Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman
Formed in 2000 by Artistic Director Bill Rudman, The Musical Theater Project's mission is to foster a deep appreciation of classic American musicals by creating programs that are not only entertaining but educational as well. Along with the songs, an opening segment is dedicated to the history of the show and its place on the American landscape.
For the oldsters, there's The Song Is You!, a series of cabaret and concert performances that are held at at various venues all over northeast Ohio throughout the year. The organization also has its school program Kids Love Musicals!. In all, The Musical Theater Project reaches 10,000 Ohioans every year, not to mention 100,000 listeners of WCLV 104.9 FM's "Footlight Parade" program and those that hear it across the country through the nationally distributed public radio stations and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
The latest venture for The Musical Theater Project has been the staging of a concert version of the 1966 Broadway musical It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, starring Devin Pfeiffer as Superman/Clark Kent, Merrie Drees as Lois Lane, Fred Rose as Max Mencken, Terry Cranendonk as Dr. Abner Sedgwick, Ben Richardson-Piché as Jim Morgan, Morgan Reece as Sydney, and Jayson Reppart as Lang, with members of the Kent State University Musical Theatre and MFA Programs, including Ron Zak, Thomas Horen, Mason Henning, AJ Smith, Adam Naaman Kirk, Mathew Blasio, Jayson Reppart, Kirstin Henry, Samantha Kennett, Megan Polk, Elaine Werren, Emily Dezort, Hallie Walker and Morgan Tomasetti.
The show was directed by Terri Kent with musical director Jen Korecki, musical supervisor Nancy Maier, and Bill Rudman as producer and dramaturg. Jeremy K. Benjamin handled the lighting design and served as production manager with Charles Korecki designing the sound. The book for the musical, with a book by David Newman and Robert Benton and a score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, is based on the comic book "Superman" originated by Cleveland teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938.
Superman has already established himself as "the good guy" of Metropolis, U.S.A. as the show opens with the song "Doing Good," in which the man of steel states "Every man has a job to do and my job is doing good." While doing good has its rewards (the adulation of fans) it also creates enemies in the form of Max Mencken (Fred Rose), a smarmy reporter who wants to unmask Superman, and Dr. Abner Sedgwick (Terry Cranendonk) who has lost the Nobel Prize in various categories ten times running.
While more powerful than a locomotive, Superman has trouble realizing that Lois Lane, whom he has rescued 16 times, is totally in love with him. Superman's life is thrown into turmoil when he is lured to the Metropolis Institute of Technology (MIT) for a building dedication and city hall is bombed. Can Superman fight off his enemies? Will Lois find true love with her out of this world protector or will she succumb to the charms of Dr. Sedgwick's assistant Jim Morgan? Can he defeat the Lutheran Gymnastic Team? Will Dr. Sedgwick make it through the show without flubbing any more lines? All is revealed in the second act.
Performed in the intimate Breen Center for the Performing Arts in Cleveland (as well as the Kent State University E. Turner Stump Theatre the day before), the program was chock-full of delightful 1960-ish pop type tunes and a silly, easy to follow storyline just like the comics had. Devin Pfeiffer as Superman/Clark Kent did a masterful job using his fine tenor pipes. As his romantic interest Lois Lane, Merrie Drees carried her role well with a lovely voice as she searched for that idyllic '60s life of puppies, picket fences, and the local A&P. Even evildoers have girlfriends, and Max's Sydney was played by Morgan Reece, whose fine singing voice delighted in two numbers. Fred Rose as Max and Terry Cranendonk as Dr. Sedgwick were the perfect pair of villains, especially during their number, "You've Got What I Need."
The Musical Theater Project's next undertaking will be two performances of For Good: The New Generation of Musicals, Vol. 4 as they explore the rich musical treasures of songs of 21st century musicals such as Be More Chill, Kinky Boots, and more. It will be staged July 17, 2019, at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights and July 23, 2019 at The Bop Stop in Cleveland.
It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman was presented April 14-15, 2019 by The Musical Theater Project. For information or to purchase tickets for future shows, visit www.musicaltheaterproject.org.