This review of Super! at SoHo Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Book, Music & Lyrics by Aaron Michael Krueger
Directed by Aaron Michael Krueger
15 Vandam Street
New York, New York 10013
Super! was previously a part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Since then, the show has undergone many changes and the latest incarnation is an entry in the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival. Aaron Michael Krueger, the playwright, says the next step for this musical is continued work shopping thus allowing it to grow. Unfortunately, I have to agree. Super! is just so-so! There were a number of very talented actors with excellent voices who performed enthusiastically and with heart. Others not so much! There were moments of sheer brilliance in this musical. At other times, the word "torture" came to mind. The story about a shy, 17-year-old boy struggling with his superpowers, sheltered by his mom, in love with the girl who dates all the wrong men, and whose life is threatened by an evil nemesis is derivative of every superhero story line you have ever heard. Nothing new here! What makes it worse are cliched lines coming out of the mouth of the superhero's girlfriend such as "You're scaring me" and "You're sounding crazy." There were also one too many lines insulting our superhero for being "a corn-fed farm boy." As far as I'm concerned, corn-fed farm boys are better dating prospects than STD-infected, tattooed, pierced, city-slickers who have taken more loads than a washing machine. Mr. Krueger may need help freshening up the book and some of the lyrics. In addition, because of where the orchestra was located, a number of the actors sang off-key, which was quite annoying.
The stars of the show are Tyler Egan, who is superb as Mark, the superhero teenager struggling to find his way in the world; Anna Laura Strider, who does a fine job playing his mom; and Chloe Kostman, who is quite believable as Laura, Mark's girlfriend. Mark and Alex (played convincingly by Ryan Hestand), are outsiders (Alex because he is bald due to receiving chemotherapy, and Mark because he doesn't play sports for fear of revealing his superpowers) who are bullied verbally and physically by their fellow students. When Mark defends Alex and fights back, Alex starts to believe they can be advocates for all nerds and outsiders. He tries to convince Mark he "is the only one to save us all" but Mark doesn't buy into Alex's brand of extreme justice. Alex fantasized about the two of them being a real-life Captain Cosmos and Doctor Astro from The Adventures of Captain Cosmos, but Mark has no interest in the partnership. Rejected, Alex makes up his mind to save the world himself or, as he says, "Alone if I must." Thinking Mark will try to stop him, Alex commits to eliminating him first. Mark's mother is killed and we later learn that Alex's father tried to kidnap Mark when he was a young child and that Mark's father, Major Justice, lost his life and took the life of Alex's father is his efforts to save his son. We learn that the characters live near Steel City (Steel City Con is the official Comic Con of the Monroeville, Pennsylvania Convention Center) and that Mark can run at the speed of sound. The best line in the play comes when after traveling around the world, Mark returns and his mother hugs him very tightly. Mark says, "You're suffocating me." to which his mother responds, "No, I'm not. You're invincible."
A hero flies to the rescue and saves the day! Watch me soar! Up, Up & Away! Super! has potential but it needs a lot of work. Some lyrics need to be re-written and the story line must be updated to be made more interesting. I wanted Super! to take me on a journey to a place I haven't been before. I wanted to be surprised and moved emotionally. Instead, I just got more of the same I've experienced hundreds of times before in this genre. I think there is potential here but Super! needs a fresh set of eyes to take it to the next stage. Tickets cost $18.00 and can be purchased at www.FringeNYC.com