I have two confessions. First, I love musicals. Well, that’s hardly a confession, but I felt it worth mentioning. Second, I love superhero shows on the CW. Frankly, I don’t know which fact is more likely to get me beat up behind the bleachers, but there you go.
The CW hooked me first with The Flash. Admittedly, I started watching The Flash because it starred Grant Gustin as Barry Allen who I enjoyed on Glee as the slimey Sebastian Smythe. I was quite surprised to find Gustin was now in the superhero business. To my further delight, Jesse L. Martin featured as Grant’s adoptive father, Joe West. Yes, THE Jesse L. Martin from the original cast of RENT. Be still, my high school heart.
From there, it spiraled all too quickly. Upon a crossover episode with CW’s Arrow, I discovered John Barrowman (from Miss Saigon on the West End and Sunset Boulevard on Broadway) as Malcolm Merlyn. An early episode of The Flash featured the Les Misérables revival’s Andy Mientus as the Pied Piper. Only after some sleuthing did I discover that Carlos Valdes, who plays Flash’s quirky tech friend Cisco, was not only a University of Michigan grad but also a replacement in the Tony-nominated Once. And then once fellow Glee alumna Melissa Benoist took up the cape as Supergirl with Newsies’ Jeremy Jordan as her sidekick Winn Schott, well, there was no going back. The CW had basically populated the entire DC universe with musical theatre talent. While we’re being honest, I’m surprised it took the network this long to make a musical episode. But we finally have it, musical-theatre-superhero-crossover-nerds. We finally have it.
In the crossover episode, Supergirl and Flash trade their cape and cowl for evening wear more suitable for song and dance.
At the end of Supergirl Ep. 216 “Star-Crossed,” a trans-dimensional trickster called Music Meister shows up (Music Meister being the DC equivalent to Star Trek: Next Generation’s Q…just to layer on another level of nerd). Who better to play the role of Music Meister than Darren Criss, the poster boy for multi-platform contemporary musical theatre performers/creators? With television credits (Glee), Broadway credits (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), YouTube credits (A Very Potter Musical), and production credits (Elsie Fest), Criss is what every Golden Age-crooning, time-stepping superhero/villian aspires to be. But Music Meister’s first appearance is just a tease for the subsequent The Flash Ep. 317 “Duet,” which is the official musical episode.
When Music Meister traps Flash and Supergirl in the musical world of their own minds’ creation, our superheroes can sing and dance freely—as superheroes are meant to do. In their own “DC meets Wizard of Oz” way (“and you were there, and you were there”), all the aforementioned characters from across the CW are able to join in the rousing opening number, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” It’s a charming song and dance, but it mostly serves as a vehicle for Barrowman, Criss, and Jordan to attempt to out-riff each other.
Throughout the episode, our heroes poke fun at the simplicity of musical plots, demure from singing and dancing themselves until “Gosh, okay!” they just can’t help it, and sprinkle grin-worthy musical references to even the most casual of musical theatre fans. Aside from “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” Benoist covers “Moon River” and Martin, Barrowman, and Victor Garber (his character’s a whole other story I haven’t even mentioned…) sing a trio version of “More I Cannot Wish You.” We’re treated to a cheeky original song called “Super Friends” by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom whose song title pokes fun (there certainly is a lot of poking going on) at the DC cartoon series from the 70s and 80s. It’s a superhero take on “Friendship” with plenty of schtick. The last song of the show is also an original called “Running Home to You” by the it-boys Benj Pasek & Justin Paul. Clearly this song-writing team wasn’t busy writing their hit Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, writing their hit movie musical La La Land, or finishing their soon-to-be hit movie The Greatest Showman, so they decided to dabble a bit in TV. “Running Home to You” is sweet and tuneful, and it will surely make its way into the audition book of any young musical-theatre-superhero-crossover-nerd worth his salt.
While musical episodes on typically non-singing television shows draw legions of fans for the novelty factor, musical episodes reveal a glimmer of the stage training that most television actors bring. Sure, now they might wear knee-high red leather boots instead of character shoes, but actors like Benoist and Gustin as Supergirl and Flash serve as examples of the kind of training our favorite actors on television bring with them. At one point, they took tap lessons, sang in the chorus of their high school production of Annie, or memorized all the words to “La Vie Bohème” for a college showcase—just like us. Think about that. We could all be superheroes.
Check out musical numbers from the crossover episode on BroadwayWorld.com.
And check out behind-the-scenes footage and interviews on DC All Access.