Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Not So Super, or Super Bad

We all want to be super. The feeling of being revered as a hero, that's a super feeling. But what makes a hero super? It's something that gets touched upon in Aaron Michael Krueger's new musical Super.
Lovingly and knowingly ripped off from that DC comic about a man who happens to be super, Super follows young Mark as he deals with the death of his super dad, the struggles of having super powers, and the feeling of being super in love. There is great potential for a rich story for characters with clear objectives but Super is derivative. Just knowing the basics of Superman, Lois Lane, and Lex Luther, you can see the direct parallels in Super, which sadly makes this musical unoriginal. Why not come up with original heroes and villains rather than bad versions of well-known characters? But regardless of who these people are, Krueger's characters are thin. The character development relies so much on the inspiration that this show doesn't give us the whys and hows. Why is Mark super? How did he find out? And what is this character's kryptonite! Even at two acts, there are a lot of things that get glossed over. With plot holes all over, the music by Krueger is not memorable. This easily could be blamed on the canned music. Canned music for a primarily untrained cast is deadly. Krueger, who also served as musical director, needed to assist his cast desperately. From the music that did make a dent, the lyrics were a bit weak. And when it comes to musical theater, never write a song called “The Confrontation” and if you do, especially don’t end it with anyone falling to their death. That musical about the French people has rightfully staked their claim on that one.
Super needed super performers who could handle the giant kryptonite that was no live music. With a sound system less than ideal, the canned music was played softly forcing the company to sing in an unnatural manner. Some were timid. Some were soft. But all were afraid of being off key. And yet that still happened often. As Mark, Adam Keller certainly had the appearance of a hero. He stood tall. He had confidence. But he lacked strength. His voice was weak and struggled being the lead. Whether the confines of the production forced this, Keller needed more time to shine. As Alex, Mark’s best friend turned nemesis, Derek Speedy brought potential. He has a youthful sound that will grow with time but until you saw him in evil costume, he lacked believability. And the bald cap from hell could easily be blamed. Jessica Dorcey as Laura Lewis had the naivety of a quintessential damsel but her voice was severely lacking. Dorcey and Keller had zero chemistry and had quite the time trying to harmonize. As Mark’s mom, Stephanie Estep was a pro. She has a stunning voice and a motherly aura. But she had little to work with due to the thin character. Keith Milkie is the physical manifestation of super hero. He could be superhuman. Despite the booming baritone, he struggled as an actor.
Director Lexie Fennell Frare had to battle the evil that was the material to find promise. There’s only so much blame you can give a festival setting before you have to question the little things. She attempted to use scenic designer Sam Krueger’s scaffolding to her advantage but things looked silly with the living room curtain used as masking. Not knowing the lighting plot in a festival can be a massive disadvantage. Lighting designer Catherine Clark did not utilize the lights or color to help make this show pop. When there wasn’t a basic wash on stage, things finally came to life. The costumes by Julia and Deborah Krueger evoked a superhero but it was unfortunate to see Mark not have a pair of black shorts like Major Justice did as spandex are always all revealing.
There is so much creative liberty when you create a new hero. You have the potential to find a rich backstory and reason to be a hero. But Super showed no originality in it’s creation. Super needs a super makeover before it flies away.