I saw *Superhero* off Broadway on 2/19/19. It’s a new musical with music and lyrics by Tom Kitt and a book by John Logan. This was the first time I’d seen a Tom Kitt show - - he’d done *If/Then,* *High Fidelity,* *Bring It On,* and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for *Next To Normal.* Logan wrote the play *I’ll Eat You Last* and the screenplays for *Skyfall,* *Spectre,* *Hugo,* *The Aviator,* *Gladiator,* etc.
It’s the story of a teenage boy and his mother trying to find their way after the death of the boy’s father/woman’s husband. The boy spends his free time writing a comic book and comes to suspect that a guy in their apartment building is a superhero. The show was very strong, it knew exactly what it was doing and how to achieve it. The transitions worked beautifully, which is always a problem in a musical - - the transitions from dialogue to song and even the transitions within a song. Kitt has a wonderful way of adding harmonic shifts to change the direction of the drama. I’d never heard that done so pointedly in a musical before.
My favorite thing in the show was that I could understand every word of the songs. This is a collaboration between five elements: the lyrics are written in a way that makes them easy to follow, the music heightens the intelligibility of the words, the orchestrations don’t get in the way, the singers use clear diction, and the sound designer mixes the singers with the orchestra in a thoughtful way.
My favorite performance was by Kate Baldwin as the mother. I’d seen her as Irene Molloy in *Hello, Dolly!* (four times), probably also in *Thoroughly Modern Millie.* She had an unusually meaty role in this show and she really stepped up to the plate. She sang with lots of heart, used many colors in her voice, plus she has a wonderful way of being still and drawing the audience in. This might seem like a slight point (because it is), but I loved her “oo” vowel. Lately, on Broadway, you hear a lot of “ew.” Like instead of singing, “How do you do?” they would sing, “How do you DEW?” Drives me nutty. Baldwin’s “oo” vowels were always clear and pure.
Kyle McArthur played the teenage boy. He’s only 19 himself, so it’s not much of a stretch! He was exceptional, a very good singer and remarkably comfortable onstage. I hope to see more from him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up doing *Dear Evan Hansen.*
Bryce Pinkham played the possible superhero. I’d seen him in *The Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder* (twice) so I thought I knew what to expect from him. This role was something of a departure, more of an acting part than a singing part, and it felt like he liked the challenge. He did a wonderful job in a tricky part: how do you convey hidden depths from 30 feet away?