Hovering above Ye Olde Rose and Crown pub is the whacky, zany musical: “It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman”
Hats off to All Star Productions for producing the UK premiere of a type of show we wouldn’t typically see in London’s fringe theatres. With it’s comic book set and it’s block colour scheme, the 1966 musical, flips us through the battles, romances and double life of Superman. The multi Nobel prize winning, Dr. Abner Sedgwick, an afro headed mad scientist, plots the destruction of our Man of Steal, the world’s symbol of good. Back at the Daily Planet, we have columnist Max Mencken and his secretary Sydney, girlfriend to Clark Kent, trying to discover Superman’s true identity. Throw in some daytime drama with journalist Lois Lane and nerdy Jim Morgan and you got yourself a love hexagon.
The production itself looks and sounds panto-esque. The set is entirely cardboard and maybe even velcro in places. (I mean, there’s low budget and then there’s no budget). But once you’ve accepted the convention of a one dimensional world, you can ease into the foolishness of this show. Thankfully, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. We even witness Superman flying, thanks to the seamless transition of a fan blowing the actor’s cape, and an action figure that floats above the set. You can find it tacky or hilarious, but either way it’s perfect.
Director Randy Smartnick brings new life to what would otherwise be a dated script. The character choices made by the cast were bang on by some and amiss by others. The devilishly handsome Craig Berry makes clear cut character choices between Kent and the Man of Steel. He towers above the cast, and totally embraces his Lycra tights. Yes, he really wears the full get-up. Benjamin Newsome cast Berry bang on – going for a more classic, Bob Holiday look (the original Broadway Superman). We even love our frizzy headed nutty Sedgwick, Matthew Ibbotson, whose looks mirror that of Jonah Hill.
Granted, some of the jokes dried up a bit and some actors lacked lustre, but the supporting characters and dancers really did lift the show off its feet. How some of them managed to seamlessly fouette and throw backflips in such a tight space, was nothing short of impressive.
The real standout of the show, however, was from Canadian performer Sarah Kennedy. She plays Max’s feisty secretary Sydney. Both her solo numbers, ‘You’ve Got Possibilities’ and ‘Ooh, Do You Love You’ were incredible. Ooh do we love her! Her pop sounding vocals were spot on and anything she said was comedy gold.
While ‘super’ may not be how I’d describe the show, the performances of some and the direction of the piece definitely soars. All in all, it was refreshing to see a musical that wasn’t the umpteenth fringe production of Rent. Get yourself to Walthamstow before the 22nd of March and see it – if for no other reason than to catch a glimpse of a 6 foot 4 muscle man in tights!