By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The casting director suggested: "How about Patrick?" Moriarty paused and said, "Do you think he'd do it?" Sure he would. He's been waiting for this his whole life. He was in London doing a concert. He got the call. They asked for a video audition. He said yes, certainly. And that's how he got his dad's part.
"I am so thrilled and honored to be here for the obvious reason," Cassidy says during a break in rehearsals. He's a chiseled, handsome man who looks younger than 48. "I thought after a 30-year career, I've never gotten to play the roles my father did. And this is not only my chance to do a really terrific part for me as an actor, but it's also a chance for me to pay homage to my dad. Then they revamped the whole book! And then add the fact Charles and Lee are involved, and this is really something special. I was knocked out by that. Knocked out."
But it is very much Kevin Moriarty's show now. It has been since he was a little boy. Which is why he's spent the last 18 months buried in this, all the while revamping A Midsummer's Night Dream (very Puck rock), directing Neil LaBute's grim Fat Pig and overseeing the rest of the 2009-'10 season now coming to a close. However difficult his schedule, however hard the material, he always knew that at day's end he'd get to come back to Superman and to Aguirre-Sacasa's rough drafts and character sketches and Adams' and Strouse's new songs and become a kid again, wrapped in a big red cape.
"It's easy to think simply of Superman as a source of action-adventure, of humor, even of romance with Lois," Moriarty says during a rare rehearsal break. "But if you spend much time with the character, almost anyone can relate to those fundamental challenges of integrating various parts of your identity into one coherent identity, sacrificing something for something greater, carrying your history and values with you even as you move into new situations your parents never dreamed of. Those are explicit parts of the Superman story told over and over. And maybe you need someone in a big blue costume to swoop down and show us the way."
For their revisal, Aguirre-Sacasa and Moriarty have cut and pasted and tossed out songs from the original production; set it in 1939 rather than "today"; and tossed out the original story, a rather circuitous and daffy tale about a jealous Daily Planet gossip columnist named Max Mencken who teams up with a petty scientist named Abner Sedgwick to rob Superman of his estimable ego—with the help of a troupe of Chinese acrobats angry with Superman for stealing their spotlight.
This revisal is a brand-new different thing: equal parts Superman: The Movie and its superior sequel, the comic books (kryptonite and Z-grade super-villains) and, yes, even Our Town, to which Aguirre-Sacasa makes veiled references in scenes where Clark Kent's back home in Smallville.
"I love all that nostalgic, Americana stuff," says Aguirre-Sacasa, who's been in town every weekend to write—and significantly rewrite—with Moriarty during breaks in rehearsals, which began mid-May. "I also love the golden age of comics. I am a big buff when it comes to the publishing history of comics, and I thought it would be fun to place our Superman at the birth of the comics industry. And, historically, his message of optimism and can-do attitude and the world is a good place felt the most resonant coming out of the Great Depression." Which is why he set the musical in '39. "It could have an added resonance today."
He also wanted to refocus the romance on Superman and Lois and Clark Kent. This would be an action adventure story—that of the villain trying to kill Superman, of course, but also an old-fashioned musical-comedy romance: Boy meets girl who other boy wants but she doesn't even though he's really the guy she does want. It's certainly easier to follow than a musical in which Superman has to fend off jealous Chinese acrobats.
The thing is, in the original, Superman was low man on the playbill: Bob Holiday—who'd gotten his start performing at, among other places, Abe Weinstein's Colony Club on Commerce Street—was the last cast member credited on the playbill. Which, come to think of it, was about right for 1966.
Back then, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Man of Tomorrow was so yesterday. Born in Cleveland in the mid-'30s, and revealed to the public on the cover of Action Comics No. 1 in June 1938, Superman in the days of LBJ, Vietnam and the British Invasion was a square amongst the radicals and deserving of his unheroic moniker the Big Blue Cheese.
In the late '30s and early '40s, he'd been a tough-talking social crusader—Bogie in circus tights taking on wife-beaters, football-game-throwers, chain-gang taskmasters and corrupt politicians. Siegel, quoted in Les Daniels' 1998 Superman: The Complete History, said their hero was driven by "this tremendous feeling of compassion that Joe and I had for the downtrodden." Meanwhile, there was poor Clark Kent, getting the ice-cold shoulder from Lois Lane, who wanted only the other guy—Clark without the glasses, and how that never clicked with her...