strouse's music sounds in the pit, notably the first and second act overtures in the orchestrations by Eddie Saunter.

This must be said for "Superman": you leave the theater smiling, and the smile lasts all the way home.

New York World Telegram and Sun,
March 30, 1966
Photos courtesy the Estate of Bob Holiday
Text © Norman Nadel, New York World Telegram and Sun
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