Whenever the name Superman is mentioned to me, the first person that comes to mind is the iconic 1980s portrayal by actor Christopher Reeves. In many ways, he embodies the very nature of who Superman should be. His bold and dashing manner only acts to further cement this conclusion in my mind. To many Superman connoisseurs, Christopher Reeves portrayal is the quintessential cornerstone portrayal of the celluloid DC Comics empire. To Blake Testro, the man of steel reprising the role of Clark Kent/Superman in Fab Nobs current production of It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, Christopher Reeves portrayal is only one part of the story.
Conversing via e-mail Testro tells Theatrepeople.com.au in some depth about his interpretation and portrayal of Clark Kent/Superman in comparison to the Christopher Reeves celluloid portrayal: “My Clark, Yes! Not so much my Superman. I do fiddle with my glasses and stutter my lines when I get a little nervous or worked up which was a Christopher Reeves trait. However, My Superman is just so full of himself and not really the Boy Scout we know him to be.” Testro states that he has seen the films but also drew on other facets of the Superman universe as preparation for the role: “I felt I needed something a little more stylised (as our show is) so I stuck to the animated 90s Cartoon and the George Reeves black and white TV show.”
The character Clark Kent was based on the silent film era comedian, actor, and producer Harold Lloyd. Creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster derived the name Clark Kent from leading man Clark Gable and actor Kent Taylor. Often portrayed throughout the movies and comic book series as a Newspaper reporter, Testro gives an insight to Clark Kent, Superman’s secret identity: “Clark is a nerdy push over. He’s incredibly clean cut and pretty much invisible to Lois. In this version Lois is all about Superman, Clark is just a guy from work that if anything just annoys her with his constant disappearing acts. However I feel that when he’s Clark Kent it’s the only time he allows himself to be vulnerable when it comes to his feelings to Lois”.
Testro, a passionate Superman fan spoke openly to Theatrepeople.com.au about his involvement in the Fab Nobs production of It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, and his childhood preparation to become the man of steel: “I’d spoken to quite a few people about upcoming shows and it came down to the fact that, as far as I know, Superman has never been done. Also as a child I used to go everywhere dressed as Superman and I mean EVERYWHERE, Kindergarten, The doctors, The Zoo… everywhere… I really enjoyed my first show with Fab Nobs Reefer Madness. It was the first time I’d experimented with physical transformation. I knew Jesus needed to be a bronzed up talk show host type, so I hit the gym and really found something more I could bring to a character physically. It’s been fun doing it again for Superman.”
Testro has excellent experience from his previous roles. His official biography gives some impressive and varied experience including T.V. commercials and numerous Theatre roles across Australia. In reminiscing about a pivotal role that helped transform him into the performer he is today, he is quoted as saying: “Grease with Harvest Rain in Brisbane gave me a surge of confidence that I feel has carried on an expanded to my recent roles. It wasn’t an ego thing, it was just a feeling that I could do this and do it well… It’s a never-ending learning curve though. I think you take something from every role you play.” But, there is one defining moment that Testro agreed to share with Theatrepeople.com.au.
That defining moment was found in a suburban EB store. Whilst not being performance related, it is the stuff of video game nightmares. The Superman game published on the Nintendo 64 console platform, also known as Superman 64 has been given the unenviable title of: The worst video game of all time. Luckily for Theatrepeople.com.au Testro is familiar with it. More importantly, he survived to tell the tale: “I never had a 64 but I do remember being in an EB Games store and having a play of that exact game on the in-store consol. It was pretty clunky for memory. I recently played Lego Batman, which has Superman as a playable character. I’d recommend that one.”
Video game horror stories aside and returning to the Broadway musical It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, the musical was first staged on Broadway in 1966. The production closed after only 129 performances. The concept never caught on with Broadway audiences. Testro shared his favourite moment from the show: “Scene 2 in Act 2 would probably be my favourite. Superman is down and out after the Act 1 finale and Lois comes round to Clark’s apartment looking for him only to find Superman. I sing “The Strongest Man in The World”, it’s a nice ballad but mixed in with a lot of very funny sight gags. The documentary on Superman’s life in Act 1 is also a great random moment in the show. But I don’t want to spoil any of that for you.”
As I return to the present, thoughts of Superman and his many incarnations throughout the years of Superman history mull around my mind. The thoughts are as clear as the ticking clock in the study. I sit writing this feature, as a Journalist and Musician. Secretly though, I wish I was Superman. One thing is clear and dawns in a lucid fashion: at least as long as this production of Fab Nobs It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman is running, Blake Testro will get to play Superman. In fact, Blake Testro is Superman!
It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman runs from Friday, 11th October 2013 – Saturday, 26th October 2013. More info at: http://www.fabnobstheatre.com.au