“It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Superman!” the 1960s Broadway musical opened with 42nd Street Moon at the Eureka Theater with a super cast, super songs, super 1960s Go Go dancing and super 1960s costumes. The funny thing about this pop art comic book come to life is most of the audience at Saturday night’s opening looked mature and no children were present. As I always say, there’s chronological age and then there’s mental age. It was my birthday too. What a show, with high energy, a fast pace and gifted talent on stage and off that will make your spirits soar.
Pow! Bam! Zonk!
Staci Arriaga the choreographer created joyful retro numbers to make you want to pony again. The Go Go dancing is so much fun she should have gotten the audience to participate like Goldie Hawn in "Laugh In" but the theater manager said the little stage would not hold that many. Dyan McBride directs. San Francisco native Jen Brooks plays Lois Lane in a tight sweater and tight skirt.
Lois Lane, the Daily Planet reporter, feels her love for Superman has gone unrequited even though he rescues her and saves her life time and again. She never gives up even with the love of a non-mad scientist played by Trevor Faust Marcom.
The Metropolis set looks like cut outs of cartoon high rises. A young architect out of Southern California, Alvin Shiu, designed the backdrop as his first job in the United States. He customarily designs high rises in Dubai and other Eastern countries he said, where money just flows and men and women are still segregated so he must take “adjacentcy issues” into account when building.
The pianist and woodwinds musician Nick DiScala with his clarinet, saxophone and flute play live on stage.
Lucas Coleman as Superman/Clark Kent
The story by David Newman and Robert Benton has the Man of Steel played by tall, dark and handsome young Lucas Coleman. He plays Superman as an overgrown boy scout who needs to be adored anonymously by the public for validation. He sports the Brill creamed signature black curl on his forehead. Coleman must stand about 6’4” and his Superman acts like a big dolt with doubts and other human frailties—much like a stereotypical actor in his need to entertain and have an audience so there’s an inside joke there or an observation about human nature.
Coleman plays the super hero more boy of steel than man of steel, some material more malleable and bouncy, like rubber. Meanwhile. Coleman keeps up the energy throughout, even the challenging numbers where he must sing and dance at the same time, whether changing from a suit into his Superman costume in a phone booth or through a fight against the thugs, the scene animated with cartoon exclamations like “Pow!”.
Superman’s alter ego, reporter Clark Kent, acts shy, socially awkward and physically clumsy with the two egos seeming to merge as the evil scientist destroys his identity and confidence after kidnapping him. He will turn submissive and puppy-like under Dr. Sedgwick’s evil spell, responding enthusiastically to a treat as a reward for good behavior.
The antagonists the mad scientist and the Flying Grimaldis
The earnest and hapless Kent/Superman is being stalked by a vengeful physicist Dr. Agnes Sedgwick, Darlene Popovic. Popovic in her lab coat plays the role with relish and she’s a joy to behold in her twisted glory, telling her devious accomplice how totally moral he is. Thwarted time and again by the Nobel Prize committee she seeks to destroy a beloved hero not with kryptonite but by discrediting him with the help of other vengeful characters. These include the Flying Grimaldis, an Italian family of trapeze artists led by a domineering mother Mama Grimaldi, Vespa. That's Diahanna Davidson. Nobody will pay to see the act since the audience sees Superman fly for free. The buffoons, a foursome of dim witted brothers includes one who wears ballet slippers, Kyle Valentine. The brothers include Michael Doppe, Scott Maraj and Steven Sloan.
Brent Schindele, Safiya Fredericks
Meanwhile, gossip reporter Max Mencken has his own mortal male egotistical reasons for wanting Superman grounded. Brent Schindele plays the egomaniac columnist who helps mad scientist Dr. Sedgwick with her plot. Clever Max almost never breaks out of his big toothy “everything under control” used car salesman smile, even when he hams it up with a little song and dance in his suit and bright yellow shoes.
Almost never. His sassy secretary, in the original played by Linda Lavin, doesn’t go for the old song and dance after her long-suffering era as his girlfriend who gave him the best years of her life. Sydney, a well built Black woman Safiya Fredericks, sings him one of the most clever numbers in the production, her love song to him called “Ooh Do You Love You”. Jack Cassidy played the toothy blond smooth talker in the original.
The male quartet while clowning as a band of thieves or as the incompetent acrobats gets balanced perfectly by the trio of chorus girls. The trio brighten the colorful production with Go Go dancing, girlish swooning and comic book colored costumes. The trio wears proper little suits mismatched and accented perfectly with clashing hosiery, boots, jewelry, berets and gloves. The Go Go dresses have the same appeal, comic book colors of tangerine and Kryptonite chartreuse. Felicia Lilienthan designed the cute and funny costumes that must have been a blast to wear. The colorful girls are Nicole Renee Chapman, Ariel Leasure and Catherine Gloria.
Family and student matinee on Saturday, October 12 at one p.m..
The director and cast will host a post-show discussion with the audience after the matinee on Sunday, October 13.
Tickets cost $21 to $75.
October 2 – October 20
The Eureka Theater is on Jackson Square, a short walk or bike ride from Embarcadero BART. One may easily enjoy dinner at Embarcadero Center or the Togos next to the theater. A picnic in the park with food from Safeway next to the theater is another option.
215 Jackson Street between Battery and Front Streets, San Francisco.
Opening nights the theater hosts a lovely champagne reception after the show where the cast comes out in street clothes and mingles, posing for photos upon request.
For more information: http://www.42ndstmoon.org/superman
For more stories by this writer check out CBS San Francisco's website under Eye on the Bay, San Francisco arts & culture "Best Of"; and San Francisco Arts & Culture on Examiner.com. Subscribe by hitting the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this article.
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