By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
It is the least interesting part of any superhero story: the origin story. OK, OK, already—we get it. His parents were killed in an alley by a thug with a pistol. He was bitten by a radioactive spider. She came from an island full of Amazons. His parents sent him to Earth in a rocket just as their faraway home planet was self-destructing. Blah blah blah. Fine, tragic, whatever. Enough with the telling already. Start the show!
Well, then—we'll come back to the beginning later. (A hint: It involves a show crash-landing on the planet Broadway in the year 1966! And the artistic director who'd emerge from the wreckage: Super Kevin!)
What, then, is our hero up to now?
Why, he's running around a sofa in his apartment, being chased by a pretty girl. He's a mild-mannered reporter for a metropolitan newspaper; she, a spunky go-getter at The Daily Planet out to out the meek mortal as a superman beneath his schlumpy exterior. She tousles his hair, unties his tie, tries to take off his thick glasses.
And then—then!—Sydney Sharp begins to sing to Clark Kent. You read that right: Sing.
"Still, you've got possibilities,
Though you're horribly square.
I see possibilities,
Underneath, there's something there."
Sydney mocks Clark's suit and choice in hats; he's a mess, but, beneath, she insists, rests a tiger ready to roar. She chases him; he, faster than a speeding bullet, almost lets her catch him. She begins to unbutton his white shirt, beneath which are his red-blue-and-yellow undies. They waltz across the den. Sydney plops on the couch and crosses her legs—why, um, they could see that from Krypton! He takes a fall on the couch. She lands in his lap. Red-hot possibilities.
But, there are questions—like, should she land with a twirl or a plop? And what to do about her ass, which keeps landing center-stage?
"There's something for all ages," says Jenny Powers, the actress playing Sydney.
"And all proclivities," adds Kevin Moriarty, the Dallas Theater Center's artistic director.
Powers, best known for having played Rizzo in the Broadway revival of Grease, is clad head to toe in form-fitting, come-hither black—rehearsal attire, nothing fancy. By the time the public sees this routine downstairs in the main theater space at the Charles and Dee Wyly Theatre, her bodysuit will give way to an extravagant gown—something bright, flashy and very late '30s befitting a gossip columnist hot on the trail of The Story of the Century. But for now, her "lady parts are hanging out," as Moriarty puts it.
Moriarty has been observing from the sidelines; his choreographer, Joel Ferrell, is in charge of blocking this scene. But Moriarty needs to interject: He wants to make sure Matt Cavenaugh—Clark Kent—understands how a righteous man of steel would act when faced with kryptonite in the shape of lady parts.
"Sydney's the hottest woman in the most sexually aggressive state he's ever seen a woman," says the faux-hawked Moriarty, who, at age 43, still looks like a kid playing grown-up dress-up in the blue blazer draped over his maroon button-down and dark jeans. "But Clark's an upright, moral person in love with another woman, and believes in sex with marriage. It's like fundamentalists. It's not that they don't get boners. They just try not to do something with 'em."
Cavenaugh and Powers, real-life husband and wife, crack up; so too Ferrell and assorted backstage hands on hand during this late-May rehearsal just weeks before opening curtain. But Moriarty nailed it: That's as perfect a portrayal of Superman as you'll find in decades' worth of text on the subject. I will tell this to Moriarty during a later interview, and when I suggest it just might lead off this story, he is mortified. He just hates the thought of a story about his lifelong affection for Superman being introduced with so crass a précis. He offers instead a more eloquent turn:
"The goal of society is not to deny our urges, but to master them for something greater."
He starts talking like this when the subject turns to Superman. He can't help himself. Moriarty has a serious case of hero worship—has ever since he was a boy in small-town Indiana, where Superman comics and musical-theater soundtracks were his best friends.
He often tells the story of how, when he was 6 or 7, he was a small lad with thick glasses, this anonymous nobody to whom other kids seldom paid attention. Then one day, he wore to school beneath his regular clothes a superhero outfit his mother made for him. During recess, he ducked behind the tool shed and stripped down to his costume—no, his uniform.
He emerged just in time to rescue the girls from a spirited game of war amongst the boys. He would tell them, "Never fear, Super Kevin is here!" And they would be grateful for their liberation. No laughs, only thank-yous. The Last Son of Krypton had saved this little kid from Indiana.