The Unproduced Captain America Musical About Cap’s Mid-Life Crisis
As we await the next inevitable delay for “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark,” let’s pause to remember a time when Captain America nearly hoofed it on the Great White Way in the Captain America musical that almost was.
The year was 1985. If you were reading comics back then, you might remember seeing this utterly bizarre ad looking for a girl age 10-14 who could “sing, dance and act up a storm” to costar as the Star-Spangled Avenger’s (ugh) “special friend” in a Broadway musical spectacular.
The mind boggles at the possiblities presented here. Would Cap have actually worn that jaunty top hat on stage? Would Red Skull have appeared, and, if so, would he have performed the rousing 11 o’clock number? And if the show had been a success, would Marvel comic books have replaced Backstage as the premiere source for Broadway casting cattle calls? But, of course, the musical never happened, leaving us with the question of why anyone ever thought it was a good idea to look for the next “Annie” in the pages of “ROM Spaceknight.” (Though it did give us the admittedly wonderful image of Cap tap dancing for liberty.)
While the thought of Captain America playing Daddy Warbucks to a precocious tot is bad enough, according to a “New York Times” write-up on the show from April of ’85, the reality would’ve been much, much worse:
‘Captain America’ boasts a hero-sized $4 million budget. IT’S going to be a big one, if everything works out as befits a musical named ”Captain America.” Big, in this case, means a budget of $4 million – a lot of money, even for a superhero fighting for the American dream, the flag and the woman he loves. The superhero will not, in fact, be particularly super when the curtain goes up. The book by Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs (who are also responsible for music and lyrics) has Captain A. going through a mid-life crisis. Fortunately, the action speeds up – his girlfriend, a candidate for President, is captured by terrorists and held hostage at the Lincoln Memorial. That’s enough of the plot – when you invest millions, as are Shari Upbin, James Galton and Marvel Comics and some as yet untapped sources, you’re entitled to a few secrets.
Yes, the musical’s story involved Cap battling a villain familiar to anyone who has ever seen an Alan Alda movie from the ’80s — the mid-life crisis. One wonders if the book by Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs, composers of the awesomely titled 1968 Jekyll and Hyde musical “After You, Mr. Hyde,” also featured Cap giving up the whole hero thing in order to grow a beard and follow James Taylor around on tour for awhile.
In light of the $65 milllion bucks currently being blown on faulty wire work over at the Foxwoods Theater, it’s amusing to note the Times’ incredulity over a $4 million budget. Though had the Captain America musical opened and tanked, it wouldn’t have been Broadway’s biggest bomb of the ’80s. That honor would still have gone to 1988’s infamous “Carrie” musical, an $8 million fiasco and previous holder of the “worst Broadway musical idea ever” title. Of course, $8 million wouldn’t even cover the cost of the Ace bandages and Icy Hot currently being used by what’s left of the “Turn off the Dark” cast.