Superhero Store Inspires a Super Musical
In Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood is a place that passersby sometimes mistake for a hardware store. These people tend to be surprised when they see that spray-cans are full of non-toxic Intuition and stain-resistant Magnetism rather than paint. From the outside, the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company is as unassuming as Peter Parker in his pizza delivery guy uniform. Yet, like Spiderman, the store has inspired a mass amount of creativity. (I mean, how many Spiderman movies and spinoff comics are there now?)
If one ventures through a secret door in the back of store, they will behold a spacious library with a plethora of books and wooden tables. This is one of the locations where kids ages 8-18 can come after school for tutoring and writing help from volunteers with the nonprofit organization, 826NYC. On the walls are movie posters from short films made in one of 826NYC’s summer programs, in which kids get the chance to write, act in, and film their own movies. I volunteered with one of their in-school programs earlier this year, helping tenth-graders in the Bronx with a playwriting project. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company is the headquarters of 826NYC in New York City. The store encourages a sense of play and a releasing of the imagination for kids who come in for writing help.
It only seems natural that this warm and eccentric atmosphere would inspire an off-Broadway musical. Brooklynite is also based off of characters created by renowned writers and 826NYC supporters, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. Peter Lerman and Michael Mayer have served multiple roles. Both of them wrote the musical’s book, Lerman also composed the songs and wrote the lyrics, and Mayer directed the current production.
In an interview with the Vineyard Theatre, where Brooklynite is currently running, Peter Lerman describes visiting the Superhero Supply Company for the first time:
When I visited for the first time with Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, it was clear to me that there was a unique language about the place. I may have actually heard music right there in my head. It was inspiring to envision a Brooklyn with real superheroes. They’re all a little left of center from your typical “Manhattan” ones.
The result of this perfect storm of collaborators is an irrepressibly charming musical. The setting is a fantasy version of Brooklyn, where real superheroes protect Brooklyn’s citizens. In the world of Brooklynite, these characters would truly need a Superhero Supply store, though perhaps with real Galactic Light Blasters. Ten years before the start of the show, the “Gowanus Asteroid” hit Brooklyn, mutating six Brooklyn citizens into superheroes. My personal favorite is Captain Clear, who was granted invisibility, and is in the show only as a wise, deep voice. The story follows Trey Swieskowski, a scientifically-inclined store clerk who dreams of being a superhero. He has a huge crush on Astrolass, the most powerful of the superheroes. Ironically, Astrolass longs for nothing more than to be an average Brooklyn citizen. She sings:
I wanna hide in glasses / And comfortable clothes
With a first and last name / Nobody knows
Then villains I see / Won’t try to kill me / Everywhere I go.
Brooklynite’s superheroes are akin to Greek gods, whose powers do not protect them from having human flaws such as jealousy and pride. All of the show’s characters are called upon to use their individual powers, whether they can be considered “super” or surprisingly heroic in the face of their human limitations. The story features flawless direction from director and co-writer Michael Mayer (HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, SPRING AWAKENING) and electrifying performances from its entire cast. I can’t wait to see what next creation the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company inspires.
Book by Peter Lerman and Michael Mayer; Music and lyrics by Peter Lerman; Characters created by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman; Choreography by Steven Hoggett; Musical Direction by Kimberly Grigsby; Directed by Michael Mayer. At the Vineyard Theatre, 108 E 15th St, Manhattan. Running through March 29, 2015. Buy Tickets HERE.
WITH: Andrew Call, Gerard Canonico, Max Chernin, Nick Choksi, Nick Cordero, Matt Doyle, Carla Duren, Ann Harada, John-Michael Lyles, Grace McLean, Tom Alan Robbins, Nicolette Robinson, Remy Zaken