Growing up as a comic book fan it was always a special treat when something related to some of my favorite superheroes were featured on television. Whether that be catching the Super Friends on Saturday Morning or especially the live action The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk or even the Legends of the Superheroes variety show specials which aired in 1979. Those were all seen on television in the late 70’s which might explain why at two-years-old I somehow missed the 1975 Superman Musical that was aired on ABC. In all honesty the actual name of the musical is It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s Superman! and it debuted on Broadway back on March 29th of 1966. Apparently it received some good reviews but after 129 performances it shut down production – even with Tony award nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musial – I suppose folks weren’t quite ready for a such a endeavor?
In 1975 it appears as if ABC felt the time was right for audiences to view an abbreviated version of the Superman musical – airing it on the evening of February 25th as part of the TV network’s Wide World of Entertainment. I’ve read online that four of the numbers from the Broadway production were dropped with a reworking of the remaining songs to appeal to a 1970’s viewing audience. What is even crazier is the the talent involved with the television special – you had Lesley Ann Warren (Clue) as Lois Lane, Loretta Swift (MAS*H) playing Sydney Carlton, Kenneth Mars (1967’s The Producers) as Max Mencken, David Wilson (Eddie and the Cruisers) as both Superman and Clark Kent, with David Wayne (The Andromeda Strain) as the evil Dr. Abner Sedgwick. I should also point out that Gary Owens (Space Ghost) is the narrator for this TV special… and that the entire production is incredibly tongue-in-cheek.
I’m not going to say that I was extremely impressed with this musical based on the iconic character created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel – I am extremely grateful though it has been uploaded as at the very least it’s an interesting snapshot from the 70’s. Plus there are quite a few notable TV personalities that round out the rest of the cast of It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s Superman! – perhaps most notably Al Molinaro of Happy Days fame as one of the trio of gangsters. I personally think however that the 1979 two-night special I mentioned earlier in this article is more my speed – Legends of the Superheroes – which also featured Gary Owens I might add!