★★ | Superman The Musical, London
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no – it’s Superman the Musical.
Playing until this weekend at the Leicester Square Theatre, Superman is not just a musical but it is also a comical look at the man we all know and love as the saviour of Gotham City, preventing disasters and capturing criminals.
Originally produced for the Broadway stage in 1966, and coming directly from Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre where it played last year, its transfer to the West End brings with it a set made up of cardboard props, and a cast who mostly struggle with the all-encompassing singing, dancing and acting.
Craig Berry plays Superman. Sure, he’s got the look down – the black gelled-back hair and the chiselled chin, but Berry just doesn’t have much stage presence for playing such a larger than life character. Sure, the costume fits him, but that’s about it. Michelle LaFortune doesn’t fare much better. Her Lois Lane is bland. LaFortune can sing, but it doesn’t help when she forgets a line or two.
So what’s the plot you ask? We should know it as we’ve all seen those Superman movies. Lane is in love with Superman but not with Clark Kent, who works with her at the Daily Planet, and you see Clark Kent is actually Superman! Another man in the office – Max Mencken (a good Paul Harwood) – is the office lothario and vies for Lane’s affections, though he’s with Sydney (a good Sarah Kennedy), a clueless co-worker who’s looking for love in all the wrong places. However, when Mencken teams up with Dr Abner Sedgwick (an excellent Matthew Ibbotson) to devise a plan to turn Superman into an ordinary mortal, one who would obey Dr Sedgwick’s every command, things don’t look too good for Superman, and it is Lane who happens to fall in love with Dr Sedgwick’s assistant Jim (Charlie Vose), and forgets all about Superman.
Superman plays like an amateur production (a high school production) with a few talented members of the cast (Harwood, Kennedy and especially Ibbotson), but it’s the ones who aren’t as talented that bring this show down. And the backup dancers do their darndest, all trying very hard to keep things moving (especially the adorable Christine Harris), but they just can’t save this production. Music by Charles Strouse with lyrics by Lee Adams help the show move along, but the end just doesn’t come soon enough.