Monday, May 21, 2007

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Fabulous!

Well, a week ago tonight, we were back at the Freud Theater on the UCLA campus, not to see No Strings again, Heaven forfend, but to experience another of Reprise!'s Magical Musical Mondays. Unlike the usual Reprise! productions, which run for two weeks, with inventive if simple sets, the cast in costume, and the entire production rehearsed and off-book, MMMs are exactly the opposite. There are no sets, scant rehearsals, and the entire cast dresses in black, and works on book, with podiums lining the front of the stage give the players some place to rest their scripts while they perform. This time, MMM was a staged reading of the infamous 1960s' musical, It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!

I remember seeing the original Broadway production of this show the same year I graduated High School, and being pretty disappointed in it. After all, I was -- and am -- a diehard comic book fan, and here was a musical that, while certainly fun on some levels, was not taking the characters I loved at all seriously. Of course, since the hottest show on television that year was Batman, in retrospect, this probably should not have been a surprise. Still, the comics fan in me was duly offended and it took decades for that sting to finally scab over.

Last Monday night, all of those old memories faded as my lovely wife and I watched one of the most entertaining performances I've seen so far at Reprise! The sterling cast starred Richard Kind (of TV's Spin City fame) as mad scientist Abner Sedgwick, newcomer (at least to me) Cheyenne Jackson as Clark Kent/Superman, the always-welcome Jean Louisa Kelly (of TV's Yes, Dear) as Lois Lane, and Patrick Cassidy as gossip columnist Max Mencken, a role made famous by his father, the late Jack Cassidy, in the original Broadway production. They were all excellent, with Patrick doing a particularly remarkable job of channeling his late dad, right up to the impish sparkle in his eye and the blinding gleam in his teeth.

I've gotta tell ya, gang, whatever reservations I may have had about the original production were totally erased this time around. The show was a blast, a hoot, in short, totally fabulous. I'm told there were some fair amount of rewriting done to the show's book for this production. The stereotypical Chinese acrobat henchmen were replaced by a mix of various Euro-trash villains, for instance. Whatever other changes were made, they worked. In spades. I laughed my butt off (yes, I'm sitting here now, writing this blog, totally buttless) and I found the songs funny and charming. What a difference four decades can make, huh?

I'd recommend you all rush to see the show but since it was a one-night-only affair, that seems kind of pointless. Guess I'll just have to remember it fondly on your behalf. As ever, just another part of the service.

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