Superman on Mackinac Island: Reliving Christopher Reeve’s impromptu recital

The late Christopher Reeve is best known for playing Clark Kent in four Superman movies. But perhaps his best performance as the iconic Man of Steel was never seen on the silver screen. It happened instead inside a small theatre on Michigan’s Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island is a charming place steeped in history. Horse-drawn carriages and bicycles take the place of cars because motor vehicles have been banned for more than 100 years. It was the ideal setting for another movie starring Reeve, the time-traveling cult classic, “Somewhere in Time.”

Old photo shows Christopher Reeve on set for filming of Somewhere in Time movie at Mackinac Island’s Mission Point Theatre.

While Reeve was on Mackinac Island in 1979 to film “Somewhere in Time,” he happened to visit the theatre at Mission Point Resort where a certain blockbuster was being shown: The original “Superman” movie that debuted the previous year.

It must have been quite a thrill for the people in the theatre to watch the movie with the star sitting next to them. Unfortunately, partway through the film the sound went out.

What happened next must have been truly surreal. As the movie continued to play, Reeve stood and filled in for the audio himself!

“This is one of those legends in our company history that has been validated by a few people over the years,” said J.D. Loeks, whose family runs Celebration Cinemas! in Michigan and has visited Mackinac Island for decades.

“The pieces that we’ve put together that we know are true is they did screen ‘Superman’ at the same time that Christopher Reeve was on the island filming ‘Somewhere in Time,’ and he was in the auditorium watching ‘Superman’ with the island staff. The story is that the sound went out for a minute and Christopher Reeve stood up and recited a line before the sound came back in.”

Christopher Reeve sits in the theatre at Mackinac Island's Mission Point Resort during filming for a scene of 'Somewhere in Time.'

While the historic Mission Point Theatre is forever linked to “Superman” thanks to Reeve’s impromptu performance, it also is featured in “Somewhere in Time.” In fact, one of the 550 seats in the theatre bears a plaque identifying it as the place where Reeve’s character, Richard Collier, sat during one of the film’s climactic moments. You can visit the theatre and sit in the seat during Mackinac Island Arts Council movie screenings held weekly on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday nights.

Somewhere in Time Gazebo on Mackinac Island

The Mission Point Theatre is one of many Mackinac Island landmarks linked to “Somewhere in Time.” You also can visit the Somewhere in Time Gazebo near Fort Mackinac. And you can see the “Is It You?” marker near the waterfront on the west side of Mackinac Island, where Reeve’s Collier first came face to face with the character played by Jane Seymour after he traveled back in time.

A roadside marker on Mackinac Island commemorates the ‘Is It You?” scene in Somewhere in Time movie with Christopher Reeve.

A Mackinac Island plaque marks where Christopher Reeve’s and Jane Seymour’s characters meet in the Somewhere In Time movie.

While Reeve passed away in 2004, his legacy and legend live on at Mission Point Theatre and throughout Mackinac Island. Seymour still visits from time to time for annual “Somewhere In Time” Weekends at Grand Hotel, another Mackinac Island landmark featured in the film. It’s where Reeve’s character stayed while escaping the city for a break from his work as a playwright.

Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour kiss on the front porch of Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel during filming of 'Somewhere in Time'

Before either Reeve or Seymour were born (but years after their characters met in “Somewhere in Time”…you have to see the movie), Grand Hotel actually was the setting for another Hollywood feature. “This Time for Keeps,” starring Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante, was filmed partly on Mackinac Island back in the 1940s. The Grand Hotel swimming pool on Mackinac Island is named after Esther Williams still today.

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