12. A song from a musical I could listen to all day.
From the time I was 11 years old until I went away to college, I plied my trade on a street corner. NO, I was not a teenage prostitute. Get you mind out of the gutter!!! Instead of a paper route, I sold the Louisville Courier-Journal on the corner of Bardstown and Dundee as my after-school job, back when it was still relatively safe enough to let your kid lean his head into the car windows of total strangers. Whereas other kids my age might use their after-school money to buy rock albums, I was buying the Original Broadway Cast Album of every single musical ever produced. I might not have known a single thing about the show, but if it had those four magic words (original – broadway – cast – album), I had to have it.
For me, every new album brought the thrill of discovery, hearing lovely melodies and clever lyrics, playing them over and over again until the songs were burned into my brain. Mom and Pop had 10 classic Broadway musicals already (The Music Man, Oklahoma, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Camelot, Hello Dolly and Fiddler on the Roof), so I bought whatever they did not have. One of my earliest purchases was the 1966 musical It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman, by composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams. Although the script was a mess, the show got very good reviews, which praised the songs and performances. The show even received three Tony Award nominations for the performances of Jack Cassidy (villain Max Mencken), Michael Sullivan (Clark / Superman) and Patricia Marand (Lois Lane).
The show managed only a four month run, so to recoup some of the costs, the creators sold the rights to ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment, which filmed a TV version of the musical, with Lesley Ann Warren as Lois, Kenneth Mars as Max, and the never-heard-from-again David Wilson as Superman. Other than Lesley, no one could really sing and the TV adaptation turned it into totally ham-fisted, over-the-top camp. It was so bad that it was aired at 11:30 pm when most people had shut off their TVs and gone to bed and it never aired again. Despite the taint of the TV version, the show remains one of my personal favorites. Every time I listen to the CD, I end up playing it over and over many times in a row. The audio clip is from the wonderful Broadway cast album – Patricia Marand singing her love-sick lament.
- by Jonathan Lewis