Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Superhero Fades in the Stretch

Superhero, premiering at the 2nd Stage Theater, with a book by John Logan and music & lyrics by Tom Kitt (composer of Next to Normal) promises a heady ride. And the show starts off fast and interesting, before getting lost. The second half meanders around a bit before just running out of ideas. It is too bad because there is some amazing singing by Kate Baldwin and (one of my personal favorites) Bryce Pinkham. The debut of Kyle McArthur also starts out strong, before winding down.

Superhero is the story of a 15 young man – Simon (Kyle McArthur) trying to pull his high school life together after the death of his father and the remoteness of his mother (Kate Baldwin).  They have moved to a new city, generic high-rises and problems, where Simon attends school. Whenever he can he draws. He draws superheroes in comic stories that take off on the stage, an interesting idea that is used well early on. 
Kyle McArthur as Simon, in Superhero

Simon sleep-walks through life, looking up only to see the cute environmental activist at school (Salena Qureshi) and his comics. Until ... he happens to see his neighbor flatten a fire hydrant with a single punch. The elusive neighbor, Joe (Bryce Pinkham) might really be a superhero. After Joe gets closer by dating mom and befriending Simon, Joe admits (to Simon only) that he is a real Superhero. Sent from another planet to protect people of earth, when he can. We see Joe use super strength, and we see him bolt out on a beam of light.

Is Joe a sad, pathetically lonely man spinning stories to make friends? Is Joe mentally ill? Is Joe really a superhero?  Oddly, those questions don’t seem to matter in the story. Joe is ultimately unable to be there for Simon and mom because either, a) the demands on a superhero are constant or, b) he is too emotionally damaged to be physically available.

In any event, Joe flakes on being there for Simon and mom. He moves out of the city, and Simon and mom move on with their lives.  It isn’t much of a story for over 2 hours of theater. This is surprising because writer John Logan was the Tony winning writer of Red, and the screenwriter of Skyfall, Hugo and a host of other great stories. Superhero could use a rewrite, or use some deep trims. 

Kate Baldwin and Bryce Pinkham
The songs from the wonderful Tom Kitt are not wonderful. Kate Baldwin and Bryce Pinkham lend their amazing voices, but still can’t give most of these songs flight. A fantastic writer and fantastic composer have collaborated to give us a superhero story that is flat and boring.

I enjoyed Superhero, because listening to Kate Baldwin and Bryce Pinkham sing live, even not the best songs, is a thrill for me. But I cannot recommend it to others. The rewards are few, and spread out over a too long, too dull play.

Book: John Logan, Music & Lyrics: Tom Kitt | Director: Jason Moore | Cast: Julia Abueva, Kate Baldwin, Jake Levy, Kyle McArthur, Bryce Pinkham, Salena Qureshi, Thom Sesma, Nathaniel Stampley

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